HP releases Storevirtual Lefthand OS 12.5

Just this morning I noticed that Lefthand OS 12.5 was now available for the HP Storevirtual platform. I was surprised by this as I hadn’t seen any announcement about it.

Anyway, taking a look at the release notes the minor update has the following new enhancements:

  • Two-node quorum
  • Support for iSCSI split network
  • Support for VSA on RHEL 6.6 and CentOS 6.6
  • MEM driver for vSphere 6.0
  • SCVMM 2012 R2 support

Additionally there are a number of bug fixes.

See here for the full release notes: http://h20564.www2.hpe.com/hpsc/doc/public/display?docId=c04735172&lang=en-nz&cc=nz

The most interesting enhancement is the Two-node quorum which I’m hoping to test shortly. This is great news for people wanting to deploy VSA for ROBO environments and is a timely release with the upcoming announcement of VSAN 6.1 at VMworld 2015 which is rumored to bring metro clustering (something Storevirtual already supports).

Anyway, stay tuned for further updates on Lefthand OS 12.5!

vCenter Converter Standalone – Slow conversion rates and SSL

I thought I’d quickly write about this as it was something I was not previously aware of, mostly due to the fact that I have not performed many P2V migrations using the Converter tool and when I have it’s mostly been with the old offline converter.

Anyway, I was doing some bench-marking of the conversion process on a Windows 2003 R2 server and I couldn’t understand why I seemed to be hitting a network throughput ceiling of around 10MB/s. At first I though it must have been a routing issue as in this particular environment I was using had multiple VLANs and the source machine was in a different VLAN to the ESXi host. The router in this case only had a routing throughput of 100Mb/s so the 10MB/s made me think that this was the case.

However, when I moved the host into the same VLAN as the source machine I got the same speeds…now I was really confused. Everything else in between seemed fine and I could not work out what was making the conversion so slow.

So I jumped on Twitter to see if anyone else had come across this before (admittedly Google probably would have told me :-P) and a couple of smart guys i know @vStorage and @dmanconi suggested I turn off SSL.

I immediately went back to Converter and was clicking around like crazy and thought “where the hell do I turn that off!!??!!??”. Thankfully Google stepped in here and lead me to this VMware KB article: http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2020517

Aha! So as of vCenter Converter 5.0 it enables SSL by default…I’m not sure why to be honest, in my opinion security of the traffic during a P2V would be the last thing on my mind, but that’s just me 🙂

Anyway, I followed the instructions and set the <useSsl> parameter to False, restarted the Worker service and kicked off my conversion again.

WOW, now I was getting around 50MB/s throughput on my conversion, around five times faster than before! This now meant that my upcoming P2V jobs were going to complete in way less time than I first though.

So a word of advice if you are thinking about doing some P2V’s or are not blown away by how slow they are running, apply this tweak and you will be away laughing.

Oh, while we are on the topic, for those of you using HP Proliant servers, Guillermo Musumeci has written a handy tool for automating the removal of the HP Proliant Support Pack drivers and software after you’ve done your P2V: http://www.ctxadmtools.com/DownloadTool.aspx?ProdID=4cc60321-c738-4a7b-b93d-d0a57244ff31 …unfortunately at this moment the website won’t let me register, but I’m sure it will be working again soon. The tool has been around for some time but is one of those really hand tools to have and saves manually removing the HP drivers and services.

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!

vSphere Update Manager – Remediation failures due to removable media

This is something that has caught me out a few times before so I thought I’d quickly post about it.

Have you have ever tried to remediate a cluster using VUM and encounter a message something like this?:

vum - error

The message itself doesn’t tell a lot, leaving you to dive into the error logs within vCenter. This can be quite tedious particularly if you don’t know what to look out for. The best place to start is searching for entries containing “Error”…surprise surprise 😛

In this particular scenario I have several VM’s with removable media attached to them, bear in mind your particular scenario could be different and may have nothing to do with removable media!

Digging through the VUM logs (normally found under C:\Users\All Users\VMware\VMware Update Manager\Logs or C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMware\Update Manager) we come across a file named vmware-vum-server-log4cpp.log.

Browsing through the file searching for any errors we find the following entry:

vum - log error

Aha! We now have an explanation to why the remediation failed! You might think the easiest way to fix this is to check each of the VM’s in the cluster and remove any removable media devices…

While it is probably a good idea to remove these generally speaking there may be valid reasons for having them attached. Hence why VUM has a great feature found under “Maintenance Mode Options”!

BEHOLD!

vum - remediate disable media

 

By ticking the box at the bottom the remediation task will automatically disable any attached removable media devices allowing the task to complete successfully.

Anyway, I hope this little trick helps others out there who are wondering why their cluster remediations aren’t completing!

CPU Ready and vCPU over-subscription

I’ve been doing a bit of performance tuning on some of the clusters I look after at work and started looking deeper into CPU Ready times. This particular metric has always been something I’m aware of and it’s impact on performance but I had never gone looking for issues relating to it. Mostly because I’d never had a host or cluster that was that over-subscribed!

Anyway, I thought I’d do a quick post on what CPU Ready times mean, how you can measure them and how you can help reduce them…here goes.

What is CPU Ready???

The term CPU Ready is a bit confusing at first as one would assume that it refers to how much CPU is ready to be used, but this is not the case. The lower the CPU Ready time the better!

CPU Ready is the percent of time a process is ready to run but is waiting for the CPU scheduler to allow that process to run on a physical processor. I.e. “I’m ready to go but I can’t do anything yet!”.

So now that we have a better understanding of what CPU Ready is, lets look at what can cause this value to increase and hurt your VM’s performance.

What causes CPU Ready times to increase???

1. Over-commitment/Over-subscription of physical CPU

This would be the most common cause and can happen when you have committed too many vCPU’s in relation to the number of physical CPU cores in your host.

From what I have read it seems that for best performance you should keep your pCPU:vCPU ratio equal to or less than 1:3. So in other words, if your host has a total of four CPU cores, you should not allocate more than a total of 12 vCPU to the VM’s on that host. This isn’t to say you can’t have more but you may run into performance problems doing so.

2. Using CPU affinity rules

Using CPU affinity rules across multiple VM’s can cause high CPU Ready times as this can restrict how the CPU scheduler balances load. Unless specifically required I would not recommend using CPU affinity rules.

3. Using CPU limits on virtual machines

Another potential cause of CPU Ready is using CPU limits on virtual machines. Again, from what I have read I would suggest that you do not use CPU limits unless absolutely necessary. CPU limits can prevent the scheduler from allocating CPU time to a VM if it were to violate the limit set, hence causing ready times to increase.

4. When Fault Tolerance is configured on a VM

The last scenario could be where you have deployed a VM using FT and the primary and secondary VM can’t keep up with the synchronisation of changes. When this happens the CPU can be throttled causing higher ready times.

Now that we’ve covered what can cause CPU Ready times to increase, lets look at how to measure them and reduce them. For this example I’ve used the most common cause, over-provisioning.

How do I look for CPU Ready issues???

Take the example below; it is a VM that has been configured with four vCPU. Looking at the last days CPU usage you can see this particular VM is doing almost nothing (it is a test VM).

Image

When I then look at the CPU Ready times for the same period I see that the summation value is around 9200ms. Remember that both of these charts are the last day roll up.Image

Now you are probably thinking, what the hell does that mean? Well, we can convert this summation into a percentage to make things a little easier to quantify.

The formula is simply this:

CPU Ready % = (Summation value / (chart update interval in seconds x 1000)) x 100

Each of the available update intervals are listed below (refer to KB article 2002181: http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2002181)

  • Realtime: 20 seconds
  • Past Day: 5 minutes (300 seconds)
  • Past Week: 30 minutes (1800 seconds)
  • Past Month: 2 hours (7200 seconds)
  • Past Year: 1 day (86400 seconds)

So returning to our previous chart of the last day we get:

(9200 / (300 x 1000)) x 100 = 3.06%

Now this isn’t a bad CPU Ready time percentage but it will do for the purposes of this example. VMware recommends that for best performance CPU Ready % should be less than 5%.

Based on the fact that my virtual machine is by no means busy and it has been given 4 vCPU I will now drop this back to 2. Yes I could drop it back even further to 1 but for the purposes of this example I’ll bring it back to 2 🙂

After powering off the VM, changing the vCPU and powering back on I get a significant drop in CPU Ready time as seen below in a Real-time chart.

Image

Running a new calculation on this value of around 54ms (a very rough guesstimate average :-P) we get this:

(54 / (20 x 1000)) x 100 = 0.27%

As you can see the average CPU Ready time has decreased quite significantly by simply lowering committed resource to the VM. Obviously this would only be practical on VM’s that are not vCPU constrained.

In my experience most people (myself included) over allocate vCPU, particularly when translating vendor hardware requirements into virtual machine requirements! Some of the worst I’ve seen are when sizing some of the Microsoft System Center products. The sizing guides often suggest dual quad-core physical servers, but this does not mean you should give your VM eight vCPU.

I think the best approach is to size lower and adjust accordingly if you are hitting a CPU resource limit. Spend some time looking over your environment and see where you might be able to tune your performance, you might be surprised at how much you can improve it!

Removing Datastores/LUNs within vSphere 5

It’s been a while since my last post (too long!) and I thought I’d talk about something that has recently come back to bite me in the rear end.

I’m sitting at my desk at home doing some work, in particular documenting a procedure for doing some volume migration that needs to happen on several clusters. I’ve been stepping through my documentation to test it and I’ve hit a strange issue which appears to be linked to problems occurring when removing LUNs from a host incorrectly.

I had unmounted several datastores that were no longer required, while still maintaining the recommended two for HA datastore heart-beating. I made sure that I disabled SIOC on the datastores and when un-mounting them I was shown lots of green ticks telling me I’d completed all of the prerequisites.

However, I proceeded to un-present the LUNs from the hosts without first detaching the LUN from the Storage->Devices view:

Unmounting Device

Unmounting Device

Bear in mind that the above screenshot shows attempting to unmount a test volume I have, hence the red tick!

What can happen if you don’t perform this step is an APD or All Paths Down state for the host. Cormac Hogan has a great article here about the APD condition: http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2011/08/all-path-down-apd-handling-in-50.html

Unfortunately for me in this particular case is that I un-presented the LUNs without properly doing an unmount. When I tried a rescan of the iSCSI software HBA the operation eventually timed out and my host disconnected. I now have a host running production VM’s that cannot be managed via the vSphere client or via SSH/Powershell AND the DCUI has frozen! Yay.

So in summary, if you want to ensure you don’t cause yourself any unwanted pain when removing datastores/LUNs from a host or cluster, make sure you follow the KB article PROPERLY! http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2004605

Oh, and to add further pain to this problem it seems to have the same symptom that I’ve seen before when applying host profiles and the vmotion vmkernel port ip address gets applied to the management vmkernel port…WEIRD!

Anyway, I’d better get back to fixing what I’ve broken 😛

HP LeftHand CMC 10.0 Changes

HP’s Lefthand / P4000/ StoreVirtual product has had a major version upgrade with it’s announcement of Lefthand OS 10.0. This release will be the first to drop the SAN/iQ moniker in favor of the company name that created the product before HP’s aquisition a few years ago.

The release of this software upgrade was slated for the 4th December if I’m not mistaken but interestingly their FTP site now has the updated patches/upgrades as of the 26th of November.

I had the chance to download the new files (with some difficulty, I get the feeling their FTP site is taking a hammering at the moment!) and have since installed the new version of their Centralised Management Console or CMC.

Going into this upgrade I had high hopes for its new support for an internet proxy for the downloading of patches, something that has really let the product down previously in my opinion. In any case, the new version now allows you to specify a SOCKS proxy…yay!

Now, the bad news…

It does not allow you to specify any authentication for the proxy…argh!!!! In our environment this is a real pain from a security perspective and as such is not going to help. For now it will be back to downloading the media from an alternative location and copying it to the CMC. This in itself can prove to be tedious, particularly when the CMC decides that the downloaded media is corrupt and needs to re-download it! Oh well…baby steps eh 😛

CMC 10.0 Proxy Setting

On a more positive note, the new version now supports ActiveDirectory integrated authentication. So far I can’t see where this is configured but I’m guessing you’ll need to have your nodes upgraded to version 10 first…i’ll post an update on this shortly.

Further to this there is now an additional SAN status page panel showing all active tasks which should prove to be extremely useful, something that was lacking previously, especially when managing multiple clusters from a single CMC by more than one administrator. Again I’ll post more on this when I see it in action. In the meantime here’s a shot of the Active Tasks pane, not very exciting but gives you an idea.

CMC 10.0 Active Tasks

So that seems to be about it for now, I’d be keen to hear from any others that have found more new features that I’ve missed. Once I’ve fully downloaded all of the new patches I’ll upgrade one of my test VSA clusters and post about that, hopefully I’ll then be able to integrate the cluster security into AD 🙂

Thanks for reading!

vSphere Home Lab: Part 3 – Procurves and static routing

So I’ve just spent the last three hours trying to work out why my Procurve switch wasn’t routing my various VLAN’s I have configured for my home lab.

I had to move my three hosts and switch into the garage because the heat in the office was becoming unbearable! Unfortunately because of this I broke my connection to my iSCSI VLAN I had configured for my labs ip storage. Because I’m running my SAN management software on my main pc I had a second nic directly plugged into that VLAN, nice and simple right?

However, when I moved the gear I no longer had two cables running to my main pc, I now only had one. I though to myself, “surely I can set up some static routing!?!?”.

Anyway, as it turns out my little Thomson ADSL router supports static routing, cool! I configured this like so:

:rtadd 192.168.3.0/24 192.168.2.50 (where 192.168.3.0/24 is my iSCSI subnet and 192.168.2.50 is the management ip of the Procurve). Step one done!

Next I jumped onto my Procurve 2910al and enabled ip routing, giving me this config:

hostname “SWITCH1”
module 1 type j9147a
no stack
ip default-gateway 192.168.2.1
ip route 0.0.0.0 0.0.0.0 192.168.2.1
ip routing
snmp-server community “public” unrestricted
spanning-tree legacy-path-cost
spanning-tree force-version stp-compatible
vlan 1
name “DEFAULT_VLAN”
no untagged 25-36
untagged 1-24,37-48
ip address 192.168.2.50 255.255.255.0
exit
vlan 10
name “vMotion”
tagged 13-18
no ip address
exit
vlan 20
name “FT”
tagged 13-18
no ip address
exit
vlan 30
name “iSCSI”
untagged 25-36
ip address 192.168.3.1 255.255.255.0
exit
management-vlan 1

Now, doing a tracert from my main pc on VLAN1 it would get as far as the Procurve, but the switch would respond with destination net unreachable.

I continued to try different commands and read several blog posts on configuring static routes and everything I had done looked fine!

I finally came across a comment someone had posted on a forum suggesting that when you specify a management VLAN on the switch it breaks routing! ARGHHHHHHH!

So, I ran “no management-vlan 1” and saved the config. Now the switch is properly routing all VLANs, yay!!!!!

Now I can fire up my HP P4000 CMC and connect to my VSA’s from my main pc on VLAN1, woohoo.

vSphere Home Lab: Part 1

After getting the VCAP5-DCD exam out of the way I started to work out what hardware I’d buy for creating a new home lab for my DCA study. Up till now I have used my main gaming rig as a home lab, running an 8-core AMD FX cpu and 32GB of RAM. While this has served me well it isn’t ideal and doesn’t have the flexibility I’d like.

I started trawling through numerous blogs about other home labs and liked the idea of using the Supermicro uATX motherboards that support the E3 Xeons and IPMI. However, after a lot of looking mostly on Amazon (here in NZ the only place I could find boards from was going to cost me almost $400 NZD per board…) I gave up. It was going to be too risky ordering pc gear from overseas and not have the confidence I’d get the right memory modules, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have some, in particular the MBD-X9SCM-iiF as it has the two onboard 82574L LAN ports as well as the dedicated IPMI port. But for what I needed I could not justify almost doubling my budget, particularly as the E3 Xeons, such as the E3-1230 would set me back almost $400 NZD a piece too.
Instead I opted for more AMD based gear 🙂
Here is the spec I came up with:

3 x AMD FX 6100 Six-core CPU 3.3ghz – $180 NZD each

3 x Gigabyte GA-78LMTUSB3 – Nice uATX form factor, supports FX cpus, can take up to 32GB DDR3 with support for ECC un-buffered RAM – $115 NZD each

3 x Coolermaster 343 uATX cases (these are pretty cheap and are reasonably small) – $97 NZD each

6 x OCZ Vertex2 120GB SSDs – I got these because they were on special for $114 NZD each 🙂

6 x 8GB DDR3 1333mhz non-ECC – These were about $65 NZD each. Couldn’t afford to go with ECC and didn’t feel I really needed it…when money permits I’ll be upgrading each host to 32gb RAM

3 x HP NC364T 4 port GbE NIC’s – I’m using some spare ones from work

2 x HP ProCurve 2910al-48G switches – Another loaner from work 😛 We had these surplus and aren’t planning on deploying them anywhere

3 x HP P4000 VSA licenses – Yet another thing I was lucky to get from work, we had three licenses we purchased a while back and ended up putting physical P4300 SAN’s in so I figured these would be perfect in a home lab!

Here’s a few pics of the gear so far. Excuse the poor quality photos…my HTC Sensation’s camera is not working that well running a beta JB ROM 🙂

HP Procurve 2910al-48G

HP switches – sweet!!!!

My three vSphere hosts

Cool, VCAP-DCA here I come!

The guts

Cheap and cheerful, no frills at it’s best! Notice I haven’t installed the additional NIC card or the SSDs…where’s my adapters!!!!!

All up I’ve spent close to $2500 NZD which isn’t too bad, but certainly not a cheap exercise…oh well, it’s going to be a great tool for learning so it’s worth it for that!

Bear in mind that most of these parts won’t be on the VMware HCL but this isn’t a production environment, and as such they don’t need to be.

So, I’ve got all the gear mostly built other than waiting on some 2.5″ to 3.5″ SSD drive adapters (the cases don’t have 2.5″ bays 😦 ) and I screwed up with one of the cases. I accidentally purchased the wrong model (I initially purchased only one case as a test) and didn’t realise that the power supply included didn’t have a 4+4 12v molex plug for the cpu power…argh! I’ve got an adapter cable coming that will fix the problem though. I also have three 4gb USB sticks on order too for the hypervisor to boot from. This will mean I can allocate as much of the SSD storage as possible to the VSA’s.

At this stage I think I’ll configure the VSA cluster volumes using NRAID5 (for those of you who haven’t used the HP Lefthand gear it supports various network RAID levels when using multiple nodes) as this will give me close to 400GB of SSD storage. I’ll enable thin provisioning on both the datastores and in the VSAs so I should get a reasonable number of VM’s on it.

If you are wondering “but what about TRIM support?” I have thought about this. It seems that vSphere does not support the TRIM command but to be honest I don’t really care. I figure it will probably take me a while to kill them and they do have a three year warranty :-). At one stage I was going to build a FreeNAS server or similar with all the SSDs (which does support TRIM) but I thought I’d get more out of running the VSAs. Since I use P4300 SANs at work this would give me more opportunity to play around with the software and different configurations.

As for the network configuration, I haven’t quite decided my layout yet. I am probably going to trunk two nics for Management, vMotion, FT and VM traffic, possibly leaving two nics for iSCSI. I probably won’t get the same benefit out of using two nics per host for iSCSI as I would with a physical SAN as the VSA only supports one virtual network adapter (i think…it’s been a long time since I looked at it) but I will still be able to simulate uplink failure, etc.

Anyway, I better get back to trying to configure these switches…went to plug my rollover cable into them and realised my pc doesn’t have a serial port…doh!
Stay tuned for part 2, building the hosts and setting up the VSA 😉

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.