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-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!

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 🙂