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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VCAP-DCD/DCA Home Lab – What should it look like?

I thought I’d create some discussion around what others thought a VMware home lab should consist of. When I studied for my VCP5 exam I had the following:

– Main desktop pc with Workstation 8, 8-core CPU with 16GB RAM, 1TB disk drive

– Domain controller VM running 2k8R2, with DNS and DHCP roles. Also had the Solarwinds free FTP server for Autodeploy. This VM had 1 vCPU, 2GB vRAM and 20GB disk. With this it ran ok, didn’t need to be any bigger.

– vCenter Server Appliance with 2vCPU, 4GB vRAM and default disk sizes. I found with any less RAM I had issues with the database and Autodeploy wouldn’t start properly.

– 3 x ESXi 5 VM’s, each with 2vCPU, 3GB vRAM and 10GB disk. This was enough to test building ESXi hosts with Autodeploy, attach them to vCenter and manage them. I was able to test HA and vMotion among other features. The only nested VM I used was the Nostalgia OVA, I was able to play Prince of Persia during a vMotion, cool!

This pretty much summed up my lab during the study. However, now that I’m studying for the VCAP exams I’m trying to work out the best use of my limited host resources (I have upgraded my RAM to 32GB though).

The question is, what VM’s are the most appropriate and how many? At the moment I only have a Domain Controller, vCenter (full install with UM, etc) and four ESXi guests (three ESXi 5 and one ESXi 4 – I want to test upgrading to 5 using Update Manager).

I thought I’d stand up some VM’s to play with vShield Zones, View, SRM, etc but there are so many products to choose from. Obviously these all won’t be covered by the VCAP exams but I still see benefit in being familiar with them.

What do others out there think? What has worked well in your experience? Bear in mind that I only have 32GB of RAM 🙂

I look forward to hearing your ideas!