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.
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.
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.
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.
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).