AZ-400 exam notes

Some months missing between my last update!

I must say I have been quite busy with the new position and the massive change that has impacted my previous knowledge but overall, I am pretty happy with it!

Therefore, let’s move to the point! So I just want to share some notes of the AZ-400 exam which I recently passed and I hope that can be useful to someone.

Certification details

This exam (AZ-400) is the second one of the path to the specific “Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert” certification:

Last month I passed the Azure Administrator Associate exam (AZ-104) so I had the prerequisite already.

You can check the objectives measured in detail for the exam here but as a summary, this is what the official documentation states:

  • Develop an instrumentation strategy (5-10%)
  • Develop a Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) strategy (5-10%)
  • Develop a security and compliance plan (10-15%)
  • Manage source control (10-15%)
  • Facilitate communication and collaboration (10-15%)
  • Define and implement continuous integration (20-25%)
  • Define and implement a continuous delivery and release management strategy (10-15%)

 

Notes and resources for the exam

  • Be sure to try Azure DevOps lab where you’ll be able to use Azure DevOps for free and with many guided Hands-on labs (https://github.com/microsoft/azuredevopslabs) → MUST
  • Study the majority of the Azure Products that can be related to any process within a pipeline, therefore, applications, web apps, secrets, repositories, VMs, etc.
  • Of course, I suggest you read and try Azure DevOps and the many of the integrations that can have with Github (remember that it’s owned by MS) within a pipeline.
    • This includes things like Azure boards, App Configuration, Azure feeds, Key Vault, Artifacts Credential Provider, etc.
  • Monitoring tools within Azure…you know, the ones that you already know if you have taken the AZ-104, things like Application Map (within App Insights), Security Center, Data Explorer, App Configuration, Hosted agents, etc.
  • Knowledge about 3rd party products like Helm, Sonarqube, Terraform, Yeoman, and many other tools that analyze code or vulnerabilities will be helpful.
  • Git basics is a must, knowing things like (init, Pull, push, commit, add, clone. etc.) but more “advanced” things like (prune, gc, pull –rebase, stash).
  • Branching with Git (Main, Develop, Feature, etc) and deployment (Rolling, A/B, canary, blue/green, etc.) strategies will be key to understand as one of the main things used in pipelines.
  • Software testing as well: Smoke, flaky, unit, acceptance, etc.
  • Container basics with Docker (Dockerfiles, build/scan images process, etc.), AKS (Install, RBAC, configure), Azure Container instances, etc.

 

There can be more of course but I think you can get an idea of what can I think it can be useful and probably I missed many things I already know that I haven’t studied.

 

Exam and opinion

As for now, there aren’t simulations in the exam but be prepared to answer multi-choice, single, hot-area, and drag & drop questions plus case studies.

There are about 60 questions in the exam and 150 minutes for non-native speakers (if I am not wrong) so plenty of time to answer each question.

Some questions are quite specific and not very related to general knowledge or even outdated which I don’t like it but that’s how certifications work in many cases.

Most of them are related to Azure, DevOps, and the integration with 3rd party applications so be sure to check them and don’t hesitate to make a list of third-party applications and the usage of them within different languages.

I studied for a month or so but I do have a certain experience with Azure and I think a great knowledge of many of the processes, 3rd party tools (Jenkins, Sonarqube, Helm), and strategies used in pipelines within CI/CD.

Be sure to test and experiment with Azure DevOps as it is obvious that it will appear in the exam 🙂

Conclusion

I found it fair but not easy for someone who just got introduced to Azure Dev and has a general knowledge of the “DevOps world” (I hate to say it like this).

It requires a bit of experience with many of the Azure products, how are they correlated/integrated within a pipeline and many other tools.

I hope this can be useful to anyone willing to take this but in my case, I did it so can you!

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2019 review

I haven’t thought of doing this kind of review but reading some of them through the internet, it motivated me to do it.

Also by submitting to programs like vExpert from VMware, made me realize that I did many things this year that I forgot and were amazing.

2019 Timeline

  • January: Going to the gym to get healthier knees and finished exams from the university with good scores. Semester ends.
  • February: New semester (about my degree) and many things planned.
  • March: Earned a certification (MCSA 2016) and letting my self know more in the local VMUGs. I was awarded as a #vExpert for the first time!
  • April: Getting stronger and not feeling more pain in my knees after a long injury (previous year).
  • June: I took some university exams (all passed!) and then… time to enjoy the summer!
  • July: Enjoying the time when there is no semester
  • August: Lots of sport, going to restaurants and more.
    Planning what to do in New York.
  • September: I failed an exam which I knew I wasn’t prepared but I got married (eloped) in NY 🙂
  • October: #BlogtoberTech2019 = 5 blog posts!
  • November: The event VMworld 2019 Europe. Tt was amazing to meet new people, older friends and interact with all of them. Also, I was able to record sessions with the vBrownbag crew.
    I also presented a session at VMworld!
  • December: Nothing to say here, basically, preparing the next year.

Success

First, things I did and makes me happy that I achieved or earned:

  • Personal: Eloped in New York for just 2 months and 3 weeks ago!
  • Commitment: Continue with my degree by passing all subjects with a good score.
  • Networking: Meet better or new people which made me realize that there are good friends or someone you can chat from time to time.
  • Better writing: Although this year I wrote only 16 posts (I know isn’t too much), I think I write better and I didn’t let quantity overcame the quality.

 

Failure

Obviously not all things went well:

  • I wasn’t able to pass the VCAP6.5-DCV Design exam in October, you can check it here.
  • For 4-6 weeks, I gained some weight because of time anxiety.
  • I am procrastinating more than I used to (probably because of anxiety?).

 

To work on

  • Procrastination: I tend to procrastinate at home when I have to do university assignments. Also, other personal projects tend to be massively delayed.
  • Organization: I do like to organize what I am going to do every week but maybe I have to put more fun windows and realize that sometimes you need to play games, do nothing and don’t be worried about you could do instead of seizing that time (time anxiety ?)!
  • Writing, hosting, and more: More blog posts for the next year, host people to record sessions with vBrownbag, and presenting more.

 

And that’s all! This will be the last post of the year (obviously) and although I was aiming to publish another different post that I am working on, I decided and wrote today this quick post in order to let you know that no one is perfect of course and there are bad and good news that people usually don’t talk about.

 

 

See you!

VCAP-DCV Design exam notes

 

As the VCAP-DCV Design 2020 certification is going to be released (but the 3V0-624 exam is not scheduled to be retired yet) on Jan 1, 2020.

Recently I made another post about my experience with this exam where I failed, check it here.

For your information, at the moment the 3V0-624 is the current exam code for the VCAP-DCV 6.5 Design certification (Also named VCAP-DCV Design 2019), always check the code for the exam no matter which is the certification name.

I decided to share with you some notes for this kind of exams no matter which version.

This information will be more helpful for people that have never taken this exam rather than those who are experienced in these advanced exams.

Audience

The Design exams (VCAP-XXX Design) are mainly for IT Architects (sounds cool?) but, why for architects? Well, if you check the blueprint, you will see a couple of sections and not many objectives. The truth is hidden inside each section, which is huge and covers many aspects.

Could you pass this exam without being an IT architect? Of course!

trust_me_architect

Many did it (not in my case yet) by studying and having a lot of design experience, or also helped doing designs with other peers for example. Also, you can gain all the knowledge of all areas and study your main gaps.

The goal is to design VMware solutions to meet specific goals and requirements, ideally, you should have advanced knowledge of storage, network, compute, end-user computing environments and other components.

You will have to develop a conceptual design given a set of customer requirements, determining which requirements needed to create a logical design and after that creating a physical design with these items.

Technical background

As you are aiming for a VMware certification, you must think in all solutions, features, and elements from vSphere.

Here is a list of the solutions that appear in the Blueprint and are related to VMware of course:

  • vSphere
  • vSAN
  • SRM
  • vROps
  • VVOLs
  • vCenter Converter

Inside each solution, you should know at least the most of the features, functionalities that they offer, dependencies between them and test them (if you can).

Apart from knowing about these technologies related to VMware, there are obviously the core areas that compose a general IT infrastructure: Storage, networking and compute.

So, be prepared to dig on each area and know about dependencies between each other and with other solutions.

Advanced knowledge is desirable (and you will be tested) on each area would deserve more than post so, I am not going to explain anything right now about it 🙂

Aiming for the exam

Your main guide must be the blueprint, no matter what other unofficial guides say (although they are very helpful). In the blueprint you will have all the sections and objectives that will be qualified.

This exam requires to read a lot (more if your daily job isn’t designing solutions) and not just books to gather information about how to gather requirements from the customer and match them to terminologies like RAMPS or RRAC (I will explain a bit of those later), also all the technical papers that the blueprint mention (+50).

Conceptual, Logical and Physical Design, you will see this a lot and once you understand it, you will see why.

You must check all the references (documents) that the blueprint mentions because most of them will appear in the exam.

Some key points from all the features, elements or products I think will be:

  • Dependencies: Know the dependencies between solutions. What do you need to enable vSAN, apart from at least 1 SSD/Flash and 1 SAS/SATA disk? It also requires vCenter and DNS.
  • Advantages and disadvantages: Does SRM perform replication? Is HA better to ensure availability than FT? Which solution can achieve a 5-minute RPO? vSAN
  • Maximums and limitations: vSphere 6.5U1 supports a maximum of 4 PSCs per site, behind an LB. Also a maximum of 10 PSCs per vSphere Domain.
  • Upgrade paths: How would you upgrade a vSphere 6.0 environment to 6.5 with external PSC?
  • Determine RCAR: Differentiate between requirements, constraints, assumptions, and risks.
  • RAMPS: Build recoverability, availability, manageability, performance, and security into a vSphere Logical Design.
  • Gather and analyze business and application requirements from customer interview data, determine customer priorities for defined objectives and categorize those requirements by infrastructure qualities.

In the post, I mentioned to you at the beginning there are some resources which are quite helpful in order to learn and improve your non-tech skills.

Summary

There is so much information to digest if you don’t have a certain level of knowledge in vSphere and the “art” of designing solutions, which could lead you to study a lot of products, methodologies, and features in probably, a great amount of time.

But don’t be impatient, it will take you time but, review each section and check the concepts, products or features that you’re not familiar with.

Check videos and other unofficial guides that probably will make other fellows from the community.

This exam is about theory so, you will be tested as an architect who designs solutions based on customer or application requirements and how to match them to a VMware design.

It is difficult to generalize all the things that can appear in past, present, and future VCAP-DCV Design certifications but I tried to give you as much information as I can.

VCAP6.5-DCV Design failed exam experience

Recently I took the 3V0-624 exam (a.k.a. VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Design Exam) and I failed (266/500).

fail-better

I took it on September, 4th (a month and a half ago) and as I was on holiday and now preparing things for VMworld Europe I won’t be able to study after the event.

I recognize, I study a bit in a rush. In just one month for someone who is daily tasks aren’t about architecture, it can be hard (or not). In my case, this rush was influenced due to leaving on vacation for more than 2 weeks. Then, I decided to give it a try before leaving but, the outcome wasn’t what someone would like!

Let me share my experience in the exam, some thoughts, resources, and notes that maybe can help you.

Know yourself

What I want to say in this section is knowing your limitations and experience against the exam. I am not going to do a comparison against the blueprint right now but, check the blueprint and be honest to yourself.

This exam is called “Design” and that means having a broad knowledge on many areas (like networking, storage, computing, hardware, etc.), a different mindset than an engineer (the famous “holistic” view that architects have).

So, basically, check all the sections in the blueprint and match them against your knowledge. Are there too many gaps? Then, you probably need more experience and a lot of time to study (or both) but definitely, the experience becomes very handy for this exam.

(I recommend you to check the blueprint from the VCAP6-DCV Design which is quite better than the 6.5 version (in fact, it has the resources split into sections instead of giving you a list of 50+ resources like in the 6.5 version).

I am not an architect but I did some projects from the scratch (small ones) and participated in others that were normal (I don’t want to say big because it is subjective) as a technical reference so, I had some of the knowledge regarding how to approach a project

Expect to gather the requirements, find “RRAC” (Requirements, Risks, Assumptions and Constraints) and also I had knowledge in DC architecture, vSphere (obviously) and other products from VMware (this is a VMware exam so don’t expect another thing!).

Study Resources

There are many resources that you can find on the internet:

Blog posts:

 

The books I read:

  • VCAP5-DCD guide
  • IT Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design: A Practical Guide for IT Architects
  • VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition

Obviously I reviewed all the technical papers from the blueprint and you should too (at least check if you understand the main concept).

The exam

As the official webpage states, there are 60 questions and you have 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes) to complete the exam. This is plenty of time for anyone I think.

I read other experiences and almost anyone had a lot of time left in the clock before finishing the exam. When I took it, I reviewed the questions and there were almost 30 minutes.

Questions can be large so, maybe you want to read it a couple of times or even when you’re answering it.

The format of the exam is multiple-choice, matching and drag and drop. That means that all questions won’t have a single choice solution.

Even I had time to finish the exam without looking at the clock too much, I failed with a score of 266 (passing score is 300 like many other VMware exams). That means that I need to review which were my weakest points, resolve my doubts and catch up with all I studied a couple of months ago.

Notes

As far as I know, this exam goes until ESXi 6.5 U1 (which is the latest release before the blueprint came out).

Review dependencies between all products and features within vSphere (especially the ones related to the RAMPS concept).

The conceptual, logical and physical design concepts must be mastered.

Review limitations on each feature (HA, DRS, FT, etc.) or product (vSAN, SRM, etc.).

The vBrownbag videos and books like the “VCAP5-DCD guide” can be very helpful even though are “older”. About books. the “vSphere Design 2nd edition” along with the “IT Architect series: Foundation in the art of infrastructure design” will give you a general vision of all concepts that an architect must know.

Check the blueprint from the VCAP6-DCV Design as the objectives are the same as the 6.5 version but better explained and with references on each section.

 

So, that’s all I wanted to say and I hope that even I didn’t pass in this first attempt, it can help other people willing to take it in the future.

Sometimes you have to fail better before succeed.

Exam 70-743, Upgrading MCSA Windows Server 2016 experience

I will explain quickly my experience regarding the Exam 70-743, Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA: Windows Server 2016 exam from Microsoft I took last April.

It’s been a while since I took an exam from Microsoft (the latest was in 2013 I think) where you probably know that these kind of exams are multiple-choice or single-choice.

Through my career, I saw a lot of people cheating with these exams by memorizing the questions you can find on the internet and finishing it in just 20 minutes.

Despite I envied these persons because they weren’t putting the same effort as I did, in the end, this was translated in almost no knowledge about what they practiced nor familiar with all the features that Windows Server offers.

So, I encourage you to study the materials and practice in order to learn and bring value to yourself if you want to use these technologies from Microsoft.

The blueprint and webpage for this exam is the following one: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-743.aspx

 

About the exam

In my case, although I am experienced with Windows Server this kind of upgrade exams, which consists in a 3 in 1 exam, can be scary for someone who’s new or hasn’t touched many roles that Windows Server has.

Even I installed almost all roles from Windows Server 2016 there are some of them that aren’t so common and you should practice it in a homelab (best way to stick in your mind).

There are around 60 questions (the quantity may differ) chosen from the following exams:

Regarding the questions there is a mix of Drag and Drop, Radio buttons, Checkboxes, …you know, the usual ones in this kind of exams.

Important: Be aware that the feature “Nano Server” was removed/deprecated in Windows Server 2016 time ago, here is the official post from Microsoft: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/get-started/deprecated-features

Also read the changes that this exam suffered, in the official change document that Microsoft provides (is in the blueprint): https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE2IoQP

So, even if you see a lot of information about Nano Server in guides or courses in my case I didn’t find any question in the exam related to it (as it was deprecated years ago).

 

Resources and suggestions

As a resource, I mainly used this course from Pluralsight (not free): https://app.pluralsight.com/paths/certificate/upgrading-your-skills-to-mcsa-windows-server-2016-70-743

There are a lot of videos there, I checked the ones I felt more insecure and practiced in the lab. Also, I do recommend that you use Powershell to install and configure everything you can and in this way, you will get used to it.

As this is a 3 in 1 exam, the range of features and roles to know is huge, knowing a bit of everything will help you to pass but, without practice, you won’t get anywhere…

Having experience helps a lot but if it’s not your case, focus on the roles and features you never used or are not used to use (ADFS, NPS, RRAS, Hyper-V, etc.).

 

So…

To conclude, I can say it’s a fair exam and a bit challenging maybe but if you practice a lot with all the roles that Windows Server 2016 offers and know the differences from Windows Server 2012 R2.

Also, the most important I think…practice with Powershell. It won’t only help you with the exam also, in your future!