After a lot of hard work and hundreds of hours of preparation the journey to VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification is finally complete for Nick Bowie from VMware and Nutanix partner ViFX. Nick was the first candidate to submit and defend a VCDX design based on Nutanix technology and has become only the 2nd VCDX in New Zealand. It’s a great achievement, and it was great to be able to help Nick with his journey and to have one more VCDX in such a small country. I caught up with Nick to ask him a few questions about his experience and where to from here. Hopefully this will be useful for other candidates.
Firstly I’d like to congratulate Nick on his achievement. VCDX is the pinnacle of VMware certifications. It is a solution architecture certification that encompasses many supporting technologies and you need to be expert in multiple areas to a great level of depth, as well as being able to translate business requirements into a successful solution.
Here is what Nick had to say about his VCDX experience:
Q: What does it feel like to be only the 2nd VCDX in New Zealand, and the only one working for a NZ based VMware partner?
A: It’s pretty intense 😀 I told you I’d do it!
Q: What made you decide to pursue VCDX?
A: This was a personal goal of mine for quite some time. Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to focus on VMware virtualisation when I was selected to work on the virtualisation stream of a data centre migration project, bringing in ESXi 3.5 and SRM into the mission-critical space of the company I worked for. This really turned my professional life around and gave me a career direction. It re-ignited my interest in technology and fuelled my desire to reach that expert level. Once I started working at ViFX it changed from a possibility to a reality – the team here are truly excellent and inspiring.
Author: I think I remember this project :).
Q: How long did it take you to prepare for VCDX, including background experience and the actual VCDX process itself?
A: If I count starting at the VCP5-DCV – a long time! I achieved VCAP5-DCA in July 2013, and shortly after joining ViFX I achieved the VCAP5-DCD certification in December the same year. Joining ViFX was a key contributor, as I gained a lot of exposure after coming out of the customer role and started delivering solutions. The project I chose to base the VCDX submission on began around March 2014, and ran longer than expected, so I held back on submitting for the 2014 October round. Without the opportunity to defend at PEX I had everything prepared for the April submission/June defence round. After submitting my application I took a quick segue and achieved VCP-NV, but once I found out I had passed the application phase I immediately joined a study group with fellow candidates for proper focus. We got together three nights a week between Monday-Friday for an hour at a time, and at least once a weekend for two hours right up until the defence.
Q: What are some of the key factors that you think helped you succeed at VCDX on your first attempt?
A: Easily number one was having an understanding and patient wife 🙂 Up until the document submission I had a few looks as I sat down to work on design tweaks late into the night, but once I had the invitation to defend she gave me the time to give it my all. I also think patience on my part had a lot to do with it, taking my time to really work on the document set and not rushing it for an earlier defence opportunity. The project it was based on had some challenges, which really helped validate my design decision process and the conclusions I had come to. I also can’t ignore the guidance I had from my mentor, Josh Odgers. He gave nothing away directly, but would give me a nudge here or there that would each evolve into 20-or-so more pages worth of detail once I realised what more was needed. That process helped immensely.
Q: Was your employer supportive and how do you think it will change your role now that you have VCDX?
A: ViFX were immensely supportive. I had let it be known that I wanted to achieve this when I started, and with a particular project in mind and they gave me the opportunity to do so. I’m not sure what may change with regards to my role (it’s only been a week!), but I hope it will help further differentiate us in the market. We have some serious talent here – I suspect we’ll have NZ’s 3rd VCDX soon enough.
Q: How did you choose your design and was there anything unique about it that you think helped you succeed?
A: One of the reasons I wanted to work for ViFX was that they saw the future in Hyper Converged Infrastructure early on, and the architecture and deviation from what I had previously managed really caught my interest. When I first saw Steven Poitras build up a Nutanix infrastructure in 15 minutes, I asked myself “why aren’t we doing this?”, so it was definitely a technology set I was excited about. Outside of pilot/POC’s, it was my first real Nutanix and large-scale Horizon View design, which might seem like I was biting off more than I could chew – I could have selected a BC/DR or vBCA Oracle re-platforming project, but I felt particularly invested in this one and the platform selection made if quite different. I started the whole process with the VCDX framework in mind and this really helped. I recommend anyone looking to undertake this challenge similarly considers beginning a design with the goal in mind rather than taking an older design and retro-fitting it to the mould as some have blogged about, as although I had some re-work to do it didn’t result in large-scale changes and continuity errors.
Q: You are the first VCDX to successfully defend a design based on Nutanix technology, how do you think that impacted the defence?
A: Not having exposure to the VCDX scoring rubric, I’m not sure I can say. I’ll say this though: the panellists seriously did their homework and I don’t think the design being on Nutanix made the defence process any easier! In the end, understanding all the constraints and risks I had meant my decisions were the right ones to deliver to the requirements. That would be true regardless of the platform type.
Q: If you had to do this all over again, what if anything would you do differently and what advice would you give to other candidates?
A: I’m not sure I would do anything differently. Even though it was stressful at times, I was successful on my first attempt and learned a lot in the process. My advice would be this: Understand the framework and understand the blueprint. If you have the opportunity to start a design with this in mind, regardless of ‘scale’ or perceived complexity, it will make the whole process smoother. Care about the customer outcome and the results will be in your favour.
Q: After a well-deserved break, what’s next for you?
A: I’m finding it hard to wind down after the experience 🙂 The family is definitely appreciative of my new-found free time. I’ve still got a lot to learn 🙂 I’ll keep working hard, learning and applying myself.
Q: Was going through VCDX worth it and how did your company respond when they heard the news?
A: Absolutely! Shortly after I received the congratulatory email (and pinched myself a couple of times to make sure it was real), I let the team know and immediately received excited phone calls from the company Directors and team mates who were all immensely proud.
Author: Not to mention the congratulations you got from the rest of the country as well, myself included. Well done!
Q: Are you going to attempt the Nutanix Platform Expert (NPX), and what are your thoughts about its value?
A: Eventually, yes 😉 There are some very compelling capabilities on display through the infrastructure automation that Nutanix have worked hard on, both through the Acropolis hypervisor and the ability to support a multi-hypervisor, distributed platform. The structure of the NPX is pretty daunting, and I’ve got a lot of learning to do before I’ll be ready. But that’s great for me – if I’m not learning something I get bored 😉 As to its value: with the prolific acceleration of cloud platform adoption, we as architects have the requirement to broaden our knowledge beyond the vSphere hypervisor to meet the requirements of particular use-cases. So displaying expertise across multiple hypervisors will definitely be of value.
It’s great to have another VCDX from New Zealand and I’m looking forward to many more. I and the rest of the VCDX community are happy to help anyone interested in achieving this certification as it raises the bar for enterprise architecture expertise and allows better solutions to be delivered to customers. In a world where end to end business solutions are complex regardless of the underlying platform chosen, you need experience architects to drive the solutions design. VCDX helps build better outcomes for customers and better loyalty and revenue for partners. With the Nutanix Platform Expert (NPX) Certification you can now achieve an expert level certification across multiple hypervisors and application runtimes, building the swiss army knife of enterprise architecture for a hybrid cloud software defined datacenter world.
This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com. By Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2012 – 2015 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.