Having successfully completed the VCP6-DCV Delta Exam (2V0-621D) this week, I thought it would be worthwhile jotting down a few thoughts on the exam, and noting the resources I used to prepare for it.
I’ve previously completed the VCP3, VCP4 and VCP5 “DCV” exams, however being specifically a delta exam, this one was a little different. The exam primarily covers the differences between vSphere 5 and vSphere 6, with a handful of seemingly more general questions.
For summary impressions of the exam (i.e. the TLDR), jump to the end of this article! 🙂
Preparation I used the following resources in prep for the exam:
The VCP6 Delta Exam Blueprint. I never really truly appreciated the usefulness of this document until the last few years, but I now use it as my primary study guide for all VMware exams. I found that the best way to do this was to copy the entire list of topics into a document (in my case OneNote), and highlight all of the key subject areas I needed to study up on.
Pluralsight Training Courses. I have been a big advocate and user of Pluralsight (and their predecessor TrainSignal) video training for many years. Although there is no specific course aimed at the delta exam, I simply dipped in and out of the training to cover the areas already identified above from the blueprint, where my knowledge was weakest.
What’s New in VMware vSphere 6 from David Davis. This is a great summary course from David just covering some of the basic new features in a couple of hours.
A selection of videos from the following intermediate vSphere 6 courses from Greg Shields. The names of the subsections and videos are mostly quite nicely linked to the title sections in the blueprint (which is handy):
vBrownBag VCP6 sessions. The guys and gals at vBrownBag are truly awesome, as is the content they produce on a weekly basis! Most recently they have done a series on the VCP-DCV exam, split by section, so again if you use the blueprint as your guide to what you need to study, you can simply dip in and out of the video sessions are required. A couple of example sessions I watched were:
The following Hands on Labs were on my list as potentially very useful, but I simply ran out of time to do them:
HOL-SDC-1627 – VVol, Virtual SAN & Storage Policy-Based Management
HOL-SDC-1604 vSphere Performance Optimization
HOL-CHG-1695 vSphere 6 Challenge Lab
HOL-SDC-1608 Virtual SAN 6 from A to Z
My Intel NUC Nanolab homelab. I completed an upgrade from vSphere 5.5 to 6.0 in my homelab, and messed around with a load of the new features. I have documented the upgrade process in a post which I will get posted soon, but the best news for me was that vSphere 6 seems to now support all of the drivers in the base, and so no longer requires additional VIBs! 🙂
The Exam The exam itself was different to any previous VCP exam I’ve done. I would say that because the scope of the exam was much narrower, the depth of the questions seemed to me to be significantly more, with a few really tricky ones thrown in there.
Over all if I was to do it again (and when it comes time to do the VCP7 in a few years) I would probably just do the full VCP exam, rather than the delta. That way you can be sure of a decent number of the easy peasy questions which will probably be on stuff you’ve been doing for years, as well as the new stuff you may not know quite as well.
Obviously having not done the full VCP6 exam I can’t say this for sure, but I would say it’s a pretty good bet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
It’s been a while since I last made a post as I have had a rather busy summer working on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now that they are coming to a close I finally get the opportunity to take my first bit of actual time off this year! Before that I thought I would post a wee reminder to all those currently studying for their VCP, VCAP-DCD or VCAP-DCA.
Now that VMworld 2012 has come to a close, VMware (very kindly) release all of the 2011 sessions for free on the VMworld.com website! As you can see from my VMware VCAP-DCD 4 Exam Prep Guide, the VMworld sessions are an invaluable training resource when studying for your advanced exams in particular.
To access the content, simply go to the VMworld website, sign up for a free account and access the 2011 content below:
I will soon be posting a guide for the VCAP5-DCD with reviews of many of the sessions when I begin studying for it, but first I need to get my last MCSE:Private Cloud exam out of the way… more info coming soon.
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-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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another great session run by Alastair Cooke. Quote of the day: “Always document WHY you make a decision.”
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!
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…
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”.
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!
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!
BC8283 Backing up VMware – Benchmarked and Best Practices
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
TA8270 Get the Best VM Density From Your Virtualization Platform
Don’t waste your time. This should have been in the 101 section.
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.