Tag Archive for assessment

VCAP5-DCD Exam Prep Resources


As promised previously, here is a list of the resources I used when studying for the VCAP5-DCD exam.

In terms of the resources I used for the VCAP this time, I see them now as being in two distinct categories, technical and holistic.

Technical resources (unsurprisingly!) are all about learning the ins and out of the vSphere product, the 1,000,000 different configurations, and settings which can be applied to meet a requirement. Its also important to learn a reasonable amount about the technologies which interact with the vSphere platform such as networking, storage, firewalls and a few typical business critical apps (Exchange, SQL etc). The majority of my technical study this time round was spent simply studying the notes I took during my VCAP4-DCD (see here and here).

Holistic resources are those which help you to look at the bigger picture; learning how the different vSphere and other technologies interact, which ones to use to meet a specific requirement and most importantly, what the impact of certain design decisions are on the rest of the design / other technologies / features.

A balanced mix of both resources should see you well prepared to take the VCAP-DCD.

Technical Understanding

The following is a list of all of the technical resources I used:

  • VMware vSphere Design by Forbes Guthrie, Scott Lowe & Kendrick Coleman
    This is the essential guide to vSphere Design and I recommend buying, reading, memorising and consuming it whether you’re doing the VCAP exam or not! I will remind everyone as I do every time, there’s no point filling your shelves up with dead trees if they will only remain current for a couple of years, so eBook where possible!
  • APAC VCAP-DCD Brownbag Video Series by Alastair Cooke et al.
    I used these first time round for my VCAP4-DCD but had another listen in the car this time. Well worth the time, do not miss these, especially the excellent video by Harley Stagner. I particularly like this as it really goes into the thought processes in comparing different solution options and their subsequent impacts.
  • VMworld Videos
    The full VMworld content is usually opened up for free 12 months after each conference. These are an amazing goldmine of information. I have listed out many of the videos I used in my VCAP4-DCD prep guide. I would recommend watching any videos with similar titles such as best practices for networking, storage, etc and any areas you feel a little weaker on. Again this is a great resource whether you choose to do the exam or not.
  • VMware vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deepdive by Duncan Epping & Frank Denneman
    The definitive technical guide to vSphere. Nuff said!
  • Technical resources from my VCAP4-DCD exam
    These resources are almost all just as relevant now as for the version 4 exam. I would only recommend perhaps updating slightly with the newer versions of books mentioned, and the newer VMworld 2012 videos.

Holistic Understanding

The following is a list of the more “holistic” resources I used:

  • Designing VMware Infrastructure by Scott Lowe
    Absolutely superb guide to architecture, which Scott maintains at a high level teaching you how to make design decisions, not plumbing the depths of the technical. Lots of good real life examples too and presented in Scott’s unique style which I always find holds my interest with ease. Well worth subscribing, even for a month. You can even get a free trial for up to 200 minutes to test it out.
  • The VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide (with DVD) by Paul McSharry
    A great resource to use in your final week of study. It ties together everything you have learned, gives you many practice design decision questions as well as including some practice exams. I will be publishing a review of this book shortly, along with a chance to get your hands on a signed copy, so stay tuned! You can also find some extra practice questions here on Paul’s blog.
  • Conceptual, Logical, Physical:  It is Simple by John A. Zachman
    This white paper describes the differences between a Conceptual Design, a Logical Design and a Physical Design and is meant to assist VCAP-DCD candidates in better understanding these concepts. I found it very useful, and would highly recommend to anyone still trying to get their heads around these concepts.
  • Cloud Infrastructure Architecture Case Study by Duncan Epping et al.
    This is a great example of a design document which shows some of the design decisions and documents the 4 key design factors: Requirements, Assumptions, Risks and Constraints in a realistic example design.
  • VCAP5-DCD Exam Blueprint
    Make sure you understand everything in this before you take the exam!
  • Plain old experience!
    If you have been designing vSphere environments for more than a year or so, frankly you almost certainly have the skills already top pass the exam with minimal study. As an engineer with minimal design experience I found the VCAP4-DCD very tricky. 18 months later having worked as an architect for 12 of those, it was a very different experience.


  • The Saffa Geek VCAP-DCA-DCD Guide
    Worth mentioning on its own is THE definitive resource guide for VMware exams. I always stop by on Gregg’s blog  and utilise as many as possible!
  • Exam experiences
    I find these are great for picking up great tips for the exam. For these, Google is your friend, but FYI mine is here!

That’s about it for now, take care and best of luck!

VCAP5-DCD Exam Review and Experience


So I successfully sat the VCAP5-DCD exam yesterday and thought I would jot down a few thoughts on the exam, how it went and some of the resources I used. The first thing I would say is… what a difference a year makes! When I sat the VCAP4-DCD in March last year, I was working as a Technical Consultant / Engineer, focusing on Wintel and Storage management / implementation. I spent over 2 months studying 3+ hours per night for the exam. Hard work, but absolutely doable and very rewarding, both personally and career-wise.

For the past 12 months I have been working as a Solution Architect for a Service Provider, primarily designing solutions for many medium sized businesses. The biggest part of my role involves talking to customers to define business requirements, translating these into logical and physical designs, and completing impact analysis to ensure all the components will fit together without any issues. Quite useful things to do regularly if you then want to take the VCAP! I can definitely say that I found the exam significantly less stressful the second time round, and my prep time was about a quarter of the VCAP4. My final week before the exam was spent as follows:

7 days before the exam At this point I was beginning to run out of time until the exam so had to be more selective in my review material. This included reading select sections from Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman’s excellent VMware vSphere Clustering Deepdive book and watching the last few vBrownbag VCAP-DCD courses from the inimitable Alastair Cooke & the APAC team.
Re-read my copious notes gathered over the course of my VCAP4 and VCAP5-DCD study.
Went through the blueprint again to ensure I hadn’t missed any key areas.

2 Days Before the Exam Read Paul McSharry’s Official VCAP-DCD Cert book over the course of a couple of nights. This is a great resource and I will be publishing a review on the book later this week, along with a wee Xmas give-away for one lucky person to win a signed copy of the book, so stay tuned! In hindsight I would have ideally given myself 3 days to read this and implement all of the end-of-chapter design exercises. The questions were invaluable practice for the exam and helped me build confidence in my knowledge immediately preceding the exam (never a bad thing if you’re finding it a bit daunting!). At time of writing I believe Paul is also working on publishing some more practice questions on his blog, over at www.elasticsky.co.uk.

Day Before the Exam Finished Paul’s Cert guide, then watched the excellent vBrownbag video by Harley Stagner. I particularly like this as it really goes into the thought processes in comparing different solution options and their subsequent impacts. If you have attended the official VMware design workshop, I also suggest this is the day to go through the case study again (I only had the VCAP4 workbook).
Completed the interactive exam simulation from the VMware MyLearn site – this is HIGHLY recommended as it will save you time in the exam not having to work out how to use the tool.

Day of the Exam I would describe the VCAP exams as very much a marathon, more than a sprint. I think its therefore prudent to approach this 4 hour brain mashing session in much the same way as an athlete might approach a 10k race. Have yourself a decent breakfast of slow-burn foods (porridge, Weetabix etc). Then shortly before you go into the exam perhaps have a banana. It will stave off the hunger later whilst giving your brain a bit of energy over a decent period of time.

Following a great wee tip from my fellow #LonVMUG member Craig Kilborn, I took a couple of ibuprofen about an hour before I went into the exam. They’re not exactly performance enhancing drugs (for those recommendations please see Lance Armstrong’s blog), but it wouldn’t be much fun to get a headache half way through the 4 hour session, especially if your exam centre wont allow water in the exam room! Water is important for your brain but don’t guzzle a load as you will end up having to spend the last 2 hours crossing your legs as I did in my VCAP4 (not fun!)…

The Exam Obviously I cant go into any real detail, but I will summarise some of the info already in the public domain, which I think is key to the experience. The exam itself was very similar to the VCAP4, though there are some slight tweaks, in that you now do fewer total questions (100 in all) and more visio-style design questions, a total of 6. If you are upgrading your existing VCAP4 I suggest concentrating some of your technical study specifically on the newer feature set as you will definitely be tested on these. For example, Jon Hall mentioned several times on one of the vBrownbag podcasts about Datastore Clusters.

You are now no longer able to mark or go back to any questions. I actually don’t think this is a great loss. The time required is so tight, you generally don’t have time to go back, and if you think you may have made a mistake then there’s no point dwelling on an answer as you cant fix it anyway! Move on and get more points elsewhere. I personally finished the VCAP5 with only about 5 minutes to spare, and the VCAP4 with one second to go! The tips I used for the exam approach in the VCAP4 still definitely hold true, with a few minor tweaks:

  1. Don’t pay too much attention to the clock, except when doing the Visio design questions, and maybe for the final 60 minutes or so. You know you will have 6 Visio questions so write 1-6 at the top of the page, and mark the start and end times of each Visio question. VMware recommends 15 mins per Visio question which is about right. Several of mine were under ten minutes and a couple of them took 16-18 minutes each. Don’t stress if one takes you a bit more time, but don’t let it go much beyond the 20 minute mark. At that point you’re better to move on and get more points elsewhere as you can still get lots of points for a “nearly right” answer. Fortunately VMware also seem to have made some improvements to the performance of the Visio tool, so it no longer seems to lag when you add a large number of objects. Based on 90 minutes worth of Visio questions, this will leave you with around 2hrs 15mins left to do the remaining 94 questions, or just under a minute and a half per question on average.
  2. Some of the Visio questions weren’t as clear in terms of language as I think they could have been. There were also one or two of the object types which didn’t quite make sense in the context. If you experience the same, again I suggest just do your best and move on. You can still get significant partial points as long as you have most of the diagram right.
  3. For each question, read the actual question before you read the case study information / description as it will help you to more quickly identify what information you are looking for and will reduce the likelihood of having to re-read anything.
  4. Once you have entered an answer don’t second guess yourself. Chances are your gut reaction is probably right as long as you have read the question and answers properly. I believe VMware have removed “trick you by missing or adding one key word in a sentence” type of questions, which is great. I don’t feel questions like this add any value, and certainly don’t prove your knowledge or lack of, one way or the other.
  5. I don’t believe there is negative marking employed, so any answer is better than leaving blanks. This is especially true if you reach the last 5 mins and still have some questions left. Speed read and answer quickly…

Final Thoughts I still very strongly believe that VMware should provide some kind of feedback in terms of the weighted scores against different subject areas or question types, much like you get in Microsoft or Citrix exams. If you were to fail the exam, it would give some good ideas as to the areas you need to study up on for your next attempt. Assuming you do pass, its still useful to know as it indicates areas you need to work on to improve your knowledge for your day job (after all we don’t just do these exams for the sake of it… do we?!).

Irrespective of your current role, I believe its definitely a certification worth going for. As an Engineer it helped me learn a lot more about design, business requirements, RTOs, RPOs etc, and that knowledge gained played no small part in me being selected for the role I am in today. As an Architect it has definitely been easier as some of the skills tested in the exam are part of my day to day role, but it reminded me of little bits and bobs I should be including in my design process and it’s one key step on the way to a possible VCDX attempt at a later stage.

Finally, I think this post is becoming rather wordy, so I will post my list of actual resources in a separate post later this week. If you are preparing for your VCAP5-DCD I wish you the best of luck!

VMware VCAP-DCD 4 Exam Review

Well I’m very pleased to say that as of 4pm yesterday I am now a VCAP having passed the VMware VCAP4-DCD exam! So how was it?

My final week was an interesting one as I was actually out of office all week attending the internal/partner version of our Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System Installation, Maintenance and Administration course. In some ways this was a blessing as this was away from work (and all the distractions thereof), but studying all day on one subject then coming home at night and hammering the books on another does tax the brain somewhat!

Anyway, my final week of prep looked something like this:

One week to go: Finished watching the last few VMworld 2010 videos listed in my Exam Prep post. Mainly concentrating on the Exchange, SQL & Oracle ones, plus anything to do with SRM. I also watched several of the customer case studies, which were really useful in helping to relate the theory to the practice.

4 days to go: Watched all of the VCAP Brown Bags by Alastair Cooke et al, and the other two by Jason Boche and Harley Stagner. I cannot recommend these highly enough, and would really like to thank them for all of their efforts in producing this excellent (and completely free!) content. I would suggest you save these for your final week or so, as they are a great recap of everything you should know, plus a few extra golden nuggets. The one by Harley Stagner was also really good as an exam prep as the way things are discussed, is exactly what you need to do in your own head during the trickier exam questions! Do NOT miss this brown bag!

3 days to go: Read through all of my copious notes (> 400 pages of A4!!!) taken over the past 8 weeks. My preferred study method is always to take lots of notes as I watch / read material, and the act of writing it down helps to cement it, and give you a summarised reference for later. It does mean I tend to take a lot longer to watch a video as I often have to pause to write up diagrams etc (+30-50% on the length of most videos!). Obviously this is just my preference, but try it, and see if it helps you too…

2 days to go: Read the official VMware vSphere: Design Workshop [V4.x] workbook from my course last year, cover to cover. This didn’t really come up with anything I didn’t already know but it was good to remind me of the VMware-specific terminology, which obviously carries through to the blueprint and hence exam. In much the same way as you do with an MS exam, you have to “think with your VMware hat on”, even if you would do something slightly differently in the real world.
Finished reading VMware vSphere 4.1 HA and DRS Technical Deepdive by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman, which is an excellent resource. If you don’t have time to read it all before your exam, just jump to Appendix A, which lists all of the key best practices (or recommended practices as Scott Lowe calls them!). If you are studying for the VCAP 5, there is an updated version already out: VMware vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deepdive

Day before the exam: Read through a handful of the white papers dealing with the “fringes” of my knowledge, e.g. vCenter Heartbeat, where I haven’t actually used the product before, and where none of my previous study materials had covered much detail.
Read through the case study at the end of VMware vSphere Design by Forbes Guthrie, Scott Lowe and, Maish Saidel-Keesing. I read the book weeks ago, but deliberately saved the case study until later. In hindsight it may have been interesting to write down some thoughts on it before and after the rest of my study, maybe highlighting the things I’d learned in between!
Did as much of the VMware workshop case study as I had time left to complete. Went to bed @ 2.30am ready for my midday exam the next day.

Night before the exam, 4.30am: Got called out for work!!! Aaaargh! Not only that but it turns out it was due to someone being unable to connect an box by IP and thinking it was down, when they simply had the wrong IP… we invented DNS 30 years ago, let’s try using it!!! *facepalm*

The Exam: So as for the exam itself, I managed to completed every one of the 113 questions in time, but by “in time” what I actually mean is that I literally submitted my last answer with one second to go! The timing on the exam really is that tight! It didn’t help that about half way through the exam I needed the loo, and held on to the end. Had I not done so I might not have managed to get to those last handful of questions… the “crossing of legs” best practice was implemented with no DR plan, which I admit was a high risk strategy!

One thing I would say if looking at the exam with a critical eye, is that VMware should consider taking a small leaf out of Microsoft’s book. At the end of an MS exam you get a breakdown of where you gained all of your points (just a bar chart with a relative %). I would love to have known how my points were broken down so it could identify any weaknesses in my skill set, both for future exams and my actual job! Similarly there could be a small breakdown of the “relative” scores for the three types of questions. It’s great to know I passed, but would be even better to know where I didn’t do so well. This would be even more useful for people who don’t pass on the first attempt.

Regarding the “Visio tool”; even though I did actually do the demo a couple of times, I still had some issues with it, including the fact that the more objects you add, the more lag you experience (sometimes several seconds to place an object), which wastes precious time. I hope this improves with the vSphere 5 exam (though I doubt it will).

Now, a few tips for the actual exam from my perspective (obviously being careful not to breach the NDA!). Watch this brownbag with Jon Hall (of the VMware cert team) for an in depth look at the way the points are allocated per question, or see my summary:

  1. Don’t pay too much attention to the clock, except when doing the Visio design questions, and maybe for the final 30 minutes or so. Whenever I had one of those (for which VMware recommends 15 mins each), I checked the clock and worked out roughly what time I should be done by. A couple of them took me 5+ mins longer than the recommended time, but the others took slightly less so I guess it probably averaged to 15 or just over. Dont stress if one takes you a bit more time, but don’t let it go much beyond the 20 minute mark. At that point you’re better to move on and get more points elsewhere as you can still get lots of points for a “nearly right” answer.
  2. There was one exam strategy I mentioned in my prep post which came from a VMware trainer; Do all multi choice questions first. Second time through, do drag and drop questions. Third time through do design questions, which means you know how much time you have left.
    I did not take this approach in my exam, and instead just went through the exam in a serial fashion. If I had taken the above approach I may have wasted time with the review process to get back and not had enough time to complete the questions.
  3. Read the question before you read the information as it will help you to more quickly identify what information you are looking for and will reduce the likelihood of having to re-read anything.
  4. Once you have entered an answer don’t second guess yourself. Chances are your gut reaction is probably right as long as you have read the question and answers properly.
  5. Mark any questions you haven’t been able to complete but always put an answer in and keep moving. There are 113 questions to get through! If you do actually make it to the end with time to spare you can come back, but concentrate on getting through the questions first.
  6. I don’t believe there is negative marking employed, so any answer is better than leaving blanks. This is especially true if you reach the last 5 mins and still have some questions left. Speed read and answer quickly…

One final point I would make is that as I understand it, the VCAP4-DCD and the VCAP5-DCD are not massively different, just the new improvements which will tweak your designs (especially HA!) and the way the new blueprint emphasizes the design method. Therefore a very large proportion of the exam prep materials in my VMware VCAP-DCD 4 Exam Prep Guide should be just as relevant as a VCAP-DCD 5 exam prep guide. I plan to upgrade my VCAP4 to a VCAP5 while the information is still fresh in my mind. Hopefully this will be soon as the beta completed over three weeks ago, meaning the final exam version shouldn’t be far off.

In the mean time, I have to learn Hyper V for an upcoming project!…

Related posts:
VMware VCAP-DCD 4 Exam Prep Guide

VMware VCAP-DCD 4 Exam Prep Guide

vSphere 5

So I completed my VMware vSphere: Design Workshop [V4.x] last August, but just a week after that my second daughter was born. 6 months (and many dirty nappies) later, I have finally gotten around to looking at taking the exam! I did consider simply waiting for the vSphere 5 DCD exams to be released, but considering how long the v4 exams took to be released, I don’t think it’s worth the wait just now.

I plan to take the exam in late March, giving me 8 weeks to prepare, so much like I did with my VCP5 Exam Prep Guide, I will post an expanding list of my VCAP4-DCD exam prep materials below, in the hopes that it may be of some help to others.

Prep Courses / Materials

  • VMware vSphere: Design Workshop [V4.x]
    Well worth the time (and money – paid for by my employer, advantages of being a permie!) in my opinion. It is basically an opportunity to sit down for three days and go through a fictional design, end to end, using all the VMware best practices and guides, whilst shooting the breeze with like minded individuals. The manual provided with this course is very good, and a few days prior to my exam I plan to read it again cover to cover.
  • DRBC Design – Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Fundamentals
    Online “virtual” training course from VMware. Pretty steep price for only 4 hours training IMHO, especially when they only give you 3 months access… For $240 (£152) I would expect permanent access to it! Fortunately, again I didn’t actually have to pay for this myself. Were I contracting, I would seriously think twice about skipping this! I believe some people can access this for free, depending on your VMware Partner level.
  • VMware vSphere Design by Forbes Guthrie, Scott Lowe and, Maish Saidel-Keesing
    If there is one resource which I can recommend above all other’s it would be this book. Buy it on Kindle for less than £20! Its the best £30 you’ll ever spend!
  • VMware vSphere 4.1 HA and DRS Technical Deepdive by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman
    A superb and easy read. This is a short book concentrating on the nitty gritty of vSphere clustering. You will need to know this if you want to pass the exam! Again, spread out your reading, and don’t try to take it all in in one go!
  • Official Exam Blueprint
    The official exam blueprint/guide. As much of a pain in the ar*e as it is, I suggest at least scanning through every document referenced in this guide. If you know it all (and have practiced it lots) then you *should* be ok in the exam!
  • Exam Blueprint PDF Files and Objectives Discussion
    Sean Crookston has very kindly packaged all the required PDFs up in an executable zip (based on 1.3 blueprint but its basically identical), thanks Sean! I wont have time to go through them all, but I’ll post a few highlights shortly. Also make sure that you go through his discussion on Objectives 1.1 / 1.2 / 1.3 / 2.1 / 2.2. I believe Sean would have done more but time constraints stopped him at that point, but what he has done is really useful and worth a read!
  • VCAP4-DCD Exam UI Demo
    A useful resource as this gives first-timers a chance to get used to the “Visio”-style exam interface and get an idea of the types of activities required in the exam. This requires registration, and only lasts 3 months from reg. Its disappointing that they do not give you sample exam questions for practice as you normally get with the VCP exams.
  • VCAP-DCD4 Exam UI Tutorial
    This one does not require registration and repeats the above without your interaction.
  • VCAP-DCD Community Forums
    I read through virtually every post on here (there aren’t that many). If you don’t want to read through them all (might take you an hour once you follow the links etc) I did take a note of some key comments which I felt were worth investigating later, which you can download here: VMware VCAP-DCD Community Forums Tips
  • The Saffa Geek VCAP-DCA-DCD Guide
    Gregg has a raft of links to prep materials, of which I plan to go through as many as possible.
  • Private Cloud Architecture v1.4 by Iwan Rahabok
    A superb resource with highlights for every area of design of what you should be considering.
  • VCAP Brown Bags by Alastair Cooke et al. This is based on the VCAP-DCD5 (not yet out) but should still be applicable to VCAP-DCD4. Update: Having watched these, I can confirm that there are very few areas which are specific to vSphere 5, so I highly recommend you save these up and watch them as part of your final exam prep / review. You shouldknow most of it already if you have covered enough in studying, so with luck this should be a great way to do final revision.
    1. Overview, Methodology and Business Requirements
      Excellent session where Alastair Cooke goes over the VMware VIM (Virtual Infrastructure Methodology). This is all just as relevant to vSphere 4 as it is to 5.
    2. Storage Design
      A great reminder of the key things you need to remember when designing storage. Sometimes a bit hard to hear due to the VoIP method, but still a great presentation. Watch this when you are doing your final revision.
    3. Network Design
      Much like the above. A good reminder session which very quickly goes through each key design choice and highlights pros and cons for each with a number of discussions based on live questions. Ran out of time after 75 mins so to be continued below.
    4. Availability and DR Design
      Gladly, Alastair teaches this session himself, which is great as he is obviously a very good trainer. One great tip I gained was when defining your replication strategy for your RPO, don’t forget that the time to replicate must be within the RPO timescale, especially when using periodic replication.  For example if your RPO is an hour, then your replication must complete within that hour. A 2 hour replication on a 1 hour RPO doesn’t meet requirements!!!
      The closer your RPO gets to zero, the more likely you will need continuous replication. When under an hour, start to look into asynchronous replication. Once you’re getting into RPO times under 5 mins, you will probably start needing to look at synchronous replication, which obviously causes latency, and may dictate distance to your DR site etc.
    5. Security Design
      Direct link from Vimeo as the main link page on demitasse.co.nz seems to be missing it. The detailed slide decks can be found here and here. One wee golden nugget was to use folders in the datastore view to lockdown permissions. A really simple use of this is to put all the local VMFS volumes into one directory and secure it, that way admins wont have to sift through them when creating VMDKs as they will not appear in their views, so this reduces risk of putting VMDKs in the wrong place.
    6. Network Design (Continued)
      A simple continuation of the previous session. Only lasts 45 mins or so.
    7. Exam Registration and Environment
      Skip the first 16 mins as its mainly about VCAP5 track. The next section (10 mins or so) can be summarised as:

      • Multi Choice Questions
        These make up over half exam
        Small # of points per answer
        No partial points – all or nothing!
      • Drag and Drop Style Questions
        Quite a few questions
        Single digit points per answer
        Partial points given, based on being correct with 2-4 key ideas.
      • Visio-Style Design Tool
        Might be 3-5 questions
        Worth a lot of points per answer, e.g. 20-40 pts!
        Partial points given, based on up to 20 checks against your design.
      • Time Management Suggestion
        Not sure if i’ll try this or not, I normally do exams straight through and dont look back!:
        – Do all multi choice questions first.
        – Second time through, do drag and drop questions.
        – Third time through do design questions, which means you know how much time you have left.
    8. Host Design
      Another great session run by Alastair Cooke. Quote of the day:
      “Always document WHY you make a decision.”
    9. Cluster Design
      Scheduled for 29 March 2012. Irrespective of my exam being over this week, I will be tuning in (though maybe not live as I think these run at about 6am for us in the UK)!
  • Other Brown Bags – DO NOT MISS THESE!
    1. VCAP-DCD Objective 1 (Jason Boche) Absolutely SUPERB brown bag, do NOT miss this! This goes through the VMware design process, the info you need to gather, who from, and why. He then goes into how to identify Requirements, Constraints, Assumptions and Risks, and has a quick game of identifying each from some example cases. I cannot recommend this enough…
    2. vSphere Design with Harley Stagner
      A great preparation tool to use closer to the time of your exam. This goes through a couple of design scenarios and discusses the different options you could consider. Definitely watch this!
  • VMworld Community Sessions (2010)
    Now free to watch if you sign up for a free account. I recommend you go through as many of the TA and BCtracks as you have time for (there are about 50 odd of them at about an hour each!!!) but if you only have time for a few, concentrate on the following in priority / technology order depending on what areas you are weakest on:

    1. TA8133    Best Practices to Increase Availability and Throughput for VMware
      Superb presentation pitched at an appropriate level. Lots of good storage design tips here. If you don’t watch anything else, watch this!
    2. TA8018    Architecting for Performance
      Only 40 minutes long. More of a refresher of things you should be remembering anyway, plus a couple of information nuggets. Watch it in your lunch hour.
    3. TA7171    Performance Best Practices for vSphere
      Very good session led by Scott Drummonds, formerly of VMware, now EMC. Absolutely worth a watch! Covers ESX(i), Storage, Memory, NetIOC/SIOC, and a quick bit about troubleshooting.
    4. TA8065    Storage Best Practices, Performance Tuning and Troubleshooting
      Detailed review of best practices by Duane Fafard from IBM. He goes through his whole design process from Fabric, to arrays, queue depths, pathing, and much more. The design stuff is based on IBM HW, but applicable on any vendor setup. A great presentation and some really useful tuning and troubleshooting tips.
    5. TA8452    Designing Resilient Networks for vSphere and NFS
      This is audio only, but you can download the slide decks so no biggie. This is a good reminder session if you read Scott Lowe’s book, if not, it’s essential! The first ~25 mins are the most important, after which it all becomes very NetApp specific.
    6. TA8595    Virtual Networking Concepts and Best Practices
      First of all, skip the first 20 mins which is very basic. Second, if you have already read Scott Lowe’s design book, the rest of this presentation should really just be a refresher. Nothing much new here.
    7. TA6841    Cisco Nexus 1000v: Architecture, Deployment, and Management
      Run by Jason Nash of TrainSignal vSphere Security course fame, this presentation is an excellent into to Cisco Nexus 1000v. Doesn’t go into masses of detail (he only has 50 mins to be fair!), but still highly recommended. If you want more detail, try the TrainSignal course (at a cost!), or read the VMware white paper Guidelines for Implementing VMware vSphere 4 with the Cisco Nexus 1000V Virtual Switch.
    8. TA7121    Next Generation VM Storage Solutions with vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI)
      Just watch the first 20 mins for a quick overview of VAAI by the guy who wrote it! The rest talks about features which have basically come out in vSphere 5, though jumping to > 38 mins or so lets you hear the Q&A session which is quite interesting too.
    9. TA8440    10Gb & FCoE Real World Design Considerations
      Some great best practice recommendations, along with some great info on NetIOC and recommendations for shares, etc. My only complaint is that the speaker is speaks VERY fast, which he does apologies for at the start, but its quite distracting. Definitely a good session though.
    10. TA7743    ESX iSCSI News, Configuration, and Best Practices
      Some useful solutions for iSCSI multipathing, though the presentation is not that well done and jumps about a bit. You may be better just reading the iSCSI SAN Configuration Guide (vsp_41_iscsi_san_cfg.pdf), page 36 onwards.
    11. BC7803    Planning and Designing an HA Cluster that Maximizes VM Uptime
      A great session part presented by the ever-knowledgeable Duncan Epping. If you haven’t read his HA book, don’t miss this! Be warned: some muppet who edited the video has left the muzak running in the background for the entire video! Just turn the volume down a lot until you can mainly only hear the presenters, and as little music as possible. Very annoying!
    12. MA7528    VMware vCenter Server: Operational Best Practices in the Datacenter
      Covers a lot that you should already know if you read Scott Lowe’s book, but a decent presentation and some good reminders for the kind of questions to ask yourself in section 1 of the VMware “design framework”.
    13. BC8274    VMware Fault Tolerance – Best Practices, Usage Scenarios and Performance
      Ok session, but most of this info you should already know. Skip the first and last 15 mins as they are very basic, and the Q&A session is poor as they don’t repeat the questions for the mic!
    14. SE8206    Security Hardening Guidelines for vSphere
      This is not a guide to security, it’s a guide to the security guides!!! They do highlight some of the most important recommendations, from 21.5 mins onwards if you want to watch it, otherwise, just read the actual vSphere 4.0 Security Hardening Guide pdf, referenced in the 1.6 blueprint!
    15. BC8283    Backing up VMware – Benchmarked and Best Practices
      Review TBA
    16. BC7773    VMware Site Recovery Manager: Misconceptions and Misconfigurations
      An excellent presentation on SRM from the inimitable Mike Laverick of RTFM-ED. First 40 mins for the best DCD related content.
    17. BC6703    How to be Successful with SRM Implementations
      An excellent technical and architectural presentation by Michael White of VMware. Dives into multiple areas of SRM and many best practice tips. Dont miss it if you want to learn more on SRM!
    18. BC9017    Customer Use Cases: Lone Star College and Weyerhaeuser
      A quick 30 minute run through a couple of use cases. The Weyerhaeuser was far better in terms of actually going into detail on the SRM implementation, and lessons learned. Jump to 11:30 for this.
    19. EA7849    Design, Deploy, and Optimize Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 on vSphere
      The blueprint is for 2007 but I think this presentation is still worth mainly seeing for the first half. Most of the stuff up until he starts discussing DAGs is relevant to 2007, plus you should be reading the Best Practices Guide: Microsoft Exchange Solutions on VMware, the Exchange Getting Started Kit, and  Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Performance on VMware vSphere™ 4 white papers anyway.
    20. EA7850    Design, Deploy, and Optimize Microsoft SQL 2008
      This applies to 2005 or 2008 so is appropriate. Its a great presentation (skip the basics at start). Main point to note is that MS SQL DB Mirroring is the best method for virtualising SQL, though you do double your disk reqs as compared to MSCS. FT is also good for single CPU VMs with small, but critical DBs. The price to pay for flexibility! Dont forget the Best Practices Guide: Microsoft SQL Server and VMware Virtual Infrastructure and Performance and Scalability of Microsoft SQL Server® on VMware vSphere 4 white papers too.
    21. EA7061    Creating an Internal Oracle Database Cloud Using vSphere
      Good presentation, but may not all be relevant. Key points are around licensing and suggesting that you have dedicated Oracle clusters if you have enough Oracle DBs. Dont forget the Oracle® Databases on VMware vSphere™ 4 and Virtualizing Performance-Critical Database Applications in VMware® vSphere™ white papers.
    22. EA8700 Oracle on vSphere: Re-Platforming Tier 1 Oracle Databases from UNIX to vSphere at Indiana University
      Very interesting case study, which gives a good insight into architectural choices and methods for a migration between two DCs whilst also virtualising Oracle onto a different OS!
    23. SE7813    vShield Edge & Application Protection – Architecture and Use Cases
      Interesting presentation, though the fist 15 mins or so are mainly marketing. Includes some use cases for things such as PCI compliance etc.
    24. TA2222    ESX implementation at Kroger Store Systems (from VMworld 2009)
      Interesting case study with >100 remote sites controlled via a centralised vCenter in the main DC. Jump to 52 mins for architectural considerations, or read ROBO – Managing Remote ESX Hosts Over WAN with VirtualCenter.
    25. TA8661    Deploying vSphere in a ROBO Environment
      Just read the pdf if you have watched TA2222. If you’re keen there’s an mp3 only presentation too with a few more tips and deep dive info.
    26. SE8421    Hypervisor-Based Antivirus and Endpoint Security
      Ok presentation if you don’t know much about the vShield product suite. I downloaded the MP3 and listened to this one in the car. If you don’t have time, don’t bother.
    27. SE8389    Architectural Overview of Virtualization Security for the Private Cloud
      This is basically a marketing presentation. Interesting, but basically not useful for study. I downloaded the mp3 and listed in the car to make my commute more exciting!
    28. TA6862    vDS Deep Dive: Managing and Troubleshooting
      Interesting first half of the presentation, though not a huge amount of design help. Low priority for watching.
    29. TA8158    Surviving VMware on Blades
      A little disappointing, and probably should have been in the partner presentations as half of it is a sales pitch! Useful only by examining the design decisions, and ignore the fluff. Skip the start and watch from 14 mins in.
    30. TA8270    Get the Best VM Density From Your Virtualization Platform
      Don’t waste your time. This should have been in the 101 section.
  • VMware Partner University Courses
    Useful courses, if you have both access, and time:

    • Infrastructure Virtualization Technical Post-Sales Accreditation: Assessment Fundamentals
      Not much new here but just a few good reminders on how to size up your source capacity / requirements and only takes 1-2 hrs to complete. Also counts towards the Infrastructure Virtualization competency.
  • More links to come…

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