I acquired my VCP in 2007 and after about 5+ years of experience in the field I felt it was time to advance to the next level. Preparing for the VCAPs was a lot of fun. Training is available from VMware but not required in order to take either exam.
First thing I did was take a look at the Exam Topics outlined on the VMware Education website. I like creating checklists, spreadsheets and outlines and use them to stay organized. Each test Section and Objective from the blueprint was a checklist object in my spreadsheet. I would grade each section on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest (most prepared) and would make additional notes for myself as to where I needed to prepare more.
Next I created my own Documentation Library by downloading ALL of the VMware vSphere documentation in PDF format. I wanted to have this documentation readily available in case I wanted to read during periods of time where I did not have Internet access. Helps a lot when you travel.
Next I needed a system to build my lab. So I made the investment and purchased a simple bare metal system loaded up with memory and some SSD drives. Don’t worry, you do not have to build out an environment that would rival technology in data centers in order to prepare for this exam. My system was nothing more than a high-powered desktop. It only set me back a little over $1,000. Plus it later became a tax write off.
At the end of the day you just need enough horsepower to build out a lab environment for a few ESXi hosts, vCenter Server(s) and several other VMs.
My Lab System Hardware Specs:
- Single Intel Core i7-3770k (Quad Core) 3.5GHz
- 64 GB of RAM
- Seagate 1TB SAS drive (used to store my ISO software images and other data)
- Three (3) Kingston Digital SSDNow V300 SATA 3 drives (240 GB each)
- Gigabit network connection
I signed up on PluralSight.com. They have some great exam prep videos that really helped me out. There is a FREE TRIAL period. If you do not like it you can always opt out later. The how-to videos from Jason Nash (Double VCDX #49 – @TheJasonNash) and Hal Rottenberg (@halr9000) were great! I watched them many, many times. I highly recommend them. I would watch through them once and observe what they were doing and then go back and try and replicate what they were doing in my lab.
There are also countless “how to” videos on YouTube. Use them, use them…USE THEM! They are fantastic and you get to see how people accomplish the same task, each in their own way.
Lastly…DOWNLOAD THE BLUEPRINT! I cannot stress this enough. Everything that will be on the exam is on the blueprint. Do yourself a favor and read through to the point you nearly have it memorized.
The DCD exam is a much different animal than the DCA exam. If you already work for a VAR as an architect (or engineer) like I do then use that to your advantage. A lot of your daily work activities will mirror what is on this exam.
Just like the DCA exam…DOWNLOAD THE BLUEPRINT! Everything that is on the DCD exam is in the blue print. Each area has a list of “Tools” that include links to downloads. I downloaded every single item in that blueprint and created myself a DCD prep library.
I also purchased several books to help me with understanding vSphere Design. For example, I knew vSphere HA and DRS pretty well before this exam but I did more of a “deep-dive” to sharpen my HA and DRS skills even further. So I bought the book VMware vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deepdive by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman. Every VMware engineer or architect should have this in their arsenal.
The other book that I purchased was VMware vSphere Design by Forbes Guthrie, Scott Lowe and Kendrick Coleman. Amazing book and helped me not only prepare for the DCD exam but it sharpened my skills as an every day architect.
There were quite a few things I wanted to become better at from a design perspective. For example, I had to improve on my RAMPS (aka AMPRS) knowledge and its relation to Requirements, Constraints, Risks and Assumptions. If you are reading this and do not know what RAMPS stands for then you have some work cut out for you.
You also have the option of signing up for the training course available from VMware Education Services. I attended many courses with VMware over the years and they were all very valuable. I did not take the design course here because much of what I do on a daily basis was all the experience I needed. Real world experience will outweigh anything you learn in a classroom.
Last but not least remember this one important thing about learning and improving your skills. I can’t remember if I read this or heard it somewhere but it was from Duncan Epping and said something along the lines of….
“…if you do not know or understand something…go learn it!”
He is 100% right with that statement. If you do not know or fully understand something you next step is very simple. If you’re weak with security then go learn security. If you are a storage guy but want to enhance your networking skills then go learn networking. Plus understand this…you don’t have to become a CISSP or CCIE in order to advance your skills. Do whatever it takes to hone in on your weaknesses and strengthen them.
When doing this be honest with yourself. No one in this world knows and understands everything inside and out 100% of the time. Experts even have to go back and reference something time to time. Don’t be overconfident and cocky because it’ll burn you at some point. There are times when I about to do something that I’ve done about 100 times but I still go back and quickly look over something just to make sure. It will make you a stronger engineer and/or architect!