Get a coffee or beverage in hand when reading this as it is a bit lengthy, covering my exam study approach and exam study resources that will hopefully help you be better prepared for the VCAP-DCV Deploy 2019 lab exam. The versions will change obviously but my approach for the Deploy lab exam won’t deviate an awful lot and also would hopefully be similar even for other tracks. I’m sure a lot is common sense to most folk but hopefully you can take something out of this post.

First thing I want to do is burst a bubble 🙂 Even if you are very well prepared it doesn’t guarantee you will pass! Your exam day technique is critical to success too.  I covered this is another post here so ensure you heed those warnings/tips too.

I was delighted to pass this VCAP-DCV Deploy 2019 lab exam last week. Having the two VCAPs for DCV was something I was targeting for a while. Having both Advanced Design and Deployment skills are key for any VCDX so having both exams as pre-reqs for VCIX is critical IMO.

My role in Asystec as an SDDC Architect (blend of SE and PS Consultant) lends itself to more design than deployment so I found the Design VCAP easier to achieve than the Deploy. This differs depending on your role, experience and amount of time you have available either at work or at home to spend lab-ing topics out for (brain) muscle memory. Getting sustained hands on across the wide areas of the footprint was a challenge with a busy job and a busy family life. I’ve taken to putting these thoughts down in a blog post with the aim to help the community and colleagues at work looking to tackle a VMware Advanced Certification deployment exam.

Exam Study Approach

After reflecting on the different building blocks to being prepared as you can be for exam, i’d frame it as follows;

VCAP Prep Approach

VCAP-DCV Deploy 2019 Study Approach

Understand Exam Scope, Format and Venue

  • Download the Blueprint and ensure you understand all areas that will be examined. These are the areas that you will be researching, practicing configuring, deploying or troubleshooting. You will not get asked all areas of the blueprint in the exam but the questions are pooled so unfortunately no shortcuts in that you will need to cover everything.
  • Ensure you know the format. How many questions, time allocated and passing score. You will need to work out how many minutes to spend on each question to ensure you are not losing time by spending too much time on one question. Also within the format you need to determine the lab environment exam set-up. The Hands-On Lab style is the exam lab you are provided. Get familiar with this in your studies (especially if you are using your own lab and not HOL for your lab environment. This includes adjusting to the right resolution and zooming out the browser to be between 70-80%. See links below for details.
  • For the Venue, Pick the venue that suits for your booking to make it as simple as possible to attend. Then get the contact details and phone them up close to your booking to ensure there are no problems with the lab environments before burning the midnight oil the week to no avail. For deployment exams the ask of the exam centre is heightened regarding equipment, latency etc. and I wish someone told me to check in advance.

Links:

Exam Format

https://www.vmware.com/education-services/certification/vcap-dcv-deploy-2018-exam.html

https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/certification/vmware-vcap-dcv-2018-exam-prep-guide.pdf

Exam Interface

https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/certification/vmw-certification-platform-interface.pdf

Prepare Lab Environment

  • Given the nature of a deployment lab exam you will need a practice lab to exercise all the skills against all the areas being tested. I built a virtual vSAN lab (links below to help) on a standalone host that had two sites with a cluster of 4 vESXi Hosts in each site. There was one vCenter in each site with external PSC. I then revisited later to deploy in linked mode as well as re-pointing vCenter PSC. It did me fine but you can get as sophisticated as you like here depending on your budget. But ensure the virtual lab represents the exam lab set-up as best you know it. All storage was on the cards to be examined so as well as deploying the vSAN clusters I also deployed a Unity VSA to cover iSCSI and vVOL storage areas. One clear differentiation to using your own lab versus the HOL is that for your own lab you have to install and configure the hosts and multiple clusters which gets you started on Building your core foundation skills which by proxy tackles areas of the blueprint proper.
  • You could use hands on lab and I did extensively towards the end as a new network is being deployed at work with my access a temporary casualty. The VMware hands on labs are a fantastic free resource with environments and setups to chose from depending on what you are trying to practice. The active vSphere version for 2019 and 2020 labs is 6.7 but as the current VCAP is 6.5 use the Web Client to perform tasks not vSphere Client as the exam is based on webclient unfortunately. Also of the advanced networking items are located in different places and this caught me out come exam time.

Links:

Lab Related

https://www.altaro.com/vmware/deploying-nested-esxi-is-easier-than-ever-before/ https://www.altaro.com/vmware/how-to-setup-vsan-using-a-nested-environment/ https://webinsightlab.com/freebie/free-lightweight-linux-distributions/ https://www.vladan.fr/top-three-lightweight-linux-vms-vmware/

HOLs

https://labs.hol.vmware.com/

HOL-2011-01-SDC – VMware vSphere – Getting Started
HOL-2011-02-SDC – VMware vSphere – Advanced Topics
HOL-2010-01-SDC – Virtualization 101: Introduction to vSphere
HOL-1901-02-CMP Optimize Performance and Assess vSphere Configuration and Compliance with vRealize Operations

Unity VSA Install and Config
https://www.emc.com/collateral/TechnicalDocument/docu69316.pdf
https://www.dellemc.com/resources/en-us/asset/white-papers/products/storage/h15092-dell_emc_unityvsa.pdf

Configuring VVols
https://www.emc.com/dam/uwaem/documentation/unity-p-vvols-config.pdf http://www.enterprisedaddy.com/2017/11/vvols-emc-unityvsa/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gCsYbIFHOQ

 

Book The Exam

  • Now that you have reviewed and analysed the blueprint determining areas into categories requiring low, medium and high amount of attention in the lab you will have an estimate on how long is realistically needed to prepare. Book the exam to give you a target date to aim for so you can build a schedule around work and home life commitments.
  • Be realistic but don’t do what I did and keep pushing it out trying to cover every item in great detail. Give it a go and don’t be afraid to fail. You will get a feel for the exam timing, content and areas of weakness. Of course there are budget constraints for more than 1 attempt for some people so trade off against that potential constraint. If this is a factor and you are attending VMworld the exams are normally 50% cheaper to take during the show.

Links:

Exam Booking

https://mylearn.vmware.com/api/?mL_method=sso&h=1622&target=PearsonVue&p=viewAppointmentActivity

Collate Resources to aid Lab Execution

  • Start a Onenote page/workbook to put all your resources in one place. Who knows maybe this post may make the cut LOL
  • Leverage Community Study guides if available. I used VCAP 6 Study Guides to gauge breath and depth other successful people went to (thanks Kyle Jenner and Matt Callaway) but you will need to check for current version. 6.5 is the only available deploy exam at time of writing. They are a guide but are not exhaustive and will mainly help with the next section which is building a rock solid foundation of all areas of the blueprint but you will need to use these core skills and advance to more scenario based practice for the exam itself.
  • Become very familiar with navigating official VMware documents. These will be available in the exam but open in chrome browser individually and not in Acrobat reader. Therefore it is not possible to search across multiple or all docs. You will need to know which VMware guide covers which feature or blueprint area in order to access the feature support quickly in the exam in order for them to be any benefit. This could save your bacon in the exam if you are a pro here.
  • Use the PDF Lab Guides for VMware HOL as quick reference resources. I used this extensively. You can download the PDF for offline viewing as well which is really great for practicing or executing different blueprint features. You can launch labs and get manuals for 2020 and 2019. You can also go back to previous years for the pdf /html manual only.

Links:

Study Guides

http://www.vjenner.com/vcap6-dcv-deployment-study-guide/ 

http://vcallaway.com/vcap6-dcv-deploy-study-guide/

Official VMware Documentation

https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/index.html

HOL PDF Lab Guides

http://docs.hol.vmware.com/catalog/

 

Practice Areas of Blueprint in the Lab

  • At this point you need to roll up the sleeves and, using the resources you have collected up to now, practice and execute each area of the blueprint. All areas will not be examined but on the day you do not know what areas will be drawn out to be asked but you need a firm foundation in all areas. Depending on your role and experience the time taken to achieve this varies.
  • Two methods I used to accelerate this phase was;
    • As per previous step  review and follow the steps in the HOL pdf in your lab
    • Use the VMware vSphere feature walk-through sites to demonstrate how to tackle certain areas. Thanks to the vSphere Product team for pulling these resources together. You can follow the blog and twitter for updates.
  • Leverage the study resources you collated to get through this as swiftly as possible but there are no massive quick wins here because if you don’t have the hands on experience you have to GO GET IT! If your day job means you already have the majority of the skills then you may move to the next section quicker than I did 😉

Links:

VMware vSphere Feature Walk-through

https://vspherecentral.vmware.com/

https://featurewalkthrough.vmware.com/t/vsphere-6-5/

HOL PDF Lab Guides

http://docs.hol.vmware.com/catalog/

Challenge yourself in the Lab

  • Once you  have mastered the basics, and by that I mean you have implemented all areas of the blueprint either in your home lab or using the VMware HOL, you will need to move to scenario based learning.  You need to move beyond being able to just configure or deploy a feature. You need to understand what is needed in order to be able to deploy/config said feature. A simplified example to get the point across could be to move VMs from one host to another in the same cluster. vMotion fails when you attempt it but when you dig deeper the reason for this is vMotion traffic is not selected on the ESXi mgmt vmkernel port. Tick the traffic on problem host and retry with success.
  • To address this, apart from researching about the pre-reqs and dependencies for features, I used two resources to help me up-skill. Exam Simulators and Challenge labs helped here. See links sections for details.
  • One other way if you have a colleague or friend also preparing could be to break your friends lab in a certain way then get him to complete a task depending on the item they mis-configured.

Links:

Exam Simulators

Thanks Joshua Andrews http://sostechblog.com/vcap6-dcv-deploy-practice/
Thanks Graham barker http://virtualg.uk/vcap6-dcv-deploy-exam-simulator-free/
Thanks Jorluis Perales https://www.jortechnologies.com/vcap-dcv-deploy-hol-based-simulator-free/
Thanks Ricardo Conzatti http://solutions4crowds.com.br/vcap-simulator/ Note: I did not get to take this one as getting 3 hours concurrent was not possible but in hindsight I should have to match exam environment for 3 hr exam.

Challenge Labs

HOL-1804-02-CHG vSphere 6.5 Challenge Lab

HOL-1808-02-CHG vSAN 6.6.1 Challenge Lab

Note: As per the Study Approach diagram depending on your level of experience etc you may end up going back to basics with a couple of topics after attempting to troubleshoot an area.

Wrap-Up

In short this exam is a hands on lab exam so if you have over 3 years hands on experience and if your job is a vAdmin then your preparation time will be lessened considerably. Book and sit the exam. See what the delta in Knowledge is if you do not pass and then target those areas. If VMware administration is not part of your daily role then you will get more value from this post. Its a tough but fair exam. Good luck with your preparations!

As always the usual Disclaimer

I am delighted to share that I’ve successfully passed VCAP-DCV Deploy 2019! And this is the 2nd VCAP I have received for the DCV (Data Center Virtualization) track after receiving VCAP6.5-DCV Design Autumn last year so that means I’m certified with the VCIX6.5-DCV badge although I think its changed officially to VCIX-DCV 2019.

VCIX-DCV

Its been a long journey, way too long but I’m delighted to have finally achieved this goal I set myself.

The purpose of this blog post is not to cover my study approach for the exam, that is covered extensively in another post (early next week). In this post I wanted to share my experiences with exam day itself. This was my first VMware Deploy type exam so I was quite green and learned a lot of tough lessons in the process so thought I would share these in order to pay back to the vCommunity.

This exam took me 3 visits to the nearest Pearson Exam Centre and 2 attempts at the exam itself.

Visit 1 to Pearson Exam Centre

The Pearson exam centre is the first element you need to come to terms with. The Deploy Lab certification exams are not run as regularly as the VCP style exams. There is a higher bandwidth requirement and what I didn’t realise is that you can contact your local Pearson centre and get tech support to validate that the lab is fully functional in advance of hopping into you car later than week before attending. I learned this lesson the hard way as I was preparing/practicing hard over the summer for over 4 weeks to be ready to attend the exam before my Summer Holiday (a full week before). When I got to the exam centre the lab would not start. It failed to start due to licensing issues! And unfortunately it wasn’t resolved in time to sit before holidays. I was not impressed to say the least! But received a voucher for my troubles along with a genuine apology as well as a promise to verify lab is 100% ready before attending again.So save yourself some stress and phone the centre the week before or few days before to ensure no issues exist with the lab.

Visit 2 to Pearson Exam Centre

September came about and I warmed up again for lab exam mode. This was my first attempt at the exam itself. Boy did I get a rude awakening. I made a complete horses ar$e of the exam 🙂 I definitely knew enough content to pass IMO but because of poor exam technique I crashed and burned. Here are the harsh lessons I learned;

  • Failure to understand exam question styles: If you have read my post on study approach you’d have seen the study guides and exam experiences but for some reason there was one basic item I failed to grasp. I thought you would get asked troubleshooting tasks and get asked configuration tasks. I didn’t realise what you get asked on a significant proportion of the questions is a combination. You get asked to configure an item but you can’t because the lab is broken and you need to resolve the issue prior to the configuration task. I lost a good bit of time thinking their was a fault with the lab as I knew how to do something but in reality it was broken on purpose. Know the pre-requisites and dependencies for features as you will need to know this to resolve issues in the lab in order to proceed to the actual configuration task asked.
  • Don’t Rat-Hole: This was another lesson which i thought I learned as a child but clearly ignored come exam day. If you are struggling with a question for too long, do not rat-hole digging deeper and deeper doing Root Cause Analysis, move on. I lost lots of time on a couple of questions I wouldn’t move past because of ego. Some tasks are quicker than others but in the general sense there are 17 questions and 205 minutes to complete them so spending 20 minutes on a question for example like I did, is too long.
  • Keep track of where you configure what: This is another rookie mistake. There are a number of vCenter’s at play here. They were named very similar but for a letter in the difference and for some reason (probably due to it being a Virtual Lab) the font was quite faint and didn’t notice which vCenter was defaulting in the drop down. Watch this..I wasted another bit of time thinking I was going mad not able to find where I created or configured a certain item. I was embarrassingly in the wrong vCenter. Haha told you I learned some harsh lessons.
  •  Don’t drink a can of Monster: Again for some reason I really over analysed this exam thinking I wouldn’t be alert enough being in such a long exam so had the brain child to drink a can of Monster before the exam. Not a good idea! I was beginning to panic a slight bit with losing so much time around the place but the can of Monster multiplied gave that even more legs so was not comfortable at all so was counter productive.  If you want to ensure your concentration is optimal just do the basics right by getting a good night sleep and don’t book the exam in the afternoon, book it AM instead.
  • Review the questions first: This was another mistake. You can go back and forth in the exam lab guide. I wish the first time I did the exam I surveyed the all the questions to determine the topic, level of difficulty and whether I had covered the topic in my studies. Instead I started straight in and the first few questions were much longer than the last few. I was kicking myself with time running out that I was leaving some low hanging fruit (questions) unanswered that I 100% would have completed. Sometimes you have to experience something once at least to get a clear understanding of approach.

I finished the exam in a pretty frustrated state realising I knew I could have done much better than I did making some rookie mistakes. The result came back just less than 2 weeks later and I failed not surprisingly. I dusted myself off and took my lessons learned into my 2nd attempt and 3rd visit to the Pearson Exam Centre

Visit 3 to Pearson Exam Centre

My 2nd exam attempt had to wait a little bit longer than I would have liked before I could sit it at the end of November. There were some large work projects that swamped my time in hours and out of hours at times so getting in the right head space for a 210 minute lab was a challenge.

This time around I did follow all the DO’s

  • Get enough sleep
  • Understand the exam questions you will be asked
  • When the exam starts review all questions to understand and categorise difficulty etc
  • Manage time correctly and move on if stuck
  • Concentrate on where you configure what within the exam lab environment and be very familiar with Hands-On lab

And DO NOT

  • Drink  a can of Monster right before the exam 😉 Haha

What’s next?! hmm Going to enjoy my Christmas party tonight and take a break from studying at least for Christmas..Afterwards I need to have a serious think if I want to take on VCDX in 2020. A more short term goal is VCP-NV (for NSX-T) as I completed the ICM course recently and want to branch my current focus around HCI with SDN.

I hope this helps somebody out there by learning from some my “learnings” we’ll call them.

 

As always the usual Disclaimer

After much deliberation the Dell EMC Elect members have been elected. This year had a whole new excitement following the merger of Dell TechCenter Rockstars and EMC Elect. Founders from both programs established the program and the interaction was great from the get-go.

Congratulations to all who made the official list which can be found here. The criteria for making the list can be seen below;

Key Characteristics of an outstanding EMC Elect candidate include:

  • Engagement – Members are those engaging here on the DECN, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and in person at events.
  • Commitment – Being a part of the Dell EMC conversation day in and day out, offering thoughtful feedback and staying optimistic in your language.
  • Leadership – The kind of people who take every opportunity to engage with their peers and represent others as part of the community.

My own adaption of these characteristics can also be found in my last post.

There are some serious contributors on board now which I am certain will raise the profile of the Dell EMC Elect program to new levels and will in turn provide greater support for the wider Dell EMC community. There will be some disappointed not to make this list and all I can say is that there were nominees who made it this year who were disappointed last year. Continued demonstration of the key characteristics tipped them over the winning line!

Now the real work starts….

 

 

dell_emc_elect_form_image

After much discussion and debate the new DellEMC Social Influencers group has been established. The group combines EMCElect and Dell TechCenter Rockstars groups to represent the new world now the acquisition of EMC by Dell is complete and well behind us.

As the title of the post indicates we have a name but now we need to recruit members. Nominations are now open so please feel free to nominate yourself or other individuals who you feel are deserving of your vote. Ideal candidates will add value to the social and community engagement of the Dell EMC brand. Whether this be sharing content on the various social feeds, producing blog content, providing technical assistance on the various technical community sites, evangelising Dell EMC technology or acting as a leader for your organisation in Dell EMC technology including 360 feedback to product management on constructive feedback on areas for the betterment of your own team but others by proxy.

Nominations are open from February 27th until March 17th. Nomination form can be found here. Get busy and vote! 

As a founder of this newly established group I have the privilege to be a judge for 2017 members. The benefits are that you get to be part of a close group with privileged access to product management and roadmap info as well as pre-release presentation of major product releases in your focus area. The group itself is a great experience to collaborate with peers who are like minded but vary in role types within Customer, Partner and Dell EMC organisations.

If you are unsure what the DellEMC community is all about you can reach out to me on twitter, linkedIn or comment here. Happy to help. Also you can the check out the DellEMCElect open community page here.

vsan

Just wanted to give you the heads up on some VMware Technical webcasts coming up on vSAN. These webcasts are great to brush up on the fundamentals as well as for business benefits. Also there are deeper dives into the technology for those looking to design vSAN solutions.

Registration is free so feel free to share

vSAN Online Fundamentals – March 8th, 10AM GMT:
Hyper‐Converged Infrastructure with VMware vSAN: What Is It and Why It Matters to Your Business – Register

Getting More Out of vSAN
Session 1 – March 14th, 10AM GMT “vSAN Architecture & Tips and Tricks for 6.5” –Register
Session 2 – March 24th, 10AM GMT “Server & Network Hardware Design Guide” – Register

HCI is very topical right now so tune in to find out what all the fuss is about

Meeting the Boss

  Meeting the Boss

My first Dell EMC World is complete and wow it certainly won’t be forgotten in a hurry. I was delighted to be invited as a social influencer. Dell EMC (with backing right from the top) included Social Influencers in the same category as main stream press and analyst media. This was a bold step but ultimately it meant executive level access and a custom agenda of private briefings with Dell EMC no in fact Dell Technologies leadership team and sneak peaks at technologies not yet released. The recognition that the Social media audience and reach is a powerful media stream that can educate, critique and comment on proceedings while not in the form of an IDC report or wikibon interview report but can still be as effective in amplifying the Dell EMC technology breaking news and feeding back customer/partner sentiment to this news in a frank, professional and honest manner. For this all access level access and hospitality, a sincere thank you!

The EMC Elect were designated a number of these Social Influencer invites and boy did we make it count. The keyboards and phones were smoking hot from activity and from initial feedback this commentary was hugely beneficial to the public. Please do reach out and feedback what else would help with facilitating consumption of Tech content and news. You can see below from some of the Analytics that EMC Elect made their presence felt at this conference (in the most positive sense of the word).

emcelect-top-topic

In my last post I indicated that there was going to be a number of announcements that would highlight how the joint engineering efforts are moving at a rate of knots! Dell EMC World did not disappoint in this regard and below is a summary of the announcements;

  • VXRAIL 4.0: Dell PowerEdge servers now included, 3 node entry point, 5 VXRAIL series announced all quotable by November 12th. Chad Sakac has gone into good detail in this post. When this combines with vSAN 6.5 it will be very hard to beat in the HCI Appliance market.
  • Data Domain: Software/Virtual Edition version qualified on Poweredge servers now flash optimised is Cloud Enabled to Tier to cloud storage.
  • Isilon All-Flash: With twice the cluster capacity as well as much higher performance improvements of than that of hybrid solutions, Sam Shouse does a good summary of the product release here.
  • SC Midrange Storage: It’s not going away and in fact is being added to ViPR Controller support, powerpath support, VPLEX support and plans underway to have a Recoverpoint splitter.
  • ECS 3.0: Made up of 5 parts, Enterprise Features update (monitoring, retention and platform lockdown), ECS Dedicated Cloud Storage (off-premises to Virtustream housed ECS units), New D-Series hardware (for dense configurations 64% improvement), ECS Software certified on Dell poweredge servers and Integration with Data Domain as a supported cloud tier target.
  • XtremIO: This system just goes from strength to strength! Scale out File announced utilising Dell’s Fluidfs. I was lucky to attend a sneak peek of this technology (release due H22017) in a private session put on for the media (including Social media) and press.

There was so many good briefings and presentation sessions that one could not fit them all in. If anyone is looking for the publicly available session decks you can find them all here for viewing or download.

There was some very interesting Partner sessions too but one I made a point of attending was Positioning the Dell EMC Storage portfolio. There was some really hot debates going on here (yip I was no shrinking violet for those that know me LOL) and if it showed anything it was that the Partner/Channel are a passionate bunch who care about their customers and the Dell EMC Solutions we jointly bring to the market.

There is so much more to report but if I delay any longer with this it will never get out.

Above all I am really glad my goal of connecting with new people (re-establishing old connections) and making new friends came to fruition. Oh an Austin Salt Lick BBQ has to be experienced at least once in you life 🙂

 

I’m delighted to announce that I will be attending Dell EMC World event starting next Tuesday October 18th in Austin Texas. Courtesy of EMC Elect and under the umbrella of a Dell Social Influencer. Thanks to Mark Browne for the invite.

Since the acquisition of EMC finally closed on September 7th (and before) there has been an accelerated collaboration across the combined Dell Technologies portfolio to bring new solutions to the market. Tuesday will be a launch pad for a number of these announcements 🙂 I am really looking forward to meeting some familiar faces as well as building some new relationships. If you are attending don’t be shy in reaching out to me I am very happy to meet up.

The general session on Tuesday will take centre stage but there are some great sessions laid on for us to see;

Tuesday October 18th

Solution showcase

Wednesday October 19th

Converged Infrastructure: Your path to a simplified and more cost effective IT – MT20

Thursday October 20th

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