Posts Tagged ‘Training’

VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition Now Available

March 20th, 2013

Snagit Capture

Publication Date: March 25, 2013 | ISBN-10: 1118407911 | ISBN-13: 978-1118407912 | Edition: 2

The big splash was officially made yesterday but I’m following up with my announcement a day later to help spread the message to anyone who may have been heads down and missed it.  Forbes Guthrie (Snagit Capture Snagit Capture), Scott Lowe (Snagit Capture Snagit Capture), and Kendrick Coleman (Snagit Capture Snagit Capture) have teamed up to produce VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition (a followup refresh of the popular 1st Edition).

As Technical Editor, I’m one of the few fortunate individuals who have already had the pleasure to have read the book.  I can tell you that it is jam-packed with the deep technical detail, design perspective, and methodology you’d expect from these seasoned and well-respected industry experts.

The book is 528 pages in length (compare to 384 pages in the 1st edition).  New in this version is coverage of vSphere 5.1, emerging infrastructure technologies and trends, as well as a section on vCloud Director design – a worthy topic which should be weighing heavily on the minds of many by now and in the future will likely spawn dedicated coverage in texts by Sybex and/or other publishers.

The publisher has made the introduction section of the book freely available.  You can take a look at that by clicking this link which is hosted at Forbes vReference blog.  As with the previous edition, this book is made available in both paperback and Kindle editions.  Support these authors and pick up your copy today.  Tell them Jason sent you and nothing special will likely take place.

Book Review: VMware vSphere 5 Building a Virtual Datacenter

March 4th, 2013

Snagit Capture

Publication Date: August 30, 2012 | ISBN-10: 0321832213 | ISBN-13: 978-0321832214 | Edition: 1

I’m long overdue on book reviews and I need to start off with an apology to the authors for getting this one out so late.  The title is VMware vSphere 5 Building a Virtual Datacenter by Eric Maillé and René-François Mennecier (Foreword by Chad Sakac and Technical Editor Tom Keegan).  This is a book which caught me off guard a little because I was unaware of the authors (both in virtualization and cloud gigs at EMC Corporation) but nonetheless meeting new friends in virtualization is always pleasant surprise.  It was written prior to and released at the beginning of September 2012 with vSphere coverage up to version 5.0 which launched early in September 2011.

The book starts off with the first two chapters more or less providing a history of VMware virtualization plus coverage of most of the products and where they fit.  I’ve been working with VMware products since just about the beginning and as such I’ve been fortunate to be able to absorb all of the new technology in iterations as it came over a period of many years.  Summarizing it all in 55 pages felt somewhat overwhelming (this is not by any means a negative critique of the authors’ writing).  Whereas advanced datacenter virtualization was once just a concatenation of vCenter and ESX, the portfolio has literally exploded to a point where design, implementation, and management has gotten fairly complex for IT when juggling all of the parts together.  I sympathize a bit for late adopters – it really must feel like a fire hose of details to sort through to flesh out a final bill of materials which fits their environment.

From there, the authors move on to cover key areas of the virtualized and consolidated datacenter including storage and networking as well as cluster features, backup and disaster recovery (including SRM), and installation methods.  In the eighth and final chapter, a case study is looked at in which the second phase of a datacenter consolidation project must be delivered.  Last but not least is a final section titled Common Acronyms which I’ll unofficially call Chapter 9.  It summarizes and translates acronyms used throughout the book.  I’m not sure if it’s unique but it’s certainly not a bad idea.

To summarize, the book is 286 pages in length, not including the index.  It’s not a technical deepdive which covers everything in the greatest of detail but I do view it as a good starting point which is going to answer a lot of questions for beginners and beyond as well as provide some early guidance along the path of virtualization with vSphere.  The links above will take you directly to the book on Amazon where you can purchase a paperback copy or Kindle version of the book.  Enjoy and thank you Eric and René-François.

Chapter List

  1. From Server Virtualization to Cloud Computing
  2. The Evolution of vSphere 5 and its Architectural Components
  3. Storage in vSphere 5
  4. Servers and Network
  5. High Availability and Disaster Recovery Plan
  6. Backups in vSphere 5
  7. Implementing vSphere 5
  8. Managing a Virtualization Project
  9. Common Acronyms

VCDXs To Recieve New Storage Book

July 25th, 2012

Snagit Capture

Last fall at the VMworld book store in Las Vegas, I picked up sample chapter 6 ALUA from Mostafa Khalil‘s (@MostafaVMW) upcoming book “Storage Design and Implementation in vSphere 5.0“.  The level of detail looked fantastic and I could hardly wait for the rest of the book to be released.

Fast forward to a month ago, nearing completion I joked with Mostafa that perhaps VCDXs could receive a copy of his new book. Mostafa gracefully accepted the challenge and delivered the good news tonight that he has arranged with VMware Press for all current VCDXs to receive a free copy of his book via e-copy or print.

What Mostafa has done is extremely generous and I’m really looking forward to receiving a copy of his new storage book once it is released (which should be very soon) so that I can read the rest.

The Newest Mayor of VCAP5-DCD & VCDX5

July 19th, 2012

Last February at VMware Partner Exchange (PEX), I sat the VCAP5-DCD BETA exam.  I detailed that experience here.  The exam consisted of 130 questions to be answered in 225 minutes.  I squandered a lot of time in deep thought on some questions and also spent time providing feedback on many of the questions.  I was fairly comfortable with the content but based on the time I spent on each question, I came up 30 or 40 questions short of being answered.  Pass/Fail results came in late April with a detailed exam report in July.  I didn’t pass the BETA exam but I was surprised how close I came to passing despite the large number of questions I didn’t get to.  Oh well, the beta exam cost was marked down 50% and worth a shot.

This afternoon I exercised the free retake voucher (thank you VMware certification department, and I do sincerely mean that despite the sharp criticism I’ve had no moral issues in sharing.)  I’ll be honest, not passing the beta exam initially only bothered me in that I’d have to wait for it to GA and sit through it again.  But as the weeks and months passed, coupled with the VCA4-DT failure by a close margin last winter, I was starting to question my abilities in a market I’ve dedicated my career to.

For me, the key to passing the VCAP5-DCD exam was simply better time management.  I recognize over the past few years I’ve slipped into the habit of being more methodical and spending too much time on each exam question.  While being careful and meticulous in the real world can be considered a positive attribute, there’s just no room for it on the VMware VCAP exams. The publicly available VCAP5-DCD exam consists of 100 questions and 225 minutes.  That averages out to be 2m 15s allowed to answer each question.  But that’s not the reality.  At the beginning of the exam, a general exam tip is given that a number of the questions in the exam are the design tool type and that 1h 15m should be allotted to answer these questions.

My new exam approach:

I need to create time in the exam room.  There are a few ways I’m going to accomplish this:

  1. For answers that I’m quite confident in, mark the correct answers and move on immediately, especially on the valuable short reading questions which can be knocked out in 30 seconds.  There is absolutely no sense in wasting valuable time debating what I already know to be the best answer.
  2. For obscure questions which frankly I have no real clue what the correct answer is (and there definitely were a few of these types), quickly choose what looks to be the best answer and move on immediately.  There is absolutely no sense in wasting valuable time debating an answer which will never come to me in this exam’s lifetime.  There were some bizarre questions on today’s exam which were not worth fighting over.  Cut your losses and move on in the interest of time.
  3. When a design tool question pops, immediately flag it for review and move on to the next question.  I want to get through the lion’s share of the questions and save the “time sync” questions for the end, whether I have enough time left get through them all or not.  This approach actually works well – I think using the design tool in end-to-end consecutive questions yields more design tool use efficiency rather than dealing with the design tool in sparse frequency.  Once I got through the first design question with the tool, I found myself able to use it very swiftly for the remaining questions.
  4. Find the buried questions faster.  There’s really not enough time to read each question from beginning to end.  There is so much to digest with a lot of the questions, only to find that the question could have been appropriately answered by reading the last few sentences of the question first or by reading the question in reverse order from bottom to top hunting for the facts, while already having a preview of the possible answers and what details the question is really focusing on.  There’s plenty of fluff in many of the questions.  Basically don’t waste time reading, memorizing, or getting wound around the fluff axle.

These are not new techniques.  I’ve been sitting certification exams since the mid ’90’s (mostly Microsoft) and I quickly learned the above tactics in test taking but over the years I’ve had a gradual departure, employing quality and thought provoking debate in each exam question I encountered.  That’s a big mistake because these exams just don’t provide the time for it.

What a difference it made:

Looking back the last few years, a common exam room theme had clearly developed for me: Either I ran out of time on the exam leaving questions unanswered or I came very very close to running out of time.  Today I reached the end of the exam with well beyond the recommended 1h 15m required to go back and address the design tool questions.  I completed the design tool questions at a pace faster than what VMware recommends by applying the basic methodology of not getting wound around the axle.  That’s not to say my designs were perfectly accurate but I felt pretty comfortable with half of them.

After getting through the design tool questions, I still had plenty of exam time left to three times go through a handful of other questions I had marked to review.

Final thoughts before pressing “End Exam”:

Although I rocked the time component, there were some new elements this time which I let get the best of me to some degree.

It was a late afternoon exam. I only sit morning exams. I never sit exams in the afternoon, especially 4 hour exams staring at a computer after lunch.  To avoid any post-lunch sleepies that might show up, I opted to take a quick nap in lieu of lunch.  This helped immensely, no drowsiness whatsoever during the exam.

Prior to sitting down, I was not looking forward to the 4 hour exam.  The experience at PEX was dreadful.  I wasn’t 100% invested into it and there were a lot of distractions which just made the exam feel like it took forever.  I was caught in a stressful catch-22 where I just wanted the hell out of that cold and noisy room yet the reality was I had burned through so much time I would have needed an additional 2 hours to complete the exam with all questions answered.  After sitting the beta, I was under the hopeful impression the GA version would be trimmed to something like 50 questions and 2 hours.  When I found the GA version was still 100 questions in under 4 hours, I was anticipating the likelihood of a repeat experience if I wasn’t able to step up my time management game.  And the other thing – 4 hour exams are too long and not what I’ve been used to prior to VCAP exams being invented.  In reflection, today’s exam duration wasn’t too bad, in fact, time flew.  Maybe because I was managing my time better. Maybe because of the power nap.  I don’t know but today was ok.  Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll tell you 4 hour exams are way too damned long.  There should be a better way to measure design skill.  Halve the number of questions and the time commitment.

While I was quite comfortable with the beta exam content to the point that I’m sure I could have passed the exam based on content mastery alone, today’s experience was actually quite a bit different.  I was expecting to see the same familiar content.  The truth is there were up to 40 questions I hadn’t even seen during the beta.  While some of the content was familiar, there were quite a few new questions I wasn’t so confident in plus there were many familiar questions I was counting on being on today’s exam that were absent (low hanging fruit if you will).

While you might think there’s nothing more frustrating than facing a question for which you are completely unprepared for, even worse are questions with ambiguous dialogue either in the question itself and/or the answer(s).  I came across several exam questions which I felt were left to the author’s interpretation.  It’s really frustrating to know the right answers but a question is worded in such a way that it can be interpreted in different ways and there’s a correct answer below for each of the interpretations.

CONGRATULATIONS!

There was nothing left to do now but push that “End Exam” button.  I gave this thing my best 3 hours and 45 minutes.  Fortunately for me, the joyful message above was displayed on the screen.  For sure it’s what I had hoped would be there, but I wasn’t 100% confident like I was with the beta exam.

Key takeaways:

Good time management clearly made a difference.  The content alone on these exams is difficult enough, there’s no sense in creating additional obstacles to contend with.  Having the time available on questions where I really needed it was king.  And of course, completing the exam with no questions left unanswered also helps.

Someone tweeted me tonight asking me to divulge what to study.  As I’ve said in the past, I find there’s not a whole lot to study for when it comes to the design exams.  I mostly draw on my experience and brush up on a few things I’m weak on (such as PVLANs which I crashed yesterday and it paid off big time). Note the blueprint: Microsoft clustering also rears its head.  While I was at one time a MSCS master from a Microsoft perspective, I struggle to keep all of the details straight with regards to vSphere.  Frankly it has been a mess to track from day 1 and I wish MSCS would either be supported end to end or I wish it would just go away.

Back to that tweet, there’s a nightmare of a reality here:  if you lack the experience or know-how to tackle at least, I’d say, 75% of the blueprint, there’s too much ground to cover in terms of “what do I need to study – point me to the white papers”.  VCAP-DCD covers a very broad range of design topics but it also gets into the weeds on technical content you might expect to know for the VCAP-DCA exam.  I don’t say this to intimidate anyone or to flex my ego.  Today was a reality check and reminder for myself that the content on these exams shouldn’t be taken for granted even for someone like myself who spends his life immersed in the technology as much as possible.  That said, I’m going to have to up my game for the upcoming VCAP5-DCA exam as I consider that one more difficult than the DCD.  I’m not sure how much exam fuel I have left in me.  A part of me wants to retire from the certification treadmill (the VMware cert treadmill is by far the most aggressive) but I definitely don’t want to let the VCDX lapse.  I used to be able to knock out exams without too much trouble.  Don’t get me wrong, I put forth all of the due diligence required by reading thick books and spending a lot of time with hands on in the lab.  In the past, that formula always lead to a passing grade in the exam room.  But it’s getting harder.  At least it feels like it.  Maybe it’s my old age catching up.

If you plan on sitting the VCAP5-DCD exam soon, I wish you the best of luck.  Let me know how your experience was.

Spousetivities Is Packing For Boston

June 5th, 2012

Snagit Capture

Dell Storage Forum kicks off in Boston next week and Spousetivities will be there to ensure a good time is had by all.  If you’ve never been to Boston or if you haven’t had a chance to look around, you’re in for a treat.  Crystal has an array of activities queued up (see what I did there?) including  whale watching, a tour of MIT and/or Harvard via trolley or walking, a trolley tour of historic Boston (I highly recommend this one, lots of history in Boston), a wine tour, as well as a welcome breakfast to get things started and a private lunch cruise.

If you’d like to learn more or if you’d like to sign up for one or more of these events, follow this link – Spousetivities even has deals to save you money on your itinerary.

We hope to see you there!

Snagit Capture

VMware Press Launches Sweepstakes!

May 1st, 2012

Snagit Capture

VMware Press, the official publisher of VMware books and training materials, has launched a 60 day Facebook sweepstakes beginning May 1 and running through June 30th. Prize offerings include a $100 Amazon gift card and three VMware Press books of the winner’s choice; nine second prize winners will win an eBook of their choice. Good luck – enter now at the link below!

http://ow.ly/aBkvE

VMware VCAP5-DCD BETA Exam Experience

February 13th, 2012

This morning I sat the VCAP5-DCD BETA exam just as soon as the certification doors opened here at VMware Partner Exchange 2012 (follow the action using the Twitter hash tag #VMwarePEX).  As usual, I can’t cover exam content in detail but I’ll briefly cover the experience in explicitly vague detail so as not to violate any policies.

Just like the VCAP4-DCD BETA I sat over a year ago, the exam length was 130 questions to be answered within a 225 minute time constraint.  From what I gathered, all questions asked were fair in that they came straight from the beta blueprint.  When you read through the blueprint, pay attention to any areas of coverage new to you – it’s all fair game for the exam.  If you’re not familiar with some of the content, be sure you obtain at least a baseline understanding to have a chance at fielding the questions with success. As was the case with the VCAP4-DCD, question types include multiple choice, choose 2 or 3 that apply, drag -n- drop to match this to that, and build a diagram.  Questions can be marked for review but the navigational button to go back to a previous question did not work for me once I had advanced to the next question.  Many of the non-multiple choice questions inherently have a lot of reading associated with them.  Digest the information as quickly and accurately as possible and move on.  Be sure to understand what version of vSphere the question is referring to – there are design and operational differences between vSphere 4 and vSphere 5.  Some of the questions involved performing math on the dry erase board.  A calculator provided with the exam would have saved a little time.

Time management was a challenge for me on this VMware BETA exam.  I ran out of time leaving many questions either unanswered or in the case of lengthy questions requiring a lot of reading, answered with a guess.  If you plan on sitting this VMware BETA exam, you might consider saving all of your feedback for a consolidated email to certification@vmware.com after the exam, rather than providing feedback on each individual question during the exam itself.  One needs to study everything on the blueprint but in my opinion, this is still an experience based exam for the most part.  Sure there is some material you can get through from book and white paper knowledge but the scope of the exam itself is broad enough that several titles would be required to cover all of the content.  I felt confident enough in the material covered that I can pass the exam based on content alone.  If I need to sit the exam again, in all likelihood it will be due to my lack of adequate time management. I should have my results within a few months.

As far as the Partner Exchange testing center – a few tips for those at Partner Exchange who will spend some time in the exam room this week:

  1. It’s cold. Wear a long sleeved shirt or sweater.
  2. It’s loud (large events going on nearby).  Bring some ear plugs if you have any.
  3. Time management once the exam begins. I can’t stress that enough on the advanced level exams.
  4. I asked if coffee was allowed in the exam room.  They told me clearly it was not so I got rid of mine only to find out several candidates had coffee with them in the testing center.  Don’t ask, just walk in with your drink unless they stop you.
  5. The on site staff is very friendly and did a great job.  Be sure to ask questions if you have any.  If you paid the $200 beta exam fee because the discount voucher didn’t work when you registered, the staff will refund that for you.
  6. Enjoy your testing experience.
  7. Good luck!

I’ve heard only rumors so far on Twitter, no formal announcements from VMware, that the VCAP5-DCD exam will qualify towards VCP5 certification and possibly VCDX5.  We’ll have to wait and see what develops there.  One thing is absolute:  VMware made it clear there was a February 29 deadline to obtain VCP5 upgrade certification without requiring formal classroom training (and the associated costs).  Because of this, many individuals, including myself, rushed to shell out the exam fee for VCP5 before the deadline in order to avoid training costs if sitting the VCP5 exam after February 29.  I speak for myself when I say that if I had known a VCAP5-DCD exam would qualify for VCP5 certification without additional training, I would have waited to save money on the VCP5 exam fee.

Update 4/25/12: Pass/Fail results were sent out today by VMware which confirmed my time management needed improvement.  A more detailed score report will be sent sometime in May.  I’ll be sitting this exam again when the final version is launched.  I saw a lot of tweets today announcing a pass.  My congratulations go out to those folks.

Update 7/19/12: I passed the GA version of the VCAP5-DCD exam.  That experience was different and I’ve written about it here.