My VCP-NV Experience

As most VMware Pros will have heard the VCP-NV (Network Virtualisation) exam is out and is primarily all about NSX. Since the announcement I’ve been doing some reading up on it and took a hands on lab to get a better understanding about how it all works. Today I sat the exam and thankfully had done enough to pass.

While I will admit to being a bit of a VMware cert junkie the recent VCP-NV coincided with my day to day job where I’ve been also recently evaluating various virtual routing products such as the Brocade 5400/5600 vRouters, the Cisco 1000v + ASA Cloud Gateway and currently NSX. This was from a starting point of the the incumbent VCNS & vShield Edge devices underpinning the private cloud I use daily. This gave me a bit of an advantage in the exam as I am well aware of the vShield edge capabilities and how VXLAN works.

Anyway onto the exam itself… This is not an exam for the networking novice and certainly it helps if you’re up to a CCNA level of knowledge. The 120 questions you face are all based on the exam blueprint but not all directly relate to NSX itself. There’s plenty of ‘low hanging fruit’ by knowing:

  • …the differences between a vSS and vDS
  • …what a VTEP is
  • …what a ‘mtu’ has to do with networking
  • …what multicast is and its limitations
  • …the upgrade path to NSX 6
  • …what the difference is between traditional edge networking and the new world of distributed routers and firewalls
  • …that you don’t need vSphere to use NSX. You can happily run it over KVM and/or XEN and get the same network abstraction

Getting through the study in the two weeks meant getting very familiar with the NSX design guide, the admin guide and the installation guide. I also found the VMware lab, HOL-SDC-1303,  to be an invaluable resource.

As final preparation for the exam I went through Paul McSharry’s excellent VCP-NV sample exams and the VMware supplied sample exam.

Best of luck in going for the VCP-NV, it’s a nice challenge and I really know NSX a lot better than I did. It’s just a shame that the closest you can get to play with the product is in a HOL and not in your home lab. Maybe someday soon…

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My VCAP5-DCA Experience

Last month I sat the VCAP-CIA exam which I previously blogged about. This month it was the Datacenter track which took centre stage with the VMWare Certified Advanced Professional 5 – DataCenter Administration exam. Again I took the exam in the only exam centre in Dublin, Sure Skills and spent the next 3.5hrs in a fierce battle against time and a laggy interface! I ‘think’ I answered 18-19 correctly, 4 partly answered and 3 skipped due to time pressure. I should have gotten over the 300 pass mark, I’m hoping I squeezed 400 though for personal pride although I know I didn’t spend half enough time studying (the story of my college career!)!

The exam itself (as per the blueprint details) is 26 varied questions touching pretty much the whole vSphere environment. As a veteran of 6 years of vCentre and ESX(i) in enterprise environments the majority of the exam was pretty much second nature but the questions involving PowerCLI or the VMA were ones that definitely required study prior to the exam. My home lab was heavily utilised and reconfigured multiple times in order to keep me as sharp as possible in knowing where to go first time to change a setting. When I changed my Synology from being loaded with SATA disks to SSDs it introduced me to claim rules and the tagging of SSD LUNs. Swapping between vSS and vDS for my networking and setting up iSCSI bindings kept me familiar with the various vDS settings. While these may or may not have been topics on the exam (I ain’t giving a brain dump to anyone!) it is on the blueprint and it also helped make short work of a few questions due to familiarity in those areas. To be fair my day-to-day job is pretty technical and I’m working on vSphere everyday but some settings I can’t touch readily (due to something silly called Change Control!) so everyone should have a small lab so they can break and fix stuff on a regular basis. Indeed my next lab change is to move from my Windows based 5.5 vCentre to the 5.5 vCentre Server Appliance… That’s what I do for fun after hours!

Recommendations for study

  • Obviously the official Blueprint is the number one document to read and to understand the boundaries of the exam (there isn’t much it doesn’t cover…)
  • I highly recommend the VMware vSphere Optimize & Scale videos from Pluralsight (formerly known as TrainSignal). You need to set aside a good week of evenings to go through them all but if you’re alert and remember what Jason Nash tells you then you’ll be in great shape for the exam
  • The Unofficial Official VCAP5-DCA Study Guide by Jason Langer is an excellent breakdown of the exam content. Download the PDF to your iPad/Kindle as your number one blueprint breakdown!
  • The official VMWare courses are usually a safe bet (if a tad expensive). The recommended course is the vSphere: Optimize and Scale course. Bear in mind the VCAP5-DCA exam is based on vSphere 5.0 (for the moment) so there’s no SSO or web-client. AutoDeploy is Stateless only (i.e. no Stateless caching or Stateless Install options). No vRAM tax to worry about. If you take the vSphere: O&S 5.1 or the (beta) 5.5 courses you’re likely to cover many things not on the exam, just be aware of that. I understand the VCP5-DCV exam may be bringing in 5.5 questions come the new year so the VCAP exams may go the same way, doing the 5.5 course will be a better plan if they do alter the blueprint next year and that’s when you plan on sitting the exam.
  • Since we’re talking about vSphere 5.0 (circa 2011) we’re also talking of the days where Windows 2003 was still King! Bear that in mind and ‘reacquaint’ yourself! Don’t expect Windows 2012 to be popping up in the environment…

Exam Technique

  • Re-read my VCAP-CIA blog entry as most of the suggestions are still valid
  • This time I kept track of the how many minutes had elapsed after answering each question. For the first half of the exam I took 1hr 40mins so I knew I was going to be running right up to the 3hrs 30mins allowed. It helped pace myself with the exam questions and allowed me to set aside time to dip into the PDFs to attempt some questions which were outside my comfort zone. The PDFs really are a luxury you can’t afford to rely on except if you have time to spare (lucky you!).
  • Another laggy RDP session slowed me down. Don’t maximise your windows (VIClient, putty, etc) unless you really have to, the less of the bitmap that has to be transmitted over the RDP session the better and the faster the response in the interface. I really hope VMWare have a few labs setup closer to Dublin next time I have to do a DCA or CIA exam.
  • Have a Brownie and a cola before you go into the exam room! No food or drink allowed and you’ll need energy to keep your brain running throughout! (The tasty Brownie was made by my wife, thumbs up to her!)

 

Conclusions

My take on the VCAP5-DCA is that it wasn’t as scary as some sites made out with the constant mentions of esxtop performance monitoring and CLI work around every question. Good old VIClient can still do the majority of the donkey work. I’ve nothing against the PowerCLI and VMA future but sometimes with the requirement to get a job done quickly the old ways sometimes are the easiest! Again, like the VCAP-CIA, if you can handle the DCA exam then thumbs up, you genuinely know how to manage and maintain a vSphere environment! Now the wait for the result…

Next on my list… VCAP-CID…

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My VCAP-CIA Experiance

I’ve been spending the last two months getting my certifications up to date as my old VCP 3 fell out of date when formal support finished for it earlier in the year. I’ve been working with VMWare’s ESX/vSphere stack since 2007 so my motivation was to make sure I wasn’t going to miss out on future contracts. Since August I’ve got the 3 VCA exams completed, the VCP-Cloud and the VCP5-DCV. My next step are to get a couple of VCAP certifications and maybe spread my wings towards Desktop Virtualization with the VCP5-DT.

This morning I sat my VMWare Certified Advanced Professional – Cloud Infrastructure Administration (VCAP-CIA) exam at Sure Skills in Dublin. I felt punch drunk at the end of it after concentrating hard for the full three and a half hours and just about completing all the questions. I think that out of the 32 questions I completed 24 correctly, another 3 were probably ok, 5 partially completed and one I didn’t attempt due to time management.Crossing fingers I’ll have passed however it will be 10 business days before I get the result and with VMWorld running discounted exams this week in Barcelona I’m fully expecting 3-4 weeks of a wait.

Tips

Time Management is the crucial element to the exam. Being brutal with your ego is a must. If you’re battling with a task and you’ve spent 10 minutes on it and there’s probably another 10mins to go just stop and move on if at all possible. Some of the questions later on might be only a minutes work so I personally believe it’s better to bank a a few questions later on than try to figure out a lengthy question with no guarantee of a solution. I’ve been told partial solutions to a questions will gain you marks too, bear that in mind. If one task is running away in the background, move onto the next question and come back to the original question later. Take a peak of the next couple of questions coming up, it’ll jog your brain into thinking about what needs to be done when you get to them. This is all regular exam technique stuff, just as brutal as a lengthy university exam.

Content: I can’t tell you the content as the exams is covered under an NDA (never mind the fact I  loath the idea of helping someone brain dump!) but as many other bloggers have said the Blueprint for the exam is the be all and end all! Expect everything on the blueprint to be asked as a question. Of the 32 questions I sat there can be between 1 and 8 different tasks per questions so everything gets covered. There is no place to hide, you might be great at being an Org Admin deploying and templating vApps but you’ll be badly exposed in your lack of knowledge of installation and Sys Admin configuration.

Patience: My lab connection was very laggy to the point I even lost access to it during the exam which meant a phone call to be made by the invigilator to Pearson Vue. If you get a lab in which swapping tabs takes ages refreshing then time management is even more vital. You can mention it to the invigilator but from the discussions on the VMWare communities it’s a common problem so just remember you’re in the same boat as all the successful VCAP-CIA candidates.

Lab & Real Word Experience Required: To ace the exam you really need to be working with the product in anger on a day to day basis. Building a lab at home and playing with it might just get you to the pass mark but it’s the real life use cases that are questioned and they are a varied! If you’ve done the vCloud Director: Installation, Configuration & Manage course then go through all the labs in the manual again on your home lab and that will help somewhat.

Links: The best site I found for a breakdown of the blueprint has to be on VirtualizationExpress.

Conclusions

My take on the VCAP-CIA is that if you have one then you are someone that knows how to do the job. Brain dumpers will have difficulty as a lot of it is familiarity with the product and which sub-sub-sub menu contains the setting that needs changing. The lab is superbly set up (laggy connections aside) and it is misconfigured/broken in various ways that can happen in the real world. Crossing fingers for the result,

Next on my list… VCAP5-DCA…

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Completing the Clean Sweep of VCA exams

This week I took my third VCA (VMWare Certified Associate) exam, VCA-WM, and passed. The exam itself is 100% based on the Workforce Mobility self paced online course on the VMWare training site. I sat the exam straight after the course and since it was fresh in the memory I got 460 out of 500. Had I gone into the exam without doing the course then many of the questions wouldn’t have meant much to me.

I took the VCA-Cloud exam within days of it being released after VMWorld 2013. I’d worked on vCloud Director and it’s earlier incarnation, VMWare Lab Manager, for the last 4 years and assumed that the entry level exam was simple. I was wrong! It was specifically geared to be taken after the vCloud Fundamentals course which I hadn’t sat through. The exam again was focused on the content of that course and some of the questions were related to discussions about use cases that were covered in the course. As with most technology you can use these products in a variety of ways to reach an end goal however VMWare has ‘official’ ways to do things and I was caught out on a couple of questions. Do the course and it’ll be child’s play!

The VCA-DCV was much more straight forward for me. I’ve worked on all ESX versions since 2.5 and the answers were much easier. If a skilled VMWare admin were to go into any of the exams without preparation this would be the easiest one to do as it focuses on core terminology and the benefits of Virtualization. Pretty standard stuff. If you’re new to VMWare then take the
Fundamentals course.

There are various discounted voucher codes and on occasion freebie voucher codes floating around to sit the VCA exams so it’s really worth taking a look and getting your fingers into the VMWare pie.

The next VCA exam to be released I’d the Network Virtualisation (VCA-NV) which I believe will focus on the new NSX tooling within the VMWare stack. NSX will do to networking what ESX did for server estates! I’m personally looking forward to what I’ll be able to orchestrate for my clients in months and years to come!

I’ll post about the VCA-NV exam when it’s released and I’ve given it a whirl.

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VMWare offering a second shot at VCPs and VCAPs in Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan & Korea

VMWare are very kindly offering a free second chance at their VCP and VCAP exams until 31st March 2014 for VMWare pro’s in Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan & Korea.

Click on this link to access the codes.

Here’s a list of the exams they’re allowing you to retake for FREE if you don’t pass first time:

Cloud

  • IaaS Exam (VCPVCD510)
  • VCP-Cloud (VCPC510)
  • VCAP-CID (VCID510)
  • VCAP-CIA (VCIA510)

Datacenter Virtualization

  • VCP5-DCV (VCP510)
  • VCAP4-DCA (VDCA410)
  • VCAP5-DCA (VDCA510)
  • VCAP4-DCD (VDCD410)
  • VCAP5-DCD (VDCD510)

Desktop

  • View Exam (VCP510-DT)
  • VCP-Desktop (VCPD510)
  • VCAP-DTD (VDTD510)
  • VCAP-DTA (VDTA510)

Best of luck in your exams, there’s never been a better time to go for your certifications!

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New VMWare Hands On Labs (HOL) Announced

There has been new Hands-on Labs announced By VMWare. Log into the Online Portal at http://labs.hol.vmware.com.

There are now 16 lab topics available, free to everyone. Labs are listed below along with a direct link to enroll in the lab.

Labs Currently Available

Labs Coming This Week

  • HOL-SDC-1303 – VMware NSX Network Virtualization Platform
  • HOL-SDC-1319 – VMware NSX for Multiple Hypervisor Environments
  • HOL-MBL-1301-UC – VMware View Use Cases
  • HOL-MBL-1304 – Horizon Workspace – Explore and Deploy
  • HOL-MBL-1309 – Horizon Mirage – Manage Physical Desktops
  • HOL-MBL-1311 – Applied ThinApp with the Horizon Suite
  • HOL-HBD-1301 – vCloud Hybrid Service – Jump Start for vSphere Admins
  • HOL-HBD-1302 – vCloud Hybrid Service – Networking & Security
  • HOL-HBD-1303 – vCloud Hybrid Service – Manage Your Cloud
  • HOL-PRT-1301 – NetApp Virtual Storage Console
  • HOL-PRT-1302 – IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments
  • HOL-PRT-1303 – EMC – Using Puppet with vSphere Web Client
  • HOL-PRT-1304 – Infoblox – Automate with vCAC and the vCO IPAM plug-in
  • HOL-PRT-1305 – Cisco Nexus 1000V – Enhanced VXLAN Networking in vCloud Director
  • HOL-PRT-1306 – Catbird-Hytrust-LogRhythm – Partner Security and Compliance
  • HOL-PRT-1307 – Puppet Labs – Automate vSphere Provisioning and Management
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VMWare VM Hardware Version 10 Warning!

Just a quick shoutout to tell any of my readers to avoid upgrading critical infrastructural VMs to Hardware Version 10.

HW10 Error

You cannot use the vSphere Client to edit the settings of virtual machines of version 10 or higher.
Use the vSphere Web Client to edit the settings of this virtual machine.

In the event the web-client isn’t functional you won’t have the fat client in Windows to help rescue the day. Personally I’m avoiding the upgrade of my vCenter server and one of my Domain Controllers. I’ve had issues in the past whereby the dvSwitch has been corrupted for some reason and I had to fall back on a standard switch to regain network connectivity for VMs. Now if you have such an issue then once you’ve upgraded to HW 10 your only option will be to edit the vmx file directly.

Best to reserve the use of the HW 10 for consumer VMs and non-critical infrastructure until VMWare issue an advisory to cope with this type of issue.

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NIC label issue when deploying CentOS 6.x VMs with vCloud Director

I came across a small issue relating to the the labelling of the primary NIC (eth0) inside a deployed VM.

It seems that due to the templating and then deployment of the VM the Linux hardware detection process sets the new NIC as eth1. This is due to the new MAC generated at instantiation, normal behaviour.

For the most part this does not affect the VM’s ability to access the network however there may be times when multiple NICs are required or for neatness it is desirable to have the NIC labelling starting at eth0.

To automatically fix this during the initial power of the deployed VM, enable Guest Customization and insert this script into the Customization Script section:

#!/bin/sh
set -x
if [ x$1 == x”postcustomization” ]; then
rm -rf /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules
sed -i “s/eth1/eth0/g” /etc/sysconfig/network
mv -f /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1 /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0
sed -i “s/eth1/eth0/g” /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0
/etc/rc.d/init.d/network restart
fi

In my own lab I would personally enable guest customization and have this script as part of the template by default.

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vCloud Director 5.1: Install, Configure & Manage

This week I finally took a bit of time off work and sat the vCD 5.1: ICM course hosted by New Horizons. Unusually for courses I’ve taken in the past it was an Online ‘Live’ Course with the instructor running the course from the US (Nebraska). The course ran from 2pm-10pm BST which meant I only had to take three half days from my day job. This led to long days but it was definitely worth it.

To add to the strangeness of the course I had actually passed the VCP-Cloud and VCP5-DCV exams in August and this was a tick the box exercise to fulfil VMWare requirements to sit a pre-req course to gain the certification officially. I sat the VCP-Cloud exam first and found that from the 135 questions there was about 50% networking questions relating to VLAN-backed, port-group backed or vCloud Isolated networks with a major fixation on the externally routed configuration (i.e. using the vShield Edge device to perform the network transits to and from the Org vDC).

Day One

Shawn the Instructor led us through the meaty first three and a bit modules relating to the VMWare cloud stack and how it operates on the Physical, vSphere and vCloud layers. The first two modules are jargon heavy and relate to the introduction of the various VMWare product sets that we were to be exposed to (ESX, vSphere, vCNS/Edge Gateways, Chargeback, vCloud Connector and of course vCloud Director itself).

Module 3 is probably the most important module of all. As I said previously when I sat the VCP-Cloud exam it was very heavily weighted towards the networking side of the Cloud. Of course networking should be the major element as we’re talking a multi-tenanted environment that we’re trying to keep secure however the biggest challenge isn’t the technical element really but reading the question is. The questions can look very similar to each other and sometimes the multiple choice answers can seem very similar. This is where Module 3 becomes the most important part of the course. I’ll stick my neck out on this one but if you know vCloud networking inside and out then you’ll just about hit the pass mark on that alone!

Module 4 deals with the resource pools and tiering of resources. This again is an important section. About 10-20% of the exam questions will be about what each resource allocation model does and the differences. If in doubt go to this excellent article and you’ll go someway to understanding the differences in real terms.

Day Two

On our second day we finished off the storage segment of module 4 and then dived into modules 5 and 6. Module 5 related to the actual nuts and bolts of what vCloud Director is all about, Organisations, vDCs, vApps, & templates. We built up Organisations and setup various vApps with diverse edge gateway setups using NAT, firewall rules and double hops to the external network. The double hop setups seemed to resemble what vShield App and Zones would be like in a vCD setup.

We progressed, after 4 straight labs, onto vCloud users and groups to which within 24hrs I had my team lead asking how to apply roles to certain users… Good timing there!

Day Three

The final day of the course brought the class though modules 7 to 11 and labs 12 to 17. They’re the day to day administration modules you’ll need if you’re actually doing the job on a daily basis. They are short and to the point chapters with 5-10 questions on the exam in each part. As you go through them the day 1 & 2 content will be brought into focus and the airy ideas of what a Provider vDC is and why you do tiering become that little bit understandable.

Conclusions

I was impressed on how much was covered by the course in such a short number of days.Certainly it would cover enough to pass the VCP-Cloud exam comfortably however it missed out Chargeback as a topic. This wasn’t the instructors fault as the course blueprint doesn’t contain it but you will need to take a free online course by VMWare to be able to answer up to a dozen Chargeback related questions in the exam.

Thanks to sitting this course it unlocked both my VCP-Cloud and the VCP5-DCV certification. In all honesty had I done the course beforehand I believe I would have scored higher than the 444 marks I got in the VCP-Cloud exam as I would have been sharper on the NATing questions which I amn’t exposed to in my day to day job. Happy days though and thanks Shawn for a well presented class especially since you were 4000 miles away!

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vSphere 5.5 – Web Client Upgrade Error

During the web client installation I received an error during the SSO registration section towards the end stating that the solution was already registered with the LookupService.

A second run of the web client installation completed successfully without intervention. Sounds like a buggy installation!

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