VCAP5-DCA… Passed!

passI’m not the world’s biggest fan of exams and I’ve been putting this one off for a while. But, after Gregg Robertson volunteered me (at VMworld Europe) to pursue VCDX in 2014, I thought I ought to get it scheduled.

I took the VCAP4-DCA back in 2011 and became the 189th person to pass it. You would think then that the VCAP5 wouldn’t pose a big issue. I was concerned though that I spend more time now using tools like Word and Visio than I do mucking about in the vSphere Client. Turns out that I needn’t have worried quite so much.

Despite having manflu for four days before (and during) the exam and having a nightmare journey to get there thanks to a broken down train, I managed to have a crack at almost all tasks in the exam and came away with a score of 448 :-)

The two exam blueprint areas that I knew I was weaker in came up as tasks and I left them until the end to give them as much time as I could without jeopardising my chances on the other areas. That way I knew that if I messed them up, at least I’d given the rest of the exam a good go.

My tip for taking the exam: Before you start it, use the mini whiteboard or notepad that the exam centre give you to make a numbered list of the tasks that you’ll be doing. As you do each one, tick it if it’s finished or annotate what needs doing of finishing for each one to allow you to move through the exam without waiting for all tasks to complete as they can be slow and you can’t afford to waste time.

The worst part of the whole experience is waiting for the results. It used to be up to 10 business days (I think) when the DCA exam first came out. These days they say to allow up to 15 business days. I was expecting that there might be delays, what with Christmas coming up, but it was only 1 week. A pleasant surprise :-)

Getting Started with VMware Certification (The Easier Way)

It’s always been difficult to justify getting started on the journey to a VMware certification. In the past, the first certification available from VMware was the VMware Certified Professional (VCP). This in itself was a large first step to take, comprising an instructor-led prerequisite and a technical-level exam. Somewhat daunting and costly!

All that is changing with 2 important new developments from the VMware Certification Team: VMware Certified Associate (VCA) and on-line training availability.

The VMware Certified Associate-level exams are aimed at giving users a broader understanding of the 4 technology areas (Virtualization, Cloud, Mobility & Network Virtualization), to allow them to become conversant in the technologies and to prove a level of understanding in each area. There is no course prerequisite, and VMware even offers free self-paced online training in each area. Interested? Check out:

vmware.com/training

The second important area concerns the prerequisite instructor-led course for VCP certification. VMware now offers an online self-paced vSphere: Install, Configure & Manage (ICM) course available to users for a 90 day period in order to complete the VCP exam required training – enabling booking of the exam. Sound good? Even better – VMware also offers discounts on the ICM online course via the website:

vmware.com/go/ondemandclassroom

Speaking to Julie Escott (VMware EMEA Education Operations Manager) at the UK VMUG Conference, she told me: “These two announcements are very important to people looking to get started with VMware certification. The Associate level exam demonstrates a broad VMware technology knowledge, and really helps people get started towards VCP and the more advanced certification tracks. We at VMware are trying to get the word out about these exciting new developments so people can take advantage of them”.

So, what are you waiting for? Getting started with VMware Certification has never been easier!

VMware Education Offers at VMworld Europe 2013

I popped by the certification area in hall 7 (behind the HoL) at VMworld Europe today to chat to the lovely people working in VMware’s Education team. One of my primary reasons for going there (aside from getting some badges) was to enquire about progress on the exam track for Network Virtualisation. More on that in a minute.

If you’re new to VMware certification or just getting started, there are a couple of good reasons to visit the Education Team whilst at the conference. Firstly they are offering a discount code to take a VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exam if you register for it before November 15th 2013.

The VCA certification is VMware’s entry level certification and the exam can be taken online. The current availability and structure of the certification tracks can be seen below.

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If you want to take your certification further (to get your VCP5-DCV for example) you need to take a VMware course to qualify. The good news is that the required course, VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage, is available as an on-demand classroom course.

If you sign up while you’re at VMworld, you can take the course for only $499 and replay it for up to 90 days. Since the ICM course typically goes for upwards of $2000, that represents a big saving. For more details, go to the Certification area and ask for Julie.

So, what about the Network Virtualisation exams? No concrete news yet (although I got to meet John Arrasjid, @vcdx001 whilst trying to find that out) but given that NSX went GA today it’ll probably be in the next 3 -6 months.

Passed: My VCAP5-DCD Experience

passI meant to sit the VCAP5-DCD exam last year after my US project finished and I’d had some time off. For one reason or another it never happened. I managed to book it just after VMworld Europe but then had to cancel again.

The other day, I finally got to sit it (I didn’t get as far as passing the VCAP4-DCD). Hooray, I passed!

Unfortunately I don’t live very near any exam centres that were offering slots for one of VMware’s 4-hour Advanced exams so I had to drive over to Milton Keynes to QA’s training facility there. If you choose to take an exam there and, like me, have to drive there make sure you leave yourself plenty of time as parking wasn’t straightforward. The facilities, the exam station itself was fairly decent. The screen size was bigger than I’ve seen in some other places and the workstation was pretty nippy. I’m tempted to go back there as and when I do my DCA exam.

The exam itself, as I’m sure you’ll read elsewhere, is 3 hours and 45 minutes long and is comprised of a mixture of multiple choice type questions, drag and drop questions and some Visio-like diagramming tasks. What made it quite a challenge was that, unlike with some other exams, you cannot return to a previously answered question, you can’t flag a question for later review. I found that this made me very conscious of time passing. I was torn between making it through all of the questions by submitting some hasty answers – some of which I know I will have got wrong through not ready the question through carefully – and taking my time thus risking leaving some questions unanswered. In the end, I finished with mere seconds to spare so I either judged it right or just got lucky!

I can understand some of the reasoning behind removing candidates’ ability to review answers but I found some of the questions were curiously worded and, with some questions, I wanted to go back and check it almost as soon as I’d moved on. In a way though, I’m glad I couldn’t because I almost certainly wouldn’t have finished. In the end, it doesn’t matter too much because I’ve passed now but I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the experience. I’m very happy about the result though!

TrainSignal Online – 1 Month On…

trainsignalIt’s been just over a month since TrainSignal switched to providing their courses only via an online model and binned the idea of shipping DVDs around the world.

Although they kept their plans under wraps fairly well (at least they did as far as I know), it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise to anyone that they changed their model. You only have to look back another month or so to one of the UK’s big high street names going to the wall to see further evidence that physical media is just not as popular anymore.

I had been planning to purchase one of TrainSignal’s courses just prior to them making the switch. Good job I waited eh? But after giving it a week or so to bed in, I subscribed and I now have access to the whole training catalog.

Logging in, the dashboard (below) gives you the ability to browse and take courses, take practice exams, see what’s new etc.

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You can see my progress having a look at David Davis and Jake Robinson’s “VMware vCloud Director Essentials” course. There’s also a link that will let you download the Silverlight based offline player.

The offline player, as it says on the tin, allows you to download courses to view when you don’t have an internet connection handy. It requires you to authenticate using your TrainSignal account and you’ll need to connect the player to the internet every few days or so for it to re-authenticate. Once in, you can browse the course catalog and select courses for download.

offlineplayer

The player’s fairly responsive and I’ve had no issues with it… save one. As stated on their website, TrainSignal do not yet offer an offline player for mobile devices (e.g. iPads etc). For me, that’s a bit of a detractor.

Overall, I like what TrainSignal have done. I can pick and choose whichever courses I want and hopefully the catalog will grow nicely. I do want an iPad app for it though!

Note: I didn’t clarify when I first wrote this that TrainSignal have offered their courses online for some time but not as a subscription model. Thanks to Ricky El-Qasem.