Posts Tagged ‘Training’

TrainSignal vSphere Training DVD 1 Completed

October 23rd, 2009

This evening I finished viewing the first of three TrainSignal vSphere Training DVDs authored by VCP and CCIE David Davis. Having viewed TrainSignal’s last VMware Virtual Infrastructure training on VI3, I knew I was in for some good stuff.

DVD 1 starts off with introductions to the video’s instructor as well as a hypothetical company which is used as a focus and discussion point throughout the video series. Practical application of technologies to a role played scenario, the Wired Brain Coffee Company in this case, serves as positive reinforcement to the lessons being taught and is an effective method for knowledge retention, especially if the student is following along and working hands on in their own lab through the examples.

The video then sets a beginner’s pace as it covers VMware certification, virtualization basics. Moving on, it compares and contrasts VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix hypervisors. Beyond this comparison, the focus from here on out is on VMware products where a closer look is taken at the different components and tiers of vSphere.

Half way through the DVD, we’re finally to the point where we’re installing and configuring the vSphere products. One valuable offering from the video is a lesson describing the steps needed to install ESX and ESXi in VMware Workstation. This is what is called a nested hypervisor – an ESX(i) type 1 (bare metal) hypervisor running on top of a VMware Workstation type 2 (hosted) hypervisor. Nested hypervisors are not supported in production environments but they are quite helpful in lab, test, and portable environments.

Towards the end, lesson 17 provides a nice demonstration of a VMware Tools installation in a Linux guest operating system which isn’t nearly as straight forward as a VMware Tools on Windows installation. The last two lessons begin touching on some of the new advanced features that vSphere offers: Hot Add/Hot Plug virtual hardware and Host Profiles.

Thus far my feeling is this training is geared towards the beginner to intermediate level. I’m looking forward to DVD 2 where the instructor dives into more of the advanced design, configuration, and operational topics of VMware vSphere. I’ve attended VMware’s vSphere What’s New (2 day) and VMware’s vSphere Quick Start (5 day) classes. With approximately 150 new features making their debut in vSphere, I’ve yet to see anyone cover them all – that would be a tall order.

DVD 1 Lessons:

  1. Meet Your Instructor
  2. Our Scenario with the Wired Brain Coffee Company
  3. VMware Certification – Preparing for the VCP and VCDX
  4. Introduction to Virtualization
  5. Virtualization Products Compared
  6. VMware ESXi4 Free Edition for the SMB
  7. VMware vSphere 4 and ESX Essentials
  8. vSphere Management Options
  9. Installing the VMware vSphere Client
  10. Navigating vSphere Using the vSphere Client
  11. Running VMware ESX 4 in Workstation
  12. Installing VMware ESX 4
  13. Installing VMware ESXi Version 4
  14. Installing VMware vCenter 4
  15. vCenter4 – Configuring Your New Virtual Infrastructure
  16. Creating & Modifying Virtual Guest Machines
  17. Installing and Configuring VMware Tools
  18. Adding Virtual Machine Hardware with vSphere Hot Plug
  19. Using vSphere Host Profiles

VCDX Design Exam: been there, done that!

October 1st, 2009

Borrowing a blog post title from my friend in virtualization Duncan, I passed the VCDX Design exam this morning with a score of 369. A passing mark of 300 is required out of a total of 500. I had a lot of built up anxiety for this exam for a few reasons:

  1. Duncan Epping (mentioned above) had mentioned that he thought the Design exam was more difficult than the Enterprise exam. He’s already VCDX certified and he’s a VMware genius.
  2. I was at a loss as far as what to study. The blueprint covered topics that I felt were vague from a formal training or studying perspective. It implies the requirement of real world experience.

Therefore, my study method consisted of:

  1. 30 minutes looking over the VCDX Design blueprint
  2. 1 hour of brushing up on NPIV documentation
  3. 1 hour of reviewing virtualized Microsoft Cluster requirements
  4. A quick review of TCP/UDP ports used in VMware virtual infrastructure in the enterprise (including SQL, Oracle, SNMP, Syslog, AD, LDAP, NFS, iSCSI, etc.)
  5. Knowledge of vSphere must be thrown out. Candidates need to remember this is clearly a VI3 exam.
  6. 13 years broad IT experience, 8 years experience with VMware products, 5 years experience with ESX

Once in the exam room, I found it to be less difficult than the Enterprise exam (which felt more like a Red Hat exam than a VMware exam). I surmise Duncan’s experience was different as English is not his native language (although he speaks it exceptionally well) and there is a lot of reading and interpretation of data on this exam. There were also a decent share of short and to the point questions as well. While I admit I didn’t have the best score, I found many of the questions to be pretty simple and not what I expected on an advanced level certification exam. Part way into the exam I felt fairly comfortable about passing given the degree of difficulty I had thus far experienced and assuming this experience would continue through to the end.

The exam format is two parts:

  1. Part 1 consists of 51 multiple choice/multiple select questions. In this section also exists several drag and drop style questions. One of the drag and drop questions was missing an obvious correct component and had a duplicate of another. I don’t believe this was intentional. I commented on this question with the corrections needed.
  2. Part 2 consists of a Visio-like architecture design tool where you freehand place components for a customer design. There is an assload of reading and a poor presentation of the requirements and the actual design drawing all on one small screen – probably good practice when in front of customers who either don’t know what they want, or don’t easily convey what they want. I spent 27 minutes on the last design question and ended up running out of time. I highly doubt 100% accuracy of my design as I ran out of time before I was comfortable with it. Jon Hall, if you’re reading this, I’m curious to know what the grading scale is between the 51 questions and the final design.

So that’s it. I’m on to the VCDX Design application step once VMware invites me (I hear the design application is very lengthy documentation writing and takes about 2 solid weeks to complete – following the advice of other existing VCDX’s on Twitter, the application is NOT an area to skimp on), and then the final defense step after that.

I’m an end user and not in front of customers daily. Consulting is solid experience to have for the VCDX process. I think the VCDX is designed for consultants, therefore, consultants are set up well and have an inherent advantage. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

VCP4 Exam

September 5th, 2009

After a moderate beta phase, the VCP4 exam officially went public at VMworld 2009. Late Wednesday evening after the VMworld party, I decided that since VMware was offering the VCP4 exam at the Moscone Center at a heavily discounted rate, I would give it a shot first thing Thursday morning in lieu of attending the morning sessions. Passing this exam was on my development objectives for 2009 (along with VCDX certification) and time is starting to run out. OK, to be completely honest, the number of tweets I had seen recently of those who passed the VCP4 exam at VMworld as well as the beta made me a bit jealous and filled me with both encouragement and confidence.

My normal approach to certification is reading books and lab time. Although I hadn’t studied for the exam or even looked at the blueprint (a swell recipe for failure, I personally wouldn’t recommend it), I have been using vSphere 4 quite a bit in my home lab over the past several months. I also attended the two day “What’s New” vSphere course via WebEx but I don’t believe it provided a lot value towards the VCP4 exam.

In addition, I studied for, sat, and passed the Enterprise exam a little over a month ago which in my opinion was quite a bit more difficult than the VCP3 exam. Technically speaking, the Enterprise exam covers VI3 and not vSphere, but conceptually there is still plenty of overlap between VI3 and vSphere 4

Lastly, I had been toying with and troubleshooting the vSphere virtual infrastructure that VCDX #7 Duncan Epping provided attendees at the vExpert booth in the VMworld 2009 Solutions Exchange. As luck would have it, some of the things I was working on applied to the VCP4 exam and were fresh in my mind.

I passed the exam with a score of 350 out of a possible 500. A score of 300 or better is required to pass the exam and a score of 350 is required to be eligible for VMware Certified Instructor (VCI) status. This appears to be the same new grading curve used in the Enterprise exam and I imagine the Design exam for VCDX candidates (I have not sat the Design exam yet so I’m not 100% certain on that).

In a word, my experience was that I found the exam to be fair. 85 questions. 90 minutes. All multiple choice/multiple select, a few with exhibits. No interactive/hands-on/live lab scenarios although I would have preferred them. In comparison it was a degree tougher than the VCP3 exam. I attribute that to the fact that the vSphere content is new and I hadn’t properly prepared. Special thanks to the candidate who blurted on his way out of the exam room as I was walking in “This exam is REALLY HARD – definitely NO JOKE”. You made me feel as if I had just kissed $105 goodbye. 🙄

As with the Enterprise exam, I found time to be a threat as I was left with only three minutes to review about 20 questions I had marked. Poor exam time management seems to be a recurring theme with me lately where it wasn’t in my earlier years. I’m not sure if the exams are getting harder or I’m just getting slower in my old age. Probably a combination of both. Lately I tend to go into deep thought for a number of minutes on some questions. Instead, I should recognize that if the answer doesn’t come to me within 10 seconds, I should quickly choose the best answer, mark the question, and move on. I think the dilemma becomes that sometimes there is more than one best answer and that’s where I end back up in the deep thought.

For passing the exam, VMware gave me an additional VMworld pin, a “VCP4 certified” baseball cap, and flashy VCP battery powered glasses which my 3 year old daughter absolutely loves. Thank you VMware.

Update 10/5/09:  VCI pass mark is 350, not 400. This has been corrected in the paragraph above.

VCDX Enterprise Administration Exam

August 5th, 2009

In my pursuit for VCDX (VMware Certified Design Expert) certification, I sat this exam on Tuesday July 21st at 8am. I read somewhere that statistically speaking, humans are better test takers in the morning than in the afternoon. This statistic applies to me. I’ve passed every certification exam I’ve sat before noon and the only exam I’ve ever failed was Microsoft Networking Essentials in 1997 and that was an afternoon exam.

Anyway, the Enterprise Administration exam is part written, part hands on lab. Because of the lab piece, it takes VMware 10-12 business days to grade the exam. My exam was no exception. On business day 11, today, I receive the results this morning on my Blackberry while in a VMware BCS support meeting. The initial email read:

Hello Jason,

Thank you for participating in the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) program. Attached you will find your score report for the Enterprise Administration Exam. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding your score.

Kind Regards
The VMware Certification Team

My initial thought was this doesn’t sound good. Every other blog post I read from people who passed this exam stated they were greeted with “Congratulations” meaning they had passed. My notification basically looked to me like “Thanks for the 400 bucks, your failed score is in the attached .PDF document, contact us if you need suicide prevention”. Don’t take that literally, I’m being dramatic here. The fact is, after taking this exam, I was not at all confident I had passed. In fact, I had returned to the office that morning pretty upset with myself. It was clear to me that on the written exam, I hadn’t drilled down deep enough into some of the blueprint topics, mainly topics dealing with Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well as identifying multiple methods to pull the same information through different CLI commands. As other bloggers have pointed out, the written exam makes up 60% of the passing grade. The hands on lab portion of the exam, for me anyway, was much more familiar although I won’t say it’s a cake walk. It gets into advanced administration and troubleshooting situations which you won’t always find solutions spelled out explicitly in a book. You’re on your own in a live lab to assemble what you feel is the solution. You can get creative and 10 different candidates may solve a lab problem 10 slightly different ways. What counts is what the lab proctor finds in your resulting virtual infrastructure come grading time. Either you satisfied the outlined requirement through your processes, or you didn’t. The lab accounts for the other 40% of the passing grade.

After the first day went by, I was no longer depressed. I focused on my work and other things realizing there was nothing I could do to change my prior performance in the exam room. If I had failed, it is what it is, I accept it, and I clearly knew what areas needed more attention. $400 is a tough learning experience though, for me the cost of this endeavor adds pressure. As the days passed, it became clear VMware really was going to stick to its 10-12 business day grading policy, and I wasn’t going to receive my results early.

So I opened up the attached .PDF score report on my Blackberry. Of course, it opens slowly adding more drama and suspense. However, in the end I was pleased to see:

Congratulations on passing this exam. Passing this exam is the second of the four parts
required to achieve the VMware Certified Design Expert designation. The next
component is the VMware Design Exam. You will be sent registration information to this
exam when it is publicly released in August 2009.

No doubt I was stoked to see I had passed but my focus quickly turned to my score.  I had been thinking that in the remote possibility I had passed this exam, then it was going to be by the hair of my chin. The score report showed I wasn’t nearly as close to the pass/fail threshold as I thought I’d be. I had plenty of buffer with my score and I think I owe my passing grade plus the additional buffer to the lab portion of the exam which I feel I was perfect on. By the way, I had no time to spare on this exam. I was working on the last of the 11 lab problems 5 seconds before time ran out on my exam. I wasted significant time in deep thought during the written part of the exam and almost didn’t leave enough time to complete the labs – I really had to rush through the labs. My lab was also having technical issues which added several minutes of delay and anxiety at one point as a vCenter task sat there hung for several minutes which a successful configuration was dependent on (I don’t believe this was intended to be part of the lab experience).

If you are interested in taking this exam and you’re looking for some study material, Duncan Epping has this recent post which is pretty comprehensive although the first link to the study guide appears to need fixing and the study guide is one of the best resources in the list. Also, as Duncan points out, in hind sight I also feel the DSA course would have been incredibly beneficial in addressing this exam’s objectives.

Now I move on to the Design written exam.  I am waiting for VMware to schedule this for me.  It will probably take a few weeks for that to happen which is just fine because I’m very busy right now at work, at home, and getting things ready for VMworld (I’ve got a little surprise for the VMware community I’ve been working on).  I expect the Design exam to be a little bit more theory and high level concepts rather than detailed CLI commands and switches.  I’ve also heard from one person they felt the Design exam was more difficult than the Enterprise Administration exam.  I’ve got my work cut out for me. At no time did I expect this would be easy.

Train Signal training discount through the month of February

January 31st, 2009

Train Signal is offering an astounding 25% off any virtualization product they sell through the month of February 2009.

Here is a short sample of their VMware ESX training video where instructor David Davis talks about templates and cloning virtual machines:

To take advantage of the 25% off, use the code BOCHENET at checkout.

I know first hand that the economy is tough.  Take advantage of this offer and get top shelf training for your dollar.  Train Signal offers a 90 day money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.

Coolest VMware video training trailer ever

November 19th, 2008

If nothing else gets you excited about VMware virtualization, this video by Elias Khnaser should.  It seriously looks like a good DVD for the whole family.  I’ve asked Elias for the Blue-Ray version.