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...Go back to Part 7...

 

Conclusion

What else can I say? Probably the VCDX certification is not for all... it require a lot of time, a lot of experience, some "stress", some travels, is not only a technical exam, it requires a lot of skills.

But complete this path give a lot of satisfactions... and seems that also people that has not pass the last step are in favour of this this kind of path.

 

PS: sorry for my (bad) english, but it's not my native language

 

Some questions

Official FAQs - http://mylearn.vmware.com/portals/certification/faqs.cfm?ui=www&pID=certificat

 

Q: How many VCDX's are there?

A: The VCDX official list is not updated in real time (usually there is a delay of about one month or more), so the answer could be on tweeter or on last posts of http://communities.vmware.com/thread/222130

 

Q: How much time does it take to become a VCDX?

A: There isn't a minum or maximum time. You need experience and you must be already a VCP. Then it can take 1 year (like in my case, for Feb 2009 to Feb 2010) or more or less (I had to wait a lot until the design exam was available).

The last part is the one more time consuming because you have to realize your application and submit some months before the defense.

 

Q: Is still possible to reach the VCDX3 certification?

A: Yes, but only for few days... The last defense opportunity seems to be the PEX 2011, and the application deadline is the Nov, 22 2010!

 

Q: It is possible to reach the VCDX4 certification?

A: Not yet! The VCAP-DCD beta period is finished, but the exam is not yet avable. Also for this reason there aren't yet any date for the VCDX4 defense (and PEX 2011 deadline is to close). So first new VCDX4 (from the new path) will probably be avable from Q2 or Q3 of 2011.

But VCDX3 that have passed the DCD beta exam will become the first VCDX4.

 

Q: What about VCDX5 certification?

A: Probably it will take more time, VCDX4 was announced on May, 2010... about one year late the release of vSphere products. Actually the new vSphere beta period has started (to be honest is near to start at the end of Nov, 2010). Actually is not clear it this will be the new 5.x series (maybe it could remain a 4.5)... So until a new 5.x product is not released (with the VCP5 certification), is quite difficult to talk of think about VCDX5

 

Q: You must be a "master" of big environments to become a VCDX?

A: Really not... You must be able to design a good and complete solution. This sentence of Duncan's blog is very clear about it: "Show you can design for large scale. It’s OK if your actual project was for a small environment, but show that you can think big too."

 

Q: You must be an active member of the VMware community to become a VCDX?

A: There isn't a correlation... Some VCDX do not partecipate to the community, but can be really usefull partecipate to learn more (and of course to help other community people).

 

Q: You must be an active blogger to become a VCDX?

A: There isn't a correlation... Several VCDXs are famous bloggers. But other famous bloggers are not VCDX...

Panel is fair-minded with candidated...

 

Q: You must be active on twitter to become a VCDX?

A: There isn't a correlation... But in the last period more information are on twitter rather than on community... so start follow some right people

 

Index

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - Pro and cons

Part 3 - The application

Part 4 - The interview

Part 5 - Other info on defense

Part 6 - Admin exam

Part 7 - Design exam

 

The end?

...Go back to Part 6...

 

The Design exam

The Design exam of VCDX3 was probably the weak part of the entire path.

The suggested course does not cover the exam at all (but to be onest was useful for the application part).

The exam itself maybe was not completly oriented on the design aspect, but there were also some questions about administration, installation, and so on...

If found it also not so difficult to pass.

 

Anyway the exam is no more avaible, and the new one (for VCAP-DCD and VCDX4) seems a lot better:

http://communities.vmware.com/blogs/AndreTheGiant/2010/11/13/my-vmware-vcap4dcd-beta-exam-experience

Just lets see when it goes live to see also other experience about it.

 

Resources

Old Design exam resources

http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2009/03/07/vcdx-design-exam-how-to-prepare/

http://www.virtuallifestyle.nl/2010/02/vmware-vcdx-design-exam-preparation-resources/

http://www.virtualtroll.com/?p=132

 

VCAP-DCD resources

Blueprint - http://mylearn.vmware.com/register.cfm?course=76644

Demo of the Visio part - http://mylearn.vmware.com/courseware/82525/VCAPDCD_Tutorial.swf

http://communities.vmware.com/message/1640264#1640264

 

Other user's experience in Design exam

Old Design exam

http://vmwaretips.com/wp/2009/04/02/vcdx-design-exam-complete/

http://blog.scottlowe.org/2009/11/05/vcdx-design-exam-post-mortem/

http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/2009/10/01/vcdx-design-exam-been-there-done-that/

 

New DCD exam (actually only the beta version)

http://jfvi.co.uk/2010/11/09/vcap-dcd-beta-experience/

http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/2010/11/10/vmware-vcap4-dcd-beta-exam-experience/

http://jeffreywolfanger.com/vcap-dcd-beta-experience/

http://www.dailyhypervisor.com/2010/11/11/my-vmware-vcap4-dcd-beta-exam-experience/

http://vmwaretips.com/wp/2010/11/11/vmware-vcap4-dcd-beta-exam-experience/

 

Read more in Part 8...

...Go back to Part 5....

 

The Admin exam

This is the part that requires a lot of practical experience... This was the first reason that I've tried this path… to prove myself my technical knowledge.

And I think that this is the right way to do a technical exam… You must demonstrate your technical capacity… not your memory capacity.

 

On the VCDX3 path this exam was (on October 2010 it was retired) composed by a part of close questions (very deep on some technical arguments) and a part that is a real environment with some tasks to complete.

The second part is very similar to some kind of Cisco exams, or some Novell Linux exams (like CLP) or what was (as I know is not more available) Microsoft practical exam on Active Directory (83-640).

The most interested aspect is that you have a full system (not a limited simulator) so you have all commands and also the help on it!

The advantage is that your have to wait some weeks to know the results… This part can be improved, because Novell CLP and Microsoft 83-640 exams were able (I do not know in which way) to give the results after the exam.

 

For the VCDX4, this exam is the VCAP-DCA exam and now (it is available from October 2010) is based only on practical tasks (so no more the close questions part)… so is a very technical exam!

Unfortunately I was not able (due to other commitments) to participate at the beta period… and now I want first to do the VCAP-DCD exam (and only I have some spare time or a closest center also the DCA).

 

Resources

VCAP-DCA resources

Blueprint - http://mylearn.vmware.com/register.cfm?course=70779

Lab Demo - http://mylearn.vmware.com/courseware/82526/VCAPDCA_Tutorial.swf

Exam Center Locations - http://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=18206&ui=www_cert

http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-12751

http://thesaffageek.wordpress.com/vcap-dca-dcd/

http://www.vfail.net/vcap-dca/

 

Other user's experience in Admin exam

Old Admin exam

http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/2009/08/05/vcdx-enterprise-administration-exam/

http://www.virtualizationteam.com/virtualization-vmware/certification-virtualization-vmware/vmware-vcdx-enterprise-administration-exam-my-tough-luck.html

http://www.2vcps.com/2010/04/22/my-fun-with-the-vmware-enterprise-administration-and-design-exams/

http://vinf.net/2010/06/22/vce310-and-vcd310-and-the-path-to-vcdx-exam-experiences/

 

New DCA exam

http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2010/06/28/vcap-dca-exam/

http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/2010/06/21/vmware-vcap-dca-beta-exam-experience/

http://vmwaretips.com/wp/2010/06/25/vmware-vcap4-dca-beta-exam-experience/

http://communities.vmware.com/blogs/dconvery/2010/07/10/my-vcapdca-exam-experience

http://www.dailyhypervisor.com/2010/07/10/my-vcap-dca-exam-experience/

http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2010/06/my-vcap4-dca-beta-experience.html

http://jfvi.co.uk/2010/06/17/vcap-dca-beta-experience/

 

Read more in Part 7...

...Go back to Part 4....

 

Other user's experience in the the defense/interview

http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2009/06/16/vcdx-defense-the-blog-article/

http://frankdenneman.nl/2010/02/vcdx-number-29/

http://vmwaretips.com/wp/2009/09/05/my-vmware-vcdx-defense-experience/

http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/2010/02/14/my-vcdx-defense-experience/

http://blog.scottlowe.org/2010/02/19/on-the-vcdx-defense/

http://www.wafl.co.uk/vcdx-journey/

http://virtualkenneth.com/2010/03/31/my-vcdx-defend-experience/

http://jasonnash.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/my-vcdx-defense-or-how-i-flew-to-san-francisco-to-choke/

http://www.harleystagner.com/vcdx/the-end-of-the-journey-vcdx-number-46.php

http://p2v.it/2010/11/02/my-own-vcdx-defense-experience/

 

Other user's experience in the application

http://virtualserverguy.com/2010/06/vcdx-preparation/

http://p2v.it/2010/08/27/vcdx-design-submission-mission-accomplished/

 

Other user's experience of people that have not passed (yet)

http://technodrone.blogspot.com/2010/10/journey-to-vcdx-not-complete-yet.html

Probably there are also other links, but I cannot find them. As written the pass rate is quite low (less than 50%), but also unsuccessful stories can help very much.

Maybe an improvement can be put in the feedback of people that have not pass the interview to explain more how and where the candidate can improve. There are some indication of area that must be improved, but maybe too much generic.

 

Other sources

Blogs are not the primary sources of information of VCDX paths.

There is also the VMware community  (but seems not too much active on VCDX area), twitter (I think that could be must, for example to find other candidates in the same period) and more important a direct iteraction with people that are in same boat or that have already had this experience (and events like VMworld could be a good chance to meet them).

Note that NDR do not permit at VCDX or previous candidate to talk about the questions or the design details, but seems to be permited (as written also in the official Defense Prep) that a VCDX make a review of your design ("Consider that VCDX-certified architects are reviewing your application" is the exact sentence).

 

Read more in Part 6...

...Go back to Part 3...

 

The interview

You will know if the application has passed a “formal” check after a week. But you have to wait more (in my case a month) if has passed also a technical review.

If  the application has been approved it means that is good enough? I’m not sure about this, but this certainly means that you can go to last phase: the defense!

The defense is a part of the interview step, that is an on-site meeting with a panel of VCDX certified architects… you will find people with a great and deep knowledge, with more experience, and more skill… a big challenge!

Panel is usually composed by three VCDX from VMware (in my case: Duncan Epping, Pang Chen and Andrew Hald), but also other peole may be in the room with you: one (or more) from VMware Certification staff and maybe there can some observers (also from VMware).

 

This step is the more expensive one (compared to the others) both for the fee and the travel expensive. Unfortunately there are only few panel windows at specific places in one year… So just plan your defense period with enough time.

A good choice is choose VMware events, like VMworld or Partner Exchange (in my case was the PEX 2010 and was also a way to see Las Vegas).

 

As written in the prep guide the interview process consists of three parts.

  • The VCDX defense (75 minutes), with a brief introduction of your project (15 min), where you will answer questions from panelists about the design you submitted and you will have an opportunity to provide further insight into your design decisions and rationales.

  • The design scenario (30 minutes), where you will demonstrate that you can begin to work through design issues in a methodical and logical manner.

  • The troubleshooting scenario (15 minutes), where you will demonstrate that you can begin to work through design or operational problems in a methodical and logical manner. With only a limited time!

 

What about the language? This could be a problem, because now you must talk and understand a conversational English (more different that simple read and write) and you cannot use dictionary or spell checker...

I have no much occasions to speak English (I try to listen it by following some series in native English), this could be another reason to take this step during a VMware event, just to prepare for the language…

But I have to assert that the panel was very king on this aspect, and I was also lucky to find people with a good, slow and clear English. Great thanks to Duncan and Melissa that have hearten and tranquillize myself during the break.

 

Defense

The defense could be very simple, if you have a good and clear design… in this case you have only to support and argue it.

But you have to know it very well… Seems strange, but after a month (or more) you can forget some aspect or decision about your project!

You have enough time to a good presentiation (you can use PowerPoint or similar tools) of your project... use it in the right way... explain also some choices.

Then there are a "lot of" time to the discussion and the defense... be prepared, build some extra slides (if you think that could be useful to explan some choices), keep your Visio and your diagram close at hand...

I think that in this step you can also save a not well designed project… But I’m not sure about this.

I’m only sure that you can damage a good design with a worse defense!

 

After this phase you will get a little break... If your design was on vSphere and you are on a VCDX3 certification, at this point you have also to remember to "reset" yourself to VI3.5, because next parts is on this version.

 

Design

The design require a good experience and a good approach: you cannot produce a complete design in only 30 minutes… so use different approach… try to cope with all the problems and requirements… use an high level approach and, when needed, a deeper one.

As written in the prep guide: The focus is on the journey to the solution. Talk and ask as you can and think out-loud. And for VCDX3 remember that is will be VI 3.5 design... know the limitation of this product and forget vSphere!

Consider the panel also as the customer (with a good skill)... you have to explain and argue your choices... but you have also ask a lot to get all the information that you need for the desing. And take a look at the countdown... time is not enough... use it in the right way!

Note that you have to know (at higher level) also storage enterprise, networking, applications... not stricly related to VMware.

 

Troubleshooting

The troubleshooting IMHO is the big challenge of the interview, because you have a very limited time to try to find the solution of the problem. I think that the way and the approach that you use could be considered positively also if you do not find the solution. Again talk and ask as you can and think out-loud.

In this case the Panel act as a customer and you must act as a technical support... The scenario (IMHO) is similar by a phone call support so you have to ask information, ask to make test, ask for the result of it, and so on...  And take a look at the countdown... time may be not enough... use it in the right way!

There is a solution or is simple a "[Kobayashi Maru|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru]" test? I'm quite sure that a solution exist because (in my case) the problem was a real custom problem.

 

Other comments

A recent post of Duncan Epping give more hints on the defense process: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2010/11/15/5-tips-for-preparing-your-vcdx-defense/

Some interesting note is available also in the VMware Community, for example in this thread:

http://communities.vmware.com/thread/222130 (go on the last page).

Remember also that pass ratio in this phase is quite low: less than 50%, and in some cases very low (for example on Munich 2010 defense on 2 people pass (on 12 candidates, if I remember right).

 

Read more in Part 5...

...Go back to Part 2....

 

The last step of a long journey

I will start from the last step of the VCDX path, because I think that is the most interest and hardest part, but also the more distintive part.

 

As clearly documented in the application form (http://mylearn.vmware.com/register.cfm?course=67611) this final step is structured in two distinct phases:

  • the application and project submission

  • the inteview with the project defense

Those phases have also two different and specific fee.

 

Probably is also the more difficult part, as the pass rate is lower than 50%. How each part of the application and the interview compose the final result (that is only a pass or not pass) is not clear (for me), but I suppose that the application and the defense are the most important part.

Also I do not know if the results of Admin and Design exams are used to build the final results.

 

The application

When I done my application, there wasn't any information on how make it, only the information in the application form itself.

Now some good infos are available in the preparation guide: http://mylearn.vmware.com/register.cfm?course=72147

And also the Design Workshop V4 can help a lot, because you can use the material as a track of your design or as a way to do a review.

 

As written in the prep guide, the application process is similar to submitting a resume for a job.

It is composed by the application form (filled in all its parts) and a project, which could be real or fictitious, but must be realistic and “well designed”.

 

For VCDX3 is possible submit a vSphere design. I think that could be better submit a vSphere design, at least you can reuse it if you cannot complete the VCDX3 path and you go directly to the VCDX4 one.

About vSphere 4.0 or 4.1 I'm not sure, but I suppose that both could be fine... But just explain why you will choose one or the other...

 

I think that (IMHO) this is the hardest step of the entire VCDX path, because there isn’t a template on what you have to produce and there are only few information or suggestions about this part.

This is certainly the longer part (in term of required time), because at least 30-40 hours are required, but more are better and more are required for non english native people.

 

How many pages is not clear and is not specify at all… I found that some projects have a size between 100-250 pages, but I have no idea if it’s the right size. The content is more important! Also it must cover all the point of the applications and maybe more

Mine was about 10 documents and about 150 pages... so not so big.

 

How many documents or files also is not specify, but I suggest to structure the documents in a clear and simple way, in a form similar as you would submit to a customer.

As written in the prep guide, mandatory VDCX documentation are:

  • Architectural design document with diagrams and blueprints

  • Implementation and next steps documentation

  • Validation/test plans

  • Operational plan/guide

  • Installation and configuration instructions

 

What about the language? If english is not your first language (as my case) try to keep the sentence simple and shot. And use a good spell and grammar checker

Remember also to check that the names of technologies and products are written in the right way (for example: VMware and not Vmware!).

 

There is a template for your project? Not officially, but if you have access to Partner Network you can find some template for standard virtualization project. This could be a starting point… not for the content, but for the structure of your documents.

 

Some other hints? I'm under NDR, so I can't say more... But see VCDX Tips from VCDX 001 John Arrasjid: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2009/10/01/vcdx-tips-from-vcdx-001-john-arrasjid/

 

This step does not require any travel and can be done also before other steps, you have only the deadline related to your defense sessions. Pay attention that when you receive the application's  “invite” you will have probably not so much time until the deadline… So prepare your application before!

When you have finished the application you have only to send the zip file via email and wait…

There will be a first reply (if there is any formal problem in the application) and usually after 1-2 weeks there will be a first technical rewiev... if passed then you can go to the next and final step!

 

Read more in Part 4…

 

Note that if the application is accepted, this does not mean that is good enough to pass the defense... The application must be complete in each part... but I do not know people where the second review (the first is formal, the second is technical) was refused (but this does not mean that was never occured). So be very careful on this part... Be sure to submit a good application to be able to have a good defense on it!