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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
A couple of weeks ago I took and passed both my VMware Enterprise Administrator and Design exams, so I thought I would post up my thoughts.
Firstly, I was totally unprepared for the Enterprise Admin exam (VCE310) and this was reflected in my score. A bit of a scheduling SNAFU on my part meant that I found I had just 1hr5min to get to the testing centre – and I was at least 1hr away on a good day.
Because there was limited availability for the exam and I had a pretty busy work schedule I had to book a couple of months in advance and for whatever reason it went into my calendar as being on 18th June, when in fact it was actually booked for 18th May. I probably entered it on my BlackBerry so guess I fat-fingered it, memories of specific dates then disappeared into the great brain cloud so I was working to my calendar which is usually de-facto when it comes to my schedule, or not in this case! – A great argument for the PearsonVue site to send a calendar entry attachment like so many other event scheduling sites.
So, it was purely by chance that whilst I was looking up reference material at what I thought was a month ahead of the exam that I came across the booking email – and noticed that it was booked for today!
It was too late to re-arrange/book the exam (I tried) but I figured that being as I had paid for it, I may as well have a go even if I was expecting to fail – I have several years experience of tinkering and designing with VI3 although I thought my CLI skills would let me down as the exam curriculum seemed to focus heavily on that.
I also thought there would be a similar set of config minimum/maximum questions like there are for the VCP track – I historically have a bit of a problem with these as I’m not great at memorising this sort of information – and to be honest they often seem to change between updates so I just look them up as and when I have to, rather than learn them parrot fashion.
I had just 1hr5 min to dash to the test! and dash I did indeed! luckily London’s public transport was kind to me that day.
1st thing to notice was that the exams were held in a PearsonVue Professional testing centre, which are more advanced than the usual testing facilities for previous Microsoft and VMware exams – they also take signatures and photos for authentication and ID verification, 2 forms of photo ID etc.
Whilst I can’t disclose contents or details of the exam due to the understandable NDA I can say that it’s a mix of formal multi-choice questions (similar to the VCP) and a live-lab where you get VI client access to a real VI3 environment.
In the lab portion you are given a number of scenarios to configure or problems to resolve, there were some screen glitches/oddities – I assume because it’s being hosted remotely but you have access to everything in the UI and if you can’t remember the exact syntax you can find your way to it just as you would in the real-world.
You don’t get a score at the end as the lab and questions need to be scored offline – I suspect this is because they can record what you do within a session – so if you don’t complete one of the lab scenarios properly or missed a step they can review what you did, or at least the steps you took to figure out how to do something, it doesn’t say it specifically but I guess if you found the solution in the online help it would decrease your score :).
It was a rather painful 10-12 business days to get the result via email – but I did pass, not by a huge margin, but considering how unprepared I was I was pretty pleased – I think this owes a lot to the lab portion, I don’t know what ratio of marks are allocated to the lab, but I’d like to think my hands-on skills made up for any questions I didn’t answer correctly on the day due to my unpreparedness.
As soon as you get the VCE310 results you have to wait a further couple of days until you are able to register for the VCD310 design exam – you do this online with PearsonVue, rather than via a VMware certification agent like I did for the VCE310 exam, there must be a background process to update the PerasonVue profile as it took about 5 days before I could see the VCD310 exam as available for scheduling.
Whilst I was in Chicago last week I was cleared to take the VCD310 exam and I had a free morning before I got my flight back to the UK, so I booked an 8am slot, my job mainly involves architecting solutions, rather than hands-on/operations these days so I felt I was well prepared for the test.
Again, it was at a PearsonVue professional testing centre, if you are going to do these exams I would suggest getting there earlier than a normal testing centre as in my experience there are long queues to get registered and authenticated for early morning slots.
These centres do testing for all kinds of industries, for example at the US testing centre I attended for my VCD310 exam there were about 20 people in front of me to take emergency medicine / paramedic type certifications, and they had to be fingerprinted etc. so it’s not just geeks queuing up for their MCPs and CCNAs. As a side-note I feel for the non-IT test takers, they had to write full-on essays within their tests – which is why all participants in the room are given ear-plugs or noise cancelling headphones at that particular centre.
Again, I can’t disclose specific content but the VCD310 exam was split into two sections
the 1st section was a pretty straightforward multi-choice questions, with more of a design focus, capacities, HA, best solution for problem X within a particular constraint, important thing is to read the question and understand what is being asked, maybe not everything provided is relevant.
Whilst the questions required more than average brain-power to answer they were fairly straightforward and I finished within time.
The 2nd section was hard, not due to what is being asked, but because of the short amount of time allocated to read a customer requirement and produce a diagram to outline a solution that will meet the customer requirements.
It took me almost 50% of the time allotted to read the requirement and note down anything I thought was relevant but getting it drawn with the frankly rather annoying diagramming tool was very difficult and I ran out of time before I had completed the solution.
I liked that this section was very much real-world like (if only all customers could express their requirements so clearly! :)), but the tool took a bit of getting used to, the low screen-resolution also meant I spent a lot of time scrolling up and down the requirement doc and switching between that, my notes and the diagram that I was building.
With that I finished, leaving a few comments with the above remarks.
Unlike the VCE310 exam you get an instant result, and I’m pleased to say I passed this one too, but I suspect I did well on the questions but dropped a lot of marks on the 2nd part because I didn’t complete the diagram in time.
People think I’m weird, but I do quite enjoy taking these tests, and these two were no exception, a lot of it is about understanding the question and what the intended goals are, they are not cheap – from memory about £250-£300 GBP, compared to typical MS/VCP exams which are about £100 GBP.
So, that’s the exam requirement out of the way for VCDX3 so I am working on my application form with the hope of doing the defence sometime soon.
Just after I booked my VCE310 exam the information on the newer VCAP/VCDX4 track was released.
by this point I had already booked VCE310 and the availability of the new vSphere Enterprise Admin & Design exams were a way off and didn’t fit with my with my goal to complete this in Q3/4 2010, so based on this diagram from this page my plan is to do my VCDX3 certification then upgrade this to VCDX4 with the VCAP4-DCD exam, I already have my VCP4 exam so this is the quickest route for me and would result in gaining both VCDX 3 & 4 certification without having to do two defences, or wait until 2011 to get it done.
If you are planning to go down this track, it’s worthwhile bearing in mind that you need to have the VCE310, VCD310 exams completed before you can submit your application, which must then be accepted before you can be scheduled for your defence session, and the VXDX application looks to be a pretty onerous document.
Also worth noting that it seems that for the newer VCDX4 track they have removed the requirement to pass the Enterprise Admin exam before you can take the design exam as it was with the VCDX3 track I have been following – so that should help speed up the process for some people as you can do them in a different order.