One of my objectives for this year is to pass the VCAP5-DCD exam and get certified in data center design. Seeing that the year is almost finished I have to put some actions to my words. I already did that by the way, I followed the VMware vSphere Design Workshop earlier this year (so preparations started way earlier than this blog post). Due to some events (of family art that I will not go into in blog post) that happened in the beginning of the year, I had to reschedule and my planning just went over the moon by ending up in October.
But… I have scheduled my VCAP-DCD5 exam at VMworld Barcelona.

I want to write down my experience of pursuing this certification and have a place to store my learning tool links for further reference in the last stint before the exam. So here goes….

What is VCAP5-DCD?

I probably have some readers outside of the VMware world so I first try to explain VCAP5-DCD. This data center virtualization certification track is composed of some acronyms; the first acronym part VCAP which is VMware Certified Advanced Professional, an advanced track of the VMware certification tracks. The second part DCD stands for Data Center Design. DCD is designed for IT architects who design (that a lot of designing ;-) ) and integrate VMware solutions in multi-site, large enterprise, virtualized environments.The third part is the 5, which is the version the certification is for. In this case vSphere 5.x.

The tracks are composed of the following levels:

– VCA. Associate. The first fundamentals.
– VCP. Professional. The IT Professional working with VMware environments.
– VCAP. The advanced professional. Advanced professional working, implementing and designing VMware environments.
– VCDX. The expert. Experts on designing the VMware environments.

Like the data center track VMware also offers Cloud and End User Computing certification tracks.

What is needed?

To achieve the VCAP5-DCD status you will have to be VCP5-DCV and you will have to pass the DCD exam. Pretty straightforward. There is no course prerequisite, but there are some recommended courses to follow like the design workshop I wrote about. The VMware vSphere: Design Workshop [V5.x] is a classroom or online three day course. An other highly recommended course is the free online self paced course Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Design [v5.X].
Last but not least you will have to have autorisation from VMware to start and schedule your examen, you can do that at http://mylearn.vmware.com/feedback.cfm?survey=31965.

Tools.. what can we use or find?

– The VCAP5-DCD Exam blueprint. The blueprint is intended to provide information about the VCAP5-DCD objectives covered in the exam, related resources, and recommended courses. This is your starting point. Download at http://mylearn.vmware.com/register.cfm?course=123608.
– VMware documentation included in the blueprint. Consist of whitepapers, customer references and such. Jason at virtuallanger.com created a zip package of all the documents. You can find and download them at the blogpost of Jason http://www.virtuallanger.com/2012/09/30/vcap-dcd-5-document-package/.
– Take the interactive exam simulation. This gives you insight in the simulations used at the exams (not the subject). Unfortunately this is rather small, but I have not yet find any others around. Access it at http://mylearn.vmware.com/register.cfm?course=149330.
– The VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition book (also available for Kindle). Get it at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/VMware-VSphere-Design-Forbes-Guthrie/dp/1118407911/ref=dp_ob_title_bk.
– VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide: VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5  Data Center Design (VMware Press Certification). Kindle edition on Amazon. Great with scenario’s and questions to test your state of knowledge for the subjects. Also do visit writers (Paul McSharry) website http://www.elasticsky.co.uk/.
– Free instructional vSphere video’s. Look them up at http://vmwarelearning.com/. Be sure to stick to the objectives and not watch all the video’s.
– There are several locations to get the vBrownbags covering the VCAP5-DCD subjects. Go to http://professionalvmware.com/brownbags/ and register or search for the VCAP-DCD objectives (as they are not yet categorized). The sessions are also available via iTunes.
– Hands on experience. The baggage of knowledge you hold from real world experience. Else get your experience from Hands on Labs. VMware’s HOL is a great online place, go to http://www.projectnee.com/HOL/. You can also build your own labs (resources!) in VMware Workstation for example.
– VMware vSphere Plan and Design Service Delivery Kit. If your a solution partner you can grab this kit of partner central.

Advice?

You can find a lot of VCAP5-DCD experience posts out there, just use your google-fu. Most of those post have one critical component in there (just next to preparation) and that one is time management. The exam consists of 100 questions and 225 minutes. But that not all multiple choices, there are several scenario’s in there. At the beginning of the exam you will be shown how many design tool scenario’s there are, and those together are time bound around one hour. So there is not lot of time to wander and take your time on obscure questions.

For now this is my list. I will try to update when I have some news. When you have some input or advice please drop them in the comments (or tweet them at me).

Update VMworld Exam Experience

So during VMworld I tried the exam. Next to it’s part of my goals, an important reason to do it on the VMworld site is the 75% off the price. But it is hard to do an exam in the middle of the VMworld hurricane, I missed passing with a couple of points. Main reason running out of time and missing some 10 questions and one scenario.
On Wednesday morning I had my chance. I had a bad night of sleep (something with my diner or nerves got my stomach doing somersaults), but I managed to reach the site (and some coffee) on time.

After signing in I entered the exam room. The exam starts with an assessment where you are in the VMware world of designing. I think they use the answers to present you with a specific set of questions, or an order of them. After this the exam starts. At the beginning you are told how much of the 100 questions are scenario’s. In my case there were six in total. After this the show starts for real.

The design question where a real difficulty. I had practiced with the interactive exam simulation (see above for linkie), but in the real world it was hard (maybe fatigue was a problem there to). I lost time just getting re-introduced to the system and lost a couple of drawings when trying to go back in the drawing to much. Next time use the scissors for disconnecting the connections and check if connection are connected properly else moving objects around really screws up your drawing (I knew this upfront, but somehow I didn’t do this in the real exam. Tried the undo to much). I kept count of the number of scenario’s on my note-board. Most of them were in the second part of the exam (well I mean after a started introduce a faster pace as already 2,5 hours were over and I wasn’t even past the half of the questions).

Most of the multiple questions have multiple answers where two or more answers are common. Several have resource subjects where the calculator comes in handy. The drag and drops are straightforward, but you will have to check if you dropped them in the right column. Sometimes the upper part of the column makes your answer go to the column above (same for the below). Stability is ok, I had to move computers when one of my scenario’s returned an error (what was probably due to my excessive use of shuffling around objects or hitting the undo button). But the time missed from the exam by moving is added when starting at the return point of the exam. Your open scenario (the one you are working on) is lost. All previous answers are saved. Unfortunately you miss some concentration.

Four hours weren’t enough for me. I tried to randomly tick some boxes on some remaining question when the countdown started. But I still had some ten questions open. After that the exam forcefully terminated. At somewhat past two in the afternoon it unfortunately did not show the congratulations, I missed about 20 points for that.

I was devastated the first half hour and tried some RR and walk it off around the venue. Exhausted the rest of the day. In the rest of the afternoon I followed some sessions and went to the VMworld party in the evening. There I did some drinks, food and some games. But I left early to catch some sleep.

Okay lesson learned: Don’t do this at a venue like VMworld. Pace should be up. Design tool simulation, repeat close to the exam. Check score report for subjects that need attention, and learn.

Update November 2013 – Passed

Today 15th of November I did my retake of the VCAP5-DCD exam. And this time I managed to finish all the questions and scenario’s in time. Furthermore this time the grade result was a Pass. I introduced a faster pace this time. Again I had six scenario’s, but this time the where almost all in the last part of the exam. But luckily time management was this time on my side.

I did a last repeat of VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide and VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition book in the last week before the exam (just to get the 5.5 out of my system). I also checked the exam simulation and looked if I was confident with the exam blueprint. I was feeling better prepared and settled nicely in the exam. Question where faster answered then the first time, I probably got used to the question style and the exam drag and drops/scenario’s from the first time (however this is still partly a blur in my memory). The only hesitation was at the ending of the exam, shall I push the end exam button? Fortunately for me it showed congratulations!

– So with this I finish my DCD experience. What is going to be next?

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