Well, I managed to pass the “VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Data Center Design” (VCAP5-DCD) exam yesterday! Hurray.
First – a shout out to the various blogs which helped with the studying. Unfortunately, I don’t have a central list thereof to post here, but if I get time to collate the links I will update this post. A very useful summary of the DCD content is contained here at http://professionalvmware.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/VCAP5DCD_StudyOutline.pdf.
In summary, this exam is all about general design processes with an obvious slant towards the VMware virtualisation platform. So you need to know the VMware “base” vSphere offerings along with detail of “general design principles”. This exam is probably not going to be easy for a day-to-day vSphere admin as this is not about testing technical knowledge of the product set. Having been in a variety of architecture roles for the last number of years I can attest to this exam being a fairly good representation of the real and thought processes necessary to go from capturing requirements through to implementation and subsequent support. If only we could follow these processes for all projects 🙂
So what to cover in preparation? Well, follow the blueprint! It may seem obvious, but for this exam you need to read all (well at least most of!!) the referenced documentation. I don’t think you need much (if any) hands-on lab time to prepare for this exam. Knowing various available options in the products can be learnt from the documentation. Saying that though, I did do some hands on exercises to reinforce the learning. Various books are incredibly useful too, including “VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide” by Paul McSharry, “VMware vSphere Design 2nd Ed” by Forbes Guthrie and Scott Lowe and “VMware vSphere 5 /5.1 Clustering Deep Dive” by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman. “Mastering VMware vSphere 5” or “Mastering vSphere 5.5” (v5.5, less so for the exam I suppose) by Scott Lowe et al are great books and definitely worth reading, although can be skipped for the DCD in my opinion if you don’t have the time.
I would point out that the exam is broadly focussed on vSphere 5.0 as opposed to 5.1/5.5. Don’t rule out any technologies “removed” or “deprecated” by 5.1 and 5.5!
The exam itself. Well 3h45 is a long time for an exam. It flew by for me and I managed to finish with 15 minutes to spare. Somehow I made up time after the half way point which was a pleasant surprise. The 100 questions, of which I had 6 of the “Visio-like” design drawing, all covered the content from the blueprint. I don’t think there was anything which rang alarm bells as “whoa, where did that come from” – just a couple of questions where I though “drat, didn’t cover that in enough detail”. Remember, you cannot go back in this exam – so if you get a subsequent question which shows you answered something incorrectly earlier try not to let it get to you – move forward and stay focussed.
The design drawing questions are fairly straight forward if you can understand what they are trying to test. That was the first problem I had – I struggled with a couple of them to understand what they were actually trying to get me to draw as I found some of the wording to be a little ambiguous. The rest were fairly straight forward. Put down a few building blocks and link them together. Ah, and there is the second problem, when you are putting things into other things (for example, say a VM into an ESXi host) sometimes they would not stick and as such I was not sure if the tool “registered” the placement. Anyway – I tried not to get bogged down by this and quickly moved forward regardless. Do practise with the simulation tool on the VMware web site.
The remaining requestions are split between choose 1, choose 2 or choose 3 multiple choice and match the left column to the right column type questions. The multiple choice questions are generally the easier ones, although you need to pay attention to the exact wording and match it to phrases used in the prep material when describing the various terms. Keep an eye on the definitions in the “VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide” and “VMware vSphere Design 2nd Ed” books. The match the left to the right would be easy if they were all 1:1 mappings, which they are unfortunately not. Some are 1:1 some are n:1 and others are 1:n. Tricky stuff! I consider myself pretty good at the requirements, risk, assumption and constraint stuff but some of the terms/phrases they used could be a little ambiguous – let’s hope they accept various answers. In these situations, I tried not to over think the wording and just read it at face value 🙂
So, all in all I think this is a pretty decent exam which does a good job of evaluating a candidate’s understanding of the topics at hand. I don’t think this is one of those exams where one can simply memorise a number of facts and pass.