Archive for category Certification

Another VMUG Scholarship- thanks Tintri!

Tintri came through again on a scholarship for the VMware ICM class- Install, Configure and Manage. This is important because you have to take this class to pass the VCP test, which can really change your career. In Dallas Fort-Worth, several of the local community colleges offer the class at a much cheaper rate than commercial training centers. Francis Dogbey is the latest VMUG member I found a scholarship, here is the gracious thank-you note he sent:

I have started the VCP training at Collin Community College last week. I am so excited about the opportunity and value that this class offers and I am very grateful and thankful to Tintri for sponsoring me for this course. I surely intend to take the VCAP right after and then hopefully proceed to VCDX. Throughout my career, this is by far the best training class I have ever been in, not even my 3 separate tracks of CCIE (Routing & Switching, Service Provider and Security) bootcamps offered such in depth training with job aids and grants being provided by Collin College to us the students. The networking among us in the class is also great as almost the entire class members are working professionals and each class someone’s boss is looking to employ a VCP offering job opportunity to the class.

My thanks goes to Tintri and to Brad my hero, who made this happen, empowering professionals like me to get our career on track and in the right direction.

If you can’t afford the class, or your boss won’t send you because he’s afraid you’ll leave once you pass the VCP, tell me about it at the DFW VMUG meeting.

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Awesome Home Lab Giveaway at the September 16th DFW VMUG Regional User Conference

I’m excited I got a chance to build an awesome home lab giveaway for one lucky winner at the UC coming up! I have to give a huge thanks out to all the partners that helped financially with this, including Justin Hakimi @justinhakimi at Tintri, John Lucio at Micron, and Tim Harless at Sigma Solutions.
Here is the details on the hardware and software. BTW, everything is on VMware’s compatibility list.

VMware licenses

A huge thanks to Corey Romero @vCommunityGuy at VMware for a license bundle. It includes everything to pass any test:
  • IT Business Management Suite 8
  • vCloud Suite 5
  • Horizon 6
  • vCenter Log Insight 2
  • vCenter Operations Manager 5 for View
  • vCenter Site Recovery Manager
  • vCenter Operations Suite 5.6
  • vCenter Server 5
  • Virtual SAN 5.5


As usual, Brad Farmer @bfarmdawg and Tee Glasgow @teeglasgow are helping out the DFW VMUG with a PernixData license.


My own home lab uses Cisco Meraki, and I just had to score a Meraki Lab Kit for the giveaway. It is so easy to use, I would be worried if I was a Network guy. It’s a complete Cloud-based networking kit- the config is blown down to the devices from Cisco’s cloud. It comes with:
  • Stateful firewall
  • Auto VPN™ self-configuring site-to-site VPN
  • Active Directory integration
  • Identity-based policies
  • Client VPN (IPsec)
  • 3G / 4G failover via USB modem
  • Layer 7 application visibility and traffic shaping
  • Application prioritization
  • It even has MDM! Manage your kids iPads!
MS220-8P (eight port) managed switch (trunking, yea!)
  • 8 port gigabit Ethernet
  • 2 × SFP for 1G uplink, non-shared
  • MS220-8P includes 124 W PoE / PoE+
  • Wireless access point
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n
SG 200-08
  • Consumer grade switching, for added ports.


2 x ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 Ultra Micro Tower Servers
The boxes have 16GB of RAM and I added SSDs for running PernixData. After adding a 4 port NIC card there is 7 ports, including an iLo port. This can be used in a variety of configurations. If the winner gets another Gen8 down the road, they could easily get vSAN rocking.


I owe a huge thanks to Chase over at Synology for making it possible to include a DiskStation DS1813+ 8 bay enclosure. Combining this with a PernixData FVP clustering will just scream.


Also included are patch cables, power strips, and bootable USB thumb drives on the board. I went ahead and installed ESXi already, mainly to make sure everything worked. It’ll be up to you to get the rest working!
One final thing. Whoever wins this owes me 4 blog posts about their experience settings this up at home.

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VMware Certified Professional Scholarships

It has suddenly got a lot easier to get your VMware Certified Professional! The Install, Configure and Manage class is the prerequisite for the VCP exam. I’ve always liked the fact that a real class with a lab was a prerequisite for the entry level VMware exam. It keeps the VCP meaningful and avoids the creation of a lot of paper tigers, like the MCSE went through back in the day.

However, there is a lot of deserving people that can’t get into the class, which often carries a $2000-3000 price tag. While there is some online options which mitigates travel expenses, a lot of employers won’t foot the bill for their people to attend the class. They’re afraid if their employees get the VCP, they will understand the value of their certification and leave. Sometimes you have to move out to move up, after all! These employers, often SLEDs (State & Local Government and Education), fail to see that it can be even worse if their staff doesn’t get training and they stay.

Now there is another option in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  The Collin County Community College now has official VMware training offered at a fraction of the cost of larger training facilities- under $700. The classes are not offered in one week-long class, but spread over Monday and Wednesday nights from 6pm to 10pm CST. The course will run for 5 weeks to cover the necessary 40 hours for the Install, Config, and Manage class. Check out the Collin County Community College’s website, and the Spring Semester Catalog.

As the DFW VMUG leader, its a pleasure to get the word out. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask the partner community to help me fund scholarships for deserving administrators and engineers. I’ll be setting up the criteria for those that can demonstrate financial need for this chance. Members of the DFW VMUG, particularly people that work for SLEDs, will be candidates. For you partners out there, I encourage you to contact me about helping the user community grow. The next class starts March 17th, so reach out to me via email dfwvmug (at) or on Twitter @bchristian21 if you want to help the next generation of VCPs get rolling.

Edit: I just found out that there is a Northlake class too!

There is a course where you can actually get college credit

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Running a VCDX study group and some lessons learned

I was told that no one had ever organized all of the VCDX candidates before, so I thought I would write down what we did- combined the VMUG style of sponsored meetings with a hard-core study group. At one point, we had 15 VMware architects crammed into a conference room. It was pretty awesome.

In preparation for defending the VCDX at PEX this year, I organized all the candidates I could find into a study group so that we could do mock defenses together. We ended up doing 3 weeks of mock defenses in the run-up to PEX. I also asked for a supportive vendor I met through running the DFW VMUG to help us get a conference room with a whiteboard. Steve Kaplan from Nutanix was gracious enough to exceed our expectations- we had a conference room at the W Hotel in downtown San Francisco the weekend before the defenses. We ended up having numerous VCDXs stopping by and helping us do mock defenses, design scenarios and troubleshooting scenarios. People like James Charter (@davesrant), Tim Antonowicz (@timantz) and Mark Gabryjelski (@markgabbs) were mainstays, spending a lot of time giving constructive feedback over the weekend.

I ended up gathering 10 of the candidates for practice defenses, the majority of which passed. Each and every one of them have e-mailed me and thanked me for running the mock defenses, and they have consistently attributed their success to the numerous mock defenses we did.

Unfortunately I didn’t pass this time. I’m still waiting for my feedback letter, but I can tell you I won’t do a View design for DCV again, thats for sure. The actual VCDX-DT path just opened last Monday, so I will pursue that track now.

Here is some tips for running a VCDX study group:

  • Keep a semicolon separated list of everyone’s e-mail address. This can be quickly pasted into Webex.
  • Make everyone create a Dropbox link to their design. IMPORTANT– your design is not super secret IP that you need to hide. Obfuscate names if you need to, but the more people who see your design, the better your chance of success. Share the slidedecks too, it helps everyone if you do.
  • Make sure you keep time zones straight. Not everyone deals with APAC, NORAM and EMEA time zones, so take the time to clarify.
  • Keep an e-mail thread with the Dropbox links and e-mail addresses called “Consolidated Design List”. Use this to forward to new people and the VCDXs that will drop in and help. Consider putting the time zone next to each person’s name.
  • Twitter is your friend. Tweet often about what you are doing. We got VCDXs dropping in out of the blue all the time.
  • The amount of time doing mocks correlates directly to passing. Everyone who was involved for three weeks passed, except me.
  • Vendors have no problem helping if need a conference room. Nutanix is a huge supporter of the VCDX program, for instance.
  • Make everyone get a twitter account. Even if you don’t use it now, you will if you have the VCDX. All of the guys that wouldn’t get a twitter account got one once they passed. Save time and get it now.
  • Run, don’t walk to and start making flashcards for yourself. The next time I try the VCDX, I am going to make my design, my slide deck and my quizlet flash cards together.

I will be defending again at Cambridge or VMworld, so drop me a line at @bchristian21 if you are going for it. Editor– James Bowling (@vsential), fellow Texan and Houston VMUG Leader, is circulating a sign-in form for a study group on twitter, please look at the #VCDX hashtag for it. He just volunteered to all the hard work of running the next study group- sucker!

Two of the guys who passed, Derek and Sean, sent in some thoughts on passing the VCDX.

From VCDX #125 Derek Seaman (

In no particular order:

  • Definitely need to form study groups early on, at least ~8 weeks prior to package submission. Peer feedback is huge.
  • At least 4 weeks prior to submission find multiple VCDXs to get feedback on your near complete architecture guide. VCDXs are quite busy, so need to get on their plate early to increase  the chance of feedback.
  • Don’t just rely on one or two VCDXs for feedback. Everyone has their own take, and depth of feedback. Aim for at least 3-4 in-depth reviews. This takes time so DO NOT wait to the last minute.
  • Immediately upon the invitation to defend, start working on your presentation slide deck. It is very important, and doing comprehensive backup slides takes a lot of time. DO NOT wait until the last minute.
  • At least 3 weeks prior to defense date, start doing mocks. Participating in mocking others is very valuable, as well as being mocked yourself. Don’t just mock with C level or management types. Find guys that will destroy you on a technical level.
  • Do not just rely on WebEx mocks. Try and do them in person as well, so you get a more realistic feel.
  • Do not just mock the design defense. Although that seems to have the most weight, I know I didn’t do as well in the customer design and troubleshooting, since we didn’t practice those much.
  • Mocking in person the weekend prior in the sponsored room was a HUGE benefit. Cannot understate the benefit of cramming everyone in the room, and having the VCDX ‘coaches’ in there.
  • By week 3 of the mocks you may want to shoot yourself. Hang in there….it will pay huge dividends.

From VCDX #130 Sean Howard

As far as my personal prep beyond the nightly mock ring, I did the following:

  • Made almost 500 flash cards in Quizlet and had my wife ask me them
  • Wrote out a justification and an alternative for every single decision in my design (like 100 or so)
  • Listened to all of the VCDX brownbag sessions, and VMworld 2013 sessions.   Every night just hop on the elliptical or go for a walk and listen to one.
  • Same thing for general youtube videos / podcasts from existing VCDXs (Mostafa has a good one he did with Nutanix where he expounds on a lot of stuff in his book)
  • Spent the week of PEX basically doing nothing but prepping from 9am-9pm

The listening to videos thing was probably the most helpful because over the course of 4 months I was just slowly absorbing a lot of stuff rather than trying to cram it all in.  It also requires very little discipline compared to trying to read books.

I also wish I had practiced the design scenario more.  That’s tough to do I know, but TBH I blew it off until the last week and I just got lucky I think.


My VCAP-DCA 5 Horror Story

So after an excruciating 3 week wait, I got the results of my VCAP-DCA exam. I was positive I had failed because I accidentally ended the test 30 minutes early!

After reading Sean Crookston and others, I used the strategy of quickly clicking through the questions in the exam and writing the tasks down, carefully noting if the task was a build task or an admin task, and tackling the build tasks first. The test was tough, but do-able.

When I got to the 30 minute mark, I decided to click through the 5 tasks or so I had left and pick the easiest. When I clicked on the last question, I accidentally clicked “finished”! There was no “Are you sure?”, just boom, done.

I walked out sure I had failed.

Three weeks of gnawing self-doubt later and plans on when to re-take the test ($400 man!), I got my notification that I passed. Whew. The moral of the story is- don’t be an over-clicker!

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New VMware Class for SMBs

See New Live, Online Training Helps SMBs Running VMware Overcome Limited Time and Budget for Training for details. They left out the most important thing- does this qualify you to take the VCP exam?

Its the younger administrators in SMBs that need the VCP more than anyone else. I hope they are making it easier for people to qualify- please keep the test hard though!

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Passed the VCP-DT

I’ve done a ton of VMware View deployments, so I went ahead and got the VMware Certified Professional 5- Desktop. I wasn’t that difficult of an exam if you have experience with the product. The only part that was hard is the questions about sub-optimal setups- like doing full clone desktops. I hate full-clone desktops and always go linked-clone if I can.


I plan on taking the VCAP5-DT as soon as it comes out. Since I do a lot of PowerShell and real world deployments of View it makes since. my secret plan is to get the VCDX and be one of the first VCDX Desktop guys.

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Passed the VCAP-DCD

I passed the VCAP-DCD exam on Tuesday! That test was beating- 4 hours is a long time for an exam. The test is covered by an NDA, so I can’t go into much detail about it, but if you are planning on taking it, be sure to check out the APAC vBrownbag sessions.

Here is the perm-link for resources on passing it.

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