Shorts: discount codes for VMware certifications

28 08 2013

I just received word that because of VMworld, there are some discount codes for the VCP and VCAP certifications. To use the discount, you need to register for the exam at the Pearson VUE website. Don’t forget that the VCAP certifications requires you to register for the exam on the VMware website before scheduling the test on the Pearson VUE website. Just click this link here, go to the certification you want to take, and click the “Register for the exam” button at the top.

Once you receive the clearance, there will be an option at the top of the Pearson Website (where you input your payment details), where you can apply the discount code.

The discount code “VWSF50” will work for the following exams:

  • VCP-DT
  • VCP-Cloud
  • VMware IAAS
  • VMware View

The discount code “VWSFADV50” will work for the following exams:


To be eligible for the discount, your test must be scheduled by August 29th 2013, and taken by October 31st 2013.

Good luck on the tests if you decide to schedule one! 🙂

vSphere Design: CARR – How do you know if you have them correct?

10 12 2012

Image linked from’m a techie. I like technology, and ask me to solve a problem that involves something with a computer, and usually I’ll get it solved. My boss seems to know that, and it’s one of the reasons why I get pulled in to projects that require hands-on.

I like to talk about technology. It’s one of the reasons that I enjoy being in my current pre-sales role so much. I enjoy taking a technology, trying to simplify what it does, and then talking to a customer to see if a technology can add value in their setup, or solve one or more specific problems they might be having.

The one doesn’t work without the other for me. I need stick time with something before I’m really able to effectively communicate about it. I’m not the kind of guy to go over a PowerPoint presentation and then deduce how a product works in real life. I can do that up to a certain degree, but I won’t feel really confident without having some form of hands-on.

In comes the design part

In one of my previous posts, I asked how you learn to speak design. There are design methodologies that can help you uncover goals, and it will be up to you to identify the CARR, or written out:

  • Constraints
  • Assumptions
  • Risks
  • Requirements

And this is where the hard part is for me. I don’t deal with this terminology, in a design environment, on a day-to-day basis. And it makes it hard to actually categorize these in a correct fashion, without a lot of practice.

There is a good document on the VMware Community page that goes in to detail on “Functional versus Non-functional” requirements. The document states the following:

Functional requirements specify specific behavior or functions, for example:
“Display the heart rate, blood pressure and temperature of a patient connected to the patient monitor.”


Non-functional requirements specify all the remaining requirements not covered by the functional requirements. They specify criteria that judge the operation of a system, rather than specific behaviors, for example: “Display of the patient’s vital signs must respond to a change in the patient’s status within 2 seconds.”

Which makes it relatively simple. Those are simple examples, and when you keep in mind that a non-functional requirement usually is a design constraint, you should be all set to identify constraints and requirements, right?

Maybe not so much?

Along comes something in a different form, and then the over-thinking starts:

  • “You must re-use existing server hardware”.
  • That’s great. I “must” do something, so it’s a requirement, right? But does this change the way that “my heart rate is displayed”? Well, since I’m a techie, depending on the server model, this might influence the way it’s displayed. Do I need to change my design because I’m re-using the hardware? Well, you may need to. But normally your design shouldn’t depend on the hardware you are re-using. But what if it’s not allowing me to create a cluster, or run certain workloads, or is so old that it won’t allow me to use certain features?

And the rambling goes on, and on, and on.. At least, I think this is where a lot of folks can go wrong. My gut feeling is that we perhaps over-think what is being said/asked. If we know nothing about the environment at all, but the customer tells us that we need to re-use the hardware that is already in place, then that is a?

  • Requirement? We are after all required to re-use the hardware?
  • Constraint? We are constrained from bringing in any other hardware?

What would be your take on this? And what do you use to actually differentiate and remember what is what?

How do I get to be “that good”?

26 10 2012

This is a post that I’ve been struggling with for quite some time now. Did you ever get that feeling, seeing folks around you achieve things that you envisioned for yourself? People seeming to reach a certain level of knowledge, and you strive yourself to get to that level? Asking yourself the question, how can I reach their level, how do I get to be “that good”?

I’ve joined EMC just over 2 years ago in my current role as a vSpecialist. When I actually joined the team, I always felt like I was the dumbest guy on the team. Since then, I’ve learned so much about all kinds of topic, and I think I achieved a pretty decent level of knowledge surrounding virtualization and a lot of the encompassing technologies. I’ve been lucky enough to get the vExpert title awarded twice, and I was able to work on my certifications (VCP, VCAP, EMC Cloud Architect, EMC IT-as-a-Service Expert).

Still, you see folks around you working on stuff, and the more you learn, the more you learn about what you don’t know. As for myself, I still need to work on my networking knowledge. I realize more and more that it needs brushing up. The role of vSpecialist inside of the company is evolving, and while we still support the basic virtualization stack, we are now starting to focus more on what we do, now that a lot of folks are starting to realize that the hypervisor itself isn’t that “thrilling” anymore. Most hypervisors will perform their basic function at a good level. That means, that we need to start looking at what we can do with the technologies that build upon the features and functions that were enabled by using a hypervisor.

And then, there is the part about where you would like to go as an individual. I don’t perform designs on a daily basis for my work. I’ve been involved in roughly 4 very large design projects in my time as a vSpecialist, but that doesn’t qualify me as a landscape designer or architect. I still have a personal goal though, to attain the VCDX certification.

Why? Yeah, the title sounds nice and all. But I feel like it’s an important skillset to have. And it’s a confirmation from a select group of peers that you have attained a certain level. You understand how things interconnect, are able to obtain a holistic view. It shows that, given/taken the time needed, you are able to understand the customer requirements, map those to a blueprint that will actually help the customer in achieving a set goal.

For me the challenge is the way I learn (I absolutely need hands to make stuff stick in my head and make the logical link), and finding the time to actually learn what I both need and what I want to learn.

In the end, I guess that we get to be “that good”, by looking at examples of people who we see as being “that good”, trying to learn from them in ways that help us enable ourselves. We spend the time because we don’t have any other choice. I want to learn, it’s in my DNA. The biggest problem in actually achieving the next level is more of a mental challenge as I see it, since that next level is a moving target. Usually we reach that next level without even knowing, just by being dedicated and motivated.

I know this isn’t a real technical post, and I’m not even 100% sure this post is of use to anyone besides myself, but it’s something that I needed to write down to clear my own head. So here goes, off to the next level, and maybe one day I’ll actually be that good. And I promise, the next post will be more technical in nature again. And if you should have any comments, I’m looking forward to reading them. 🙂

VCAP5-DCA – My test experience

30 08 2012

I took the VCAP5-DCA this morning, and let me start off with one thing that is key to this exam: time management!

On July 19th, VMware released the VCAP5-DCA exam. Unlike the VCAP5-DCD, this is an exam that focuses on hands-on, solving configuration problems and setting up new configurations. You do this on actual live systems, and you have the normal vCenter help available as well as PDF versions of the help files.

What does the exam environment look like?

Basically, you open up an RDP session on a 1280 x 1024 screen. Inside of this screen, you will find a small bar with shortcuts to the items you need (think RDP, vCenter Client). Easy enough to get started with, but since you don’t have a window manager that allows you to switch between programs, it can be hard to keep track of what window you are in. Also, when switching between windows, your window focus is usually off, so when you start typing nothing is showing up. You always have the option to check what the usernames and passwords are, although the password is the same for all accounts. Save some time by not maximising the windows, but create a custom size. That way you can keep track of open windows.

Is it a good exam?

Ehm… Yes, it is… Most of the time. I had one glitch during my exam where a required preconfigured item would not work. The tasks in the exam actually tell you that you need to have certain things configured because further parts of the exam will build up on these things. For me, one of those preconfigured items didn’t work, and there isn’t really a way to have this fixed during the exam. That can be quite frustrating, plus it takes up valuable time to actually troubleshoot.

Which brings me to my next point. I mentioned it before, but time management is key. You’ll be in the exam room for 4 hours for non-native English speakers and 3.5 for native English speakers, and that is a lot of time, but with 26 tasks, that means roughly 8 to 9 minutes per task. One thing that might help you, is to use the notepad that you get when you go in to the room. Note down the numbers 1 through 26, and create a note when you finish a task or if something is still open. Don’t wait for a task to finish, but move on to the next. Unfortunately, you can’t mark the question to review at the end, so having a note which questions you need to re-visit is quite helpful.

In my case? I actually did run out of time. I wasn’t able to complete 3 tasks. I was fairly confident going in to the exam, and I came out feeling pretty drained. It’s a good exam in the sense that it covers things that any advanced admin can run in to, and some that an admin will run in to. Common things like the stopping and starting of services, or administration of your storage devices might be an every day task, PowerCLI might be less common. Some folks will use Auto Deploy, and some might have other infrastructures in place to accommodate things like installations.

So what do I study?

Brush up on what you don’t know that well. The exam isn’t unbeatable, but it will give you a run for your money. Try to focus on scenarios that make sense to you, and that you would expect as an advanced admin. Brush up on a bit of PowerCLI if you haven’t before. Work with storage if you can (download one of the many virtual storage appliances out there and toy with it), and brush up on your troubleshooting skills. If you have a co-worker, have him mix up some settings in a lab/test environment and try to resolve the issues.

Also, get hands-on time! Even if someone were to give you a list of all the required tasks, you will need to know your way around. There is only one advantage here, and that is getting your hands dirty. In my case, the exam environment was pretty snappy, but anything that involved scrolling was just horribly slow. Be prepared to work in an environment that you don’t know that well. And one more tip for the people working with a non-US keyboard: Learn to use a US keyboard layout. In my case, normally you would expect a German layout on the keyboard. Well, the actual physical keyboard was a UK layout, and the keyboard in my RDP session was a US version. I can touch-type on a US keyboard, which helped, but not everyone will be so lucky.

Any other tips?

Yep, also check out some of the other online resources and experiences, for example this post by Ed Grigson, or this post by Patrick Kramer. Also, check out this study guide on, or these study resources from TheSaffaGeek.

And did you pass?

I don’t know yet. I will get my results “in approximately 15 business days”, so until that time I’ll just have to wait it out. But, pass or fail, I learned a couple of my weak spots (which I thought weren’t that weak when I started the test), and even if I should have failed, I learned additional things by studying, so the time wasn’t wasted. Either way, I’ll update this post once the result comes in. 🙂

Update – September 28th:
Got a mail during the night confirming I passed. 🙂

How about them cloud architects?

3 04 2011

I was on EMC training last week. To be more specific, I was on “Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure” training, and took the “E20-018 – Virtualized Infrastructure Specialist for Cloud Architects” afterwards.

First off, I passed the exam, which I’m happy about. Second, I’m still not sure how happy I am about the training and the exam itself.

The training

When it comes to the training itself, we are talking about a week long, instructor led training. It covers several aspects of what would or could be considered elements of a virtualized data center, as well as cloud technologies.

You will start off with an overview of some of the definitions that make up cloud computing. A reference there is the definition of cloud, as it is defined by NIST. There is a reference the three service models of cloud computing, as well as the phases that you usually see when building a cloud infrastructure and the five key characteristics of a cloud delivery model.

You will also get an overview of the technologies that can be used to deliver a cloud like infrastructure. That includes stuff like different synchronization models, hypervisor types, link speeds (think of dark fibre as an example) and technologies used within a virtualized environment that range from a live migration, to the ability to offer services and service catalogs in a self service environment.

You also take a stab at things like governance, risk and compliance. You will get an idea of the things you can run in to when you create or even work with such an environment. You will references to things like the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, and business driven frameworks and best practices like ITIL.

Mix that up with some labs that focus on giving you food for thought when designing a cloud like infrastructure (there is no hands on in the labs, just paper and teamwork), and it sounds like you have a pretty decent training.

Or does it?

I have two main problems with the course itself. For one, I think that it’s based too much on the standards and concerns out of the US. I think that people absolutely need to be aware of things like the Sarbanes–Oxley act, but I also feel that models and concerns should be highlighted for companies that are not bound by this act. Or at least tell these people why the rationale for these acts might be useful to implement, besides the “you legally have to” way of explaining.

Don’t get me wrong, you need to consider these kinds of things, especially in a cloud like environment where you more quickly are able to cross global and legal boundaries, but then also focus on things that you might encounter outside of the United States.

The second concern is much harder to address, since one might get the feeling that you are not being taught anything new. And I think this is the much bigger issue. In a sense, anyone who has been working on the “* as a Service” environments will not really encounter anything new, and they might feel that EMC is just stating the obvious in their course. Techies that attend the training will probably leave with a feeling of “not enough examples and hands on, too much fluffy stuff”.

I think that they are partially right. For me it was a large part of what I have already encountered more than once. On the other hand, it’s good to see that people are working on standards, and the course itself brings together a lot of the things that you encounter, but might not knowingly consider. It’s “food for thought” if you will. And as with all such classes, you get a chance to exchange ideas and perspectives with your classmates, and that might be the most valuable thing about this class, especially with a topic that is harder to grasp (from an actual technology used/where do i start standpoint).

The exam

Read carefully! The biggest piece of advice I can give you, since sometimes the wording of the questions is just plain odd. Also, make sure you have an idea of the technology used in data centers, and virtualization across different tiers. Examples of the last one could be things like storage and network virtualization.

Spend some time on getting to know what governance, risk and compliance is all about. Have some sort of insight of what are the driving factors behind GRC.

The certification can be achieved, even without the training, but I feel the way some questions are asked is perhaps the biggest issue you can face in passing the exam if you already have some experience in designing or working in cloud like environments.

And let me wish you some good luck if you attempt to take he certification! One important note is that the EMC E20-001 is a mandatory prerequisite before attempting the certification, so make sure that you have that one if you want to be an EMC certified cloud architect.

Life as a vSpecialist

6 03 2011

This blog has been lacking updates.

There’s no beating about the bush on that fact. And it’s not because there aren’t any cool new things out there. I have roughly 20 posts in draft, and a lot of cool things happened and have been released in the meantime. Examples would be stuff like the new VNX and VNXe from EMC. I have a take on the NetApp FlexPod, and there were a lot of things that I learned or had to (re)consider after talking to customers, and it’s all good stuff.

And still you haven’t seen any updates here. But why?

Well, truth of the matter is that my new job is great! It’s actually so great that I am constantly busy and that has changed my ability to finish my drafts and/or rough blog posts.

To give you an idea, let me give you an overview of the week. It started having conference calls with colleagues to finish a Vblock draft configuration for a large service provider proof of concept. The afternoon was filled with the preparation for a workshop I gave on EMC’s IONIX Unified Infrastructure Manager, which is basically a management and orchestration tool for the Vblock.

Think of the UIM as a tool that allows you to predefine flexible hardware configurations, and then roll out those configurations. For example, roll out between 1- 4 blades and 20 – 400 GB storage of a certain self defined grade, like a large class that has the fastest blades and only SSD storage. Your admin just needs to decide how many blades he wants to deploy and how much storage he needs. he clicks on the button, and 45 minutes later he has those blades up and running with the amount of storage he selected and a fresh ESX 4 installed without having to run to a storage admin or a network admin, perhaps even multiple times.

So, the day after that I was at a large partner, actually giving that workshop. That went so smooth that we even had a change to finish earlier, and spend time on some different topics that the participants were interested in.

The next two days was spent in a workshop for a large service provider that wants to create a private cloud offering. I had the pleasure to work together in a team of roughly 35 people, including Cisco, VMware, EMC, VCE and customer representatives that were all top at what they do. I was lucky enough to work on a high level architecture for the vSphere and vCloud Director part of it, together with Richard Damoser. This went so well that the first rough draft still needs to be written down in a templatized form, but was able to set a basis for a design and it’s interfaces. Thanks once more for your amazing work Richard!

That being done, I got in my car and drove down to the Cebit, the worlds largest IT convention, to help support my colleagues on booth duty.

Now, add in some conference calls, emails, colleagues calling for support plus the regular stuff that needs to get done, and you have a working week that goes well beyond the regular 40 hours. The week before I even got an email asking me if I could “briefly” fly down to South Africa, which unfortunately wasn’t possible due to my full calendar. This is not a complaint, since I’m having an absolute blast, but it means that stuff like blogging just gets a lower priority.

But, dear readers, I’ll try to improve!

And for now I want to thank you for continuing to read, and I hope that the insight to a weeks worth of work was somewhat interesting. Oh, and while I’m at it, I need to apologize to Steve Chambers for not sending out the presentation he requested. I was just swamped, sorry for that Steve!

The thing about certifications and flowers

2 12 2009


A discussion on Twitter got me thinking about certifications.

The discussion itself wasn’t that new, but this was at least the second time I’ve seen the subject pop up, and more interestingly it were the same people talking about the same subject.

Things kicked off with a tweet from StorageMonkeys asking the following:

“Just curious… why would anyone get a storage certification when employers really don’t care about them?”

storagebod and CXI responded and gave various opinions on the pro and contra of being certified.

This whole discussion probably boils down to two main questions, namely:

  • Will a certification add value for me?
  • Is a certification a proof or acknowledgment of my capabilities?
  • Now, to answer those questions, we need to put some things in perspective. I managed to become a certified ISO 9001:2000 lead auditor some years back. For those who are not familiar with this standard, it’s about quality management.

    Now, let’s use the example of a shipping and forwarding company that transports fresh flowers from Russia to China by truck. Said company is looking to get an ISO 9001:2000 certification.
    That’s not that big of a problem.

    So, let’s take it one step further and say that this company actually ships these flowers in three months in a heated truck. The flowers probably won’t survive the trip you say. But can they still get or keep their certification?

    Yep, no problem at all. As long as they meet the requirements described in the standard and keep to their quality management procedures they will have no problem getting certified. It doesn’t mean that business will be booming, or that they deliver a quality product or service. It just says that they keep certain standards for the way they work, and that they try to improve on those defined standards.

    It’s the same thing for certifications in general, or for IT certifications that were discussed in the start of this blog post. So, to come back to my two basic questions:

    Will a certification add value for me?

    Let’s not be shy here. It can! But your mileage will vary.
    For one, your certifications mainly show that you are able to learn the answer to some questions, and you are smart enough to click on some buttons in a test. Some test will actually need you to have had some hands on. For example the Microsoft tests changed a lot from the NT4 age to the Windows 2000 or Windows 2003 era. The new tests require a lot more hands on experience, and the chances that you are able to pass the test by just studying the correct answers has decreased quite a bit.

    But that does not mean that all certifications will require hands on. There are plenty of institutes out there that will have you take a test, and they will only show you that you are able to memorize facts. And usually memorizing facts only works for a while. Talk about the same things again in three months and most of it, if not even all of it, will be long gone.

    Then there’s the fact that most certifications will only be valid for a certain amount of time. Technology evolves and things change. It’s good that way, but a certification doesn’t always have an expiration date and a certification will not show if people actually updated their knowledge to reflect those changes. Stuff you learned five years back might not be what you need to know on that topic now, which brings me to the other point:

    Is a certification a proof or acknowledgment of my capabilities?

    No way! Yes of course! Pick one…

    There are a lot of people who will have the knowledge required for a job, that haven’t even seen a test center on the inside once in their life. These guys and galls are just as able as the certified person. And the same can be said the other way around, where I would not even let a certified person near my systems because their certification isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

    This situation is largely based on the institute or company that actually created the curriculum and the test, and is largely dependent on the acceptance of the certification. The MCP program that Microsoft has is well-recognized and will most likely increase your market value when applying for a job. People take one look and recognize the program. And even if it won’t upgrade your value, it can help you get picked out of a bunch of applications since the people over at Human Resources usually scan for these type of things.

    Something like a Cisco CCIE certification is hard! It’s probably one of the toughest certifications out there and can add quite a lot of value to your resumĂ©. But it will also help that Cisco is well-known and a very commonly used IT supplier.

    As far as I know there is no such thing as for example a 3PAR certification. And if one were to be created now, it probably won’t increase your value one bit, except for the possibility of gaining new knowledge.

    So what’s it all about?

    Well, that one is pretty easy to answer.

    For one, you will always learn new stuff when aiming for a certification. Independent from the fact if you perhaps want to know which questions you answered wrong during your test. Or perhaps even trying to find out why someone wants you to give incorrect answers (based on your experience) in a test. Or by learning because you want to prepare for a certification.

    Secondly, you will always see that you increase your value. Be it because you have more knowledge than before, even when you should flunk a test, or be it because they just might pick up your resumé when they look at certifications.

    I don’t think that anybody out there will know how much a certification is worth, and that won’t change. It’s something dynamic and will usually only give you a certain amount of recognition among those peers who have the same accreditation. But you will benefit from getting certified either way.

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