On Wednesday 14th May (NZST) I sat the VMware Advanced Professional – Cloud Infrastructure Administration (VCAP-CIA) exam. After receiving my results on Saturday 17th, only 3 days after sitting the exam, I was very relieved to have passed. I would like to thank VMware and the hard work by people including Joshua Andrews and the certification team for getting the results through so fast. This is a massive improvement over previous advanced live lab exams. I had already passed VCAP-CID during the exam beta process, so for me this puts me one step closer to VCDX-Cloud, which is my goal. This article will cover my exam experience and tips and recommendations for others that wish to attempt the exam.
To give you some background, I have architected about half a dozen cloud environments prior to sitting VCAP-CID and VCAP-CIA. Half were enterprise clouds and half were public clouds based on VMware vCloud Director or VMware vSphere. So I had quite a bit of experience with the solution stack that makes up a VMware Cloud environment, in addition to my VCDX Datacenter Virtualization. But I still try to approach any exam with the same methodology.
Exam Prep Method
My usual exam prep method is to review the exam blueprint and do an analysis of where I’m strong and where I need to study further to increase my knowledge. This exam was no different. There are quite a lot of areas to cover as there are a lot of technologies that are included in VMware’s cloud stack and with VMware vCloud Director. I found some additional areas to study and I made sure I reviewed the documentation, reviewed the vCloud Architecture Toolkit (vCAT), and set up a lab environment (using virtual ESXi hosts) to test things and get hands on. It’s important to be familiar with the command line inside your vCD Cells just as it is knowing how to navigate the GUI’s of the various tools. So make sure you’re prepared. Know the VCD cells intimately, the logs, the config files, the config tools, troubleshooting. Know vApps, Networking, configuration, resources and all the underlying infrastructure like the back of your hand. You will have to fix some broken things and you don’t have much time. vCD lends itself to this type of exam, and they cover the blueprint areas well. When it comes to your lab environment make sure you have all of the vCD stack components, including Chargeback, vCNS with VXLAN, vCD etc.
My First Attempt
This is a tale of how not to do it. I arrive back in Auckland, New Zealand after a business trip at around midnight with the VCAP-CIA exam the following morning. I got about two hours sleep as my youngest son wasn’t sleeping well. I didn’t read the first question correctly and instead of having to fix something, I really fixed it by corrupting the cell. I tried for about 20 minutes to troubleshoot it and get it working. I eventually gave up and just went as fast as I could through the questions I did know. Unfortunately time was very much against me and I wasn’t thinking straight due to having little sleep. Tip: Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam and read the questions carefully.
My Second Attempt
Fortunately when I failed the exam the first time there was a free retry voucher available. So I booked the exam, but due to work commitments had to keep putting it off as I would never get time to study it correctly. 14th May 2014 I sat the exam again. This time I had gotten a good rest the night before and I was much more prepared. But unfortunately the connection from the testing centre wasn’t as prepared as I was. Latency was my enemy, as was the speed of the vCD environment responding to my inputs. I performed the required tasks as fast as I could but I found I could only think about two or three questions at a time so I couldn’t get too far ahead. I had been moving forward and backward to do multiple questions at the same time to try and compensate for the performance of the vCD environment and also the latency challenges. But this strategy can only achieve so much. You have to keep track of all these questions in your head and where each part of the environment is at. In my opinion this makes the exam very challenging, especially with such limited time. By the time I had run out of time I had not even attempted about 5 or 6 questions, so I was just hoping I’d done enough in the rest of the exam to get a pass.
4 days was all I had to wait for the official results and the news that I’d passed the VCAP-CIA exam. One of the guys behind the test scoring automation reached out to me to let me know that there had been a lot of work going on behind the scenes on automating the exam scoring. It still wasn’t as fast as they’d like, so they were still looking to improve it. Given this quick turnaround the torture that is the advanced exams is made quite a bit better. At least you know where you’re at a lot sooner. In the future they plan to make the results much faster. So I hope you get an even faster experience when you sit the VCAP exams. I can also tell you there are plans to improve the interface to largely eliminate the lags and delays that we experience when doing these live lab exams from all over the world. This is great news, as the exams are hard enough without the latency, and VMware need more people sitting advanced exams to build a pipeline for VCDX and to ensure customers have access to skilled professionals to provide integrated solutions across all of VMware and ecosystem partner solutions.
Update: Joshua Andrews has just posted an article regarding the great improvements in exam marking time that VMware has implemented. Now you might receive your score for DCA and DTA in the same day. CIA will also see improvements. Check out the article titled Improved VCAP DCA DTA Score Reporting.
Overall I really like the live lab exam format and the way they deeply test your abilities to administer and troubleshoot an advanced environment. The latency does make it hard, but it is possible to pass with the right approach, which hopefully this article helps you with. vCD is still my preferred Cloud tool while it’s supported as it solves a lot of problems that vCAC doesn’t yet, and it’s also more relevant for service providers, which is a market I understand after working at an ISP for so many years and architecting a few public clouds. I would encourage people who are in an organisation with vCD or working for a Cloud Service Provider to give VCAP-CIA a go. My plan now is to brush up a vCloud design I did a while ago and submit it for VCDX-Cloud. If I’m successful hopefully I’ll be in the first five double VCDX’s.
This post appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com, by Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2014 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.