Archive for the ‘Certification’ Category

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.


Exam Format

Exam Interface

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.


Lab Related


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

Configuring VVols


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.


Exam Booking

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.


Study Guides

Official VMware Documentation

HOL PDF Lab Guides


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 😉


VMware vSphere Feature Walk-through

HOL PDF Lab Guides

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.


Exam Simulators

Thanks Joshua Andrews
Thanks Graham barker
Thanks Jorluis Perales
Thanks Ricardo Conzatti 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.


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

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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.


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


  • 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

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There are many many posts out there on this already but I thought by way of a blog post me sharing what I used to learn may help somebody sitting on the fence regarding certifications  or re-certifications and also skilling up on VMware vSphere 6. I just passed VCP6-DCV so thought I would capture my thoughts while it was still fresh.

The main objective for me was to re-immerse myself in vSphere. I recently after much lobbying have joined the VMware team at work now splitting my time with Data Center team (EMC/VCE/Cisco/Brocade) and the VMware team. From a post sales (PSO type role) I will focus on becoming a core vSphere, VMware SRM, vROPS and VSAN SME. For my Pre-Sales VMware SE hat a wider brief is necessary but looking forward to that as I have NSX, Automation and DevOps SME’s in house to call on while the ramp up happens there too. The point here is to say my journey is only beginning so watch this space 🙂

vSphere 6 Training Resources

Greg Shields has put together an excellent training series on vSphere 6 for Pluralsight. As an EMC Elect member Pluralsight very kindly gave a free years subscription so I could take advantage. This course (and many other related and unrelated courses) are well worth checking out!

I was lucky enough to attend a classroom based training course which was pitched to align to VCP6-DCV which it will more than cover and it did give me well needed hands on with the trainer fielding my many questions. But in truth the course had so much detail it intimidated me a bit to the point that I didn’t know the manual detail cover to cover so thought I was goosed for the exam but you  will certainly not need to (for VCAP yes) so fear not. The course is excellent to learn vSphere in great detail which is better than any result in an exam. Course link and spec below

VMware vSphere: Optimize and Scale v6

At VMworld I attended sessions on Managing vSphere 6.0 deployments which were excellent. I downloaded these sessions as an education for myself and there are some nuggets there even for the more seasoned among ye. These are available free here  for viewing or download so utilise it. The particular sessions that will help with up-skilling on vSphere 6 and prepare you for VCP6-DCV are;

INF4944 – Managing vSphere 6.0 Deployments and Upgrades, Part 1
INF5123 – Managing vSphere 6.0 Deployments and Upgrades, Part 2

As I was watching this back I saw on one of the slides a resource the presenters used for demos. I didn’t utilise it for my VCP6 but I will for field work, general knowledge and as Sunny Dua mentioned in becoming a vSphere 6 Ninja. Check this free VMware resource out for product and feature walkthroughs.

From a book perspective I kept it to one  for the moment (others ready for design and advanced admin I won’t bore you with now) and that is Mastering vSphere 6 by Nick Marshall, Grant Orchard and Josh Atwell all of whom are vRockstars in the VMware community. For anyone who has not picked up one of the previous versions this is a really good book and should be on every engineers desk or laptop for reference.

vSphere 6 Study Guides

There are many study guides out there but I focused on two. Either one would do but two gives extra coverage for blue print topics in my opinion.

First up is the Unoffficial official guide By Josh Coen and Jason Langer. Very comprehensive and VEEAM kindly sponsored them to produce it

Click to access vcp6-dcv_sg.pdf

The second one I referenced was from Vladan SEGET who has an excellent blog and active blog. You will find other study guides there as well as other resources so bookmark it.

Hands-on without your own lab

The VMware hands on labs came in handy from two perspectives. Firstly it gets you necessary face time (when you don’t have your own kit) with vSphere 6 to negotiate new features and also to review existing. Secondly the lab notes/script associated with the HOL was a very good reference as well as it documents new features all in one place as well as a refresher on common tasks. I unashamedly took “HOL-SDC-1410 – Virtualization 101 – vSphere with Operations Management (vSOM)” which can be found in the HOL catalog to find out vSphere 6 new features and walk-throughs.

Practice Questions

Paul McSharry has some excellent resources on his website but in particular I wanted to draw your attention to his practice VCP exam questions which he very kindly put together himself for the community which will quickly indicate to you whether you are ready to sit the exam or are still a bit off the pace.

Reflections and what’s next

This is a comprehensive list to get through and all are not necessary to pass the VCP6-DCV exam. I didn’t cover everything comprehensively as I simply didn’t have the time and eating into family time studying isn’t that fair in December so wanted to get it knocked out. I didn’t ace the exam in 20 minutes or anything I found it a fair but tough enough test of knowledge. I am going to continue to use and reference these resources now to plug any weak areas the exam identified.

I am looking forward to preparing for VCIX6-DCV which is my next target along side my other short term goal of more consultancy and hands on field work. The VCIX6-DCV will have Advanced Admin (VCAP6-DCA) and Advanced design exams (VCAP6-DCD) for one badge/cert. These v6 exams have not been released yet but more detail on the news to come can be found here. Advanced Admin (VCAP6-DCA) will be my first goal so I may be picking a few peoples brains on how best to prepare as I have never done one of the VMware advanced or lab based exams before. It will be a challenge but one that I finally need to get off the pot and go after!

Usual disclaimer folks

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Hello World

Well I’ve finally decided to take the plunge into the world of blogging! I have done some serious procrastination on this front but with some coaxing (more on that later today) I have decided now is as good a time as any to give back.

Those that know me would acknowledge that I am quite active on twitter and linkedin sharing other bloggers and vendors content as well as positively interacting on discussions but this site will be my musings from my own day job and technology passions which the IT Community at large can hopefully benefit from. This site may not be for everyone but if only a handful get use out it then it will be worthwhile!

For those that don’t know me you can read about me here.

I am a definite rookie at blogging so please feel free to provide feedback you think will benefit me. I better figure out what to post now…

Like most personal technology blogs my views are my own and not that of my employer, see disclaimer.

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