VMware VCAP5-DCA Experience

This morning I received a much anticipated email from VMware Certification. It had been almost three weeks since re-sitting my DCA exam and I was extremely nervous about the result.

My first attempt at the exam was terrible and it really threw me. At the time the lab environment was very slow and I panicked, wasting valuable time just thinking about the time! After that I was totally put off the experience and put my study on hold. In fairness I had just had another baby so I cut myself a little slack 🙂

Anyway, three months went by and I geared up once more to attack the beast. I sat the exam at the same testing centre in sunny Tauranga, New Zealand (seems to be the ONLY place you can actually book the exam in NZ anyways). This time the lab environment seemed much faster at responding and I found myself getting through questions far quicker. To be fair I had also put more study into the areas that I had clearly lacked from the first attempt and this made a lot of difference.

The exam was still extremely tough and it was clearly a very different set of questions and lab setup from the first time. I managed to run out of time with about five questions left completely unanswered. I still felt very nervous about how I did but hoped that I had done enough to pass, in this case more than 300/500. My first attempt came in at about 250/500 but I had only answered about 60% of the questions, so I was hopeful that this time was much better.

So, this morning I was up at about 6am with my two boys, half asleep sitting on the couch. I’m on my phone using the web browser to view webmail (don’t ask!) and the attached pdf result wouldn’t download!!!! Then when I finally managed to get it to download it wouldn’t open the pdf, argh!!!!!! I finally got the thing open and scrolled down to the score…389/500, woohoo!

I was so stoked, I really didn’t want to have to sit it a third time! Now that I have both DCD and DCA I can now apply for VCDX. This will be my next major goal and realistically will take me some time. Between a busy job and family life there ain’t a lot of time left for preparing a design, but lets hope that through work I can prepare one suitable.

Finally, to give my two cents worth of advice to others out there considering taking the exam;

1. Work through the blueprint end to end, and I really do mean end to end. The exam covers stuff from all over the blueprint (go figure :-P)

2. Check out Jason Langer and Josh Coen’s study guides here: http://www.valcolabs.com/vcap5-dca/ and here: http://www.virtuallanger.com/vcap-dca-5/, both of these guys fricken rule! Many thanks to them for their massive efforts in creating such a great resource.

3. Use Autolab for creating your home lab environment, it will save you a heap of time: http://www.labguides.com/. A BIG thanks to Alastair Cooke for his work and others that have helped him. It is a fantastic tool for deploying vSphere at home.

4. Make sure that you don’t skip over areas that you think you already know. I did this both times and realised afterwards that I didn’t really know as much as I thought I did!

5. During the exam, manage your time very carefully. Don’t stall on any one particular question too long and if you get stuck, move on and come back later.

6. Oh, and lastly, if you do fail, don’t beat yourself up. It’s a real tough exam with a lot of content to work through in a short space of time. I was way too hard on myself the first time and this put me off getting back in the drivers seat for a long time. Sometimes it is good to fail and gives us perspective.

We’ll that’s about it from me, I’m over the moon about passing and I can sit back for a little while now…just not too long eh! VCDX…

Study hard and good luck!

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My VCAP5-DCD experience

I thought I’d write this post to help others that are thinking about sitting the VCAP5-DCD exam.

I sat the exam a week ago and am happy to say I passed it first time! I was extremely nervous about sitting this exam, mostly because I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect other than the exam UI demo that VMware provide.

I got to the point where I thought that I need to just book the exam, giving myself a deadline (I work best with deadlines :-P) and give it a go. If I failed I would put it down to a learning experience, and if I passed then that’s great. I booked it and gave myself six weeks, and during that time I studied most nights for between one to two hours a night.

I spent a bit of time re-reading Scott Lowe’s Mastering VMware vSphere 5 book which is very good and I would highly recommend (http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-VMware-vSphere-Scott-Lowe/dp/0470890800). I went through the blueprint and read through as much of the referenced documentation that I could, sometimes skimming them if I felt I was comfortable with the content. I read a ton of blogs relating to vSphere design including several on network design. Overall, a LOT of reading, but I really felt like I learnt a lot and would advise going through the blueprint even if you aren’t planning on sitting the exam but do a bit of vSphere design in your job.

UPDATE: Oh, how could I forget! A big thanks to Alastair Cooke and Nick Marshall for their fabulous work on the APAC vBrownbags (http://professionalvmware.com/brownbags/) and Autolab (www.labguides.com). These are such great resources and I’ll be using them heavily for my VCAP-DCA study. Thanks guys!!!

On the last day before my exam I got to the point where I thought that there was no point in reading any more, and that if I didn’t know the content by now I had no chance of cramming that night!

I got to the testing center which is about 90 minutes drive from home. I signed in and started the exam. I hit the first question and had a huge sinking feeling already that I wasn’t prepared for the exam…I spent way too long on this first one (It was a select and place style question) and had to force myself to continue regardless of my choices.

Time ticked on and I was slowly getting through the 100 questions. At the time it felt like I was spending a long time on each one but in hindsight I was reasonably quick as I finished with about 30 minutes left. I had some issues getting through the design questions where I would accidentally drag the wrong object and mess up the whole drawing but managed to persevere. Finally I clicked submit thinking “Oh crap, I’ve failed this one” and was extremely pleased to find “Congratulations” on the screen!

So, for me the key takeaways from the exam…

– Don’t waste too much time on any one question, in particular the multi-choice ones

– Leave the design ones to the end as this helps with the momentum and helps to get accustomed to the interface

– Be careful when moving objects around in the design questions! If you really stuff things up you can start over if you need to

– Read the blueprint and associated material!!

– As with any of these types of exams, learn to skip past the waffle in the questions and quickly identify the key parts of the question!

– Try to have fun 🙂 (This one is optional)

I hope this helps. Seriously I would recommend giving it a shot, it is a great learning experience. I lacked a lot of confidence going into the exam and feel a LOT better now having done one. Now I am onto studying for the DCA with more of an idea on the style of questions and “look and feel” of the exams.

VCAP-DCD5 Exam Blueprint

So, I finally checked back to see if there was the new blueprint and viola, it was there…

Been reading through it, grabbing all of the referenced material. Crap there is a lot to read through! A lot seems to cover topics such as understanding business requirements and translating those into real terms, as well as identifying business ROI’s, etc.I haven’t had any experience with the DCD exams before so going through this is excellent. Not that I haven’t dealt with some of these areas before in my current work but I’ve never actually read documentation to aid me in the past other than some Gartner stuff.

I did find in particular the SQL Solution Toolkit an interesting read, specifically around scaling up or scaling out your SQL infrastructure. We’ve traditionally had a mixture of both types but with some future projects in mind I’m favoring the scale out approach as it would seem to give us more flexibility. In the past some of our larger SQL instances hosting multiple databases have created inconveniences due to the fact that downtime affects multiple services. Now that I also understand the way Microsoft handle their per-proc licensing it makes even more sense for me to scale out!

Anyway, just a few things I wanted to talk about since reading through the blueprint. Interesting reading the Oracle, SAP and Exchange guides as in my job we don’t use any of them 🙂

Oh, I’ve made a bit more progress on the lab front, now I have two vCenter instances running with SRM partially configured…slowly getting there!

VMware VCAP v5

It’s been a long time since my first post and I thought I’d start to share my thoughts on my studies for the VMware VCAP exams. I passed my VCP5 back in December last year which was really good. My study gave me an insight into the new features vSphere 5 has to offer.

Now I have started to focus on the next stage of my development in my ultimate goal of achieving VCDX 🙂

I’ve thought a lot about whether I should start studying for the DCA or DCD exam over the last few months and have struggled to make my mind up! After much thought and some discussion with a friend of mine I decided to go with the DCD as my first milestone. Since I am working towards the v5 exams it does make things a little harder since there isn’t a lot of information about them yet. I have heard a few things about the recent beta of the DCD but I figure I’ll keep going regardless.

I have built a home lab mostly consisting of a desktop pc running an AMD FX 8 core cpu (stop laughing! I like AMD!) and just today received my 32GB of DDR3, yay! With an OCZ ssd and some larger spindle drives I have a pretty good setup whereby I can virtualise MOST of what I need. I figure over time I might need to up the RAM to 64GB, etc but its a good start.

I’ve built some template 2k8R2 VM’s using Sammy Bogaert’s great guide to building a lab using workstation (http://boerlowie.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/building-the-ultimate-vsphere-lab-part-1-the-story/). I’ll eventually configure a vCenter server along with Auto Deploy and Update Manager, then move onto deploying two or three virtual ESXi guests. I’m also keen to have a real play with View as I also have some potential applications for this within my work environment so I’ll be exploring these.

So, stay tuned and hopefully I’ll keep this ball rolling and post some more soon around my lab and any interesting things I find 🙂