I must admit that I had very little time to prepare for this exam, but that said I do have a pretty good home lab environment with two good sized ESXi hosts, iSCSI storage, VLANs and most of the features deployed that are part of the exam blueprint for the VCAP5-DCA. Having previously done the VCAP4-DCA last year I expected much of the same this time around, but I was mistaken. Sure, many of the blueprint topics share common ground but this exam tests your experience with vSphere 5 and you are expected to perform many of the tasks with your eyes shut. Well, not literally although much of it needs to be second nature to you.
This week I passed the VCAP-DCD5 exam, but having already passed the VCAP-DCD4 exam I actually found it a little harder than I expected. I can’t tell you any specifics of the exam itself (other than what is on the blueprint) but I would like to share my own study method with you. You will need to be VCP5 before you can take this exam (the limited time period that excludes this pre-requisite is almost up), but even if you have done the VCAP4-DCA/DCD before, you should take a fresh approach to the DCD5. Something that helped me a lot was my ITIL experience, as I’ve previously had key involvement with Capacity and Availability management, in addition to being ITIL v3 Foundation certified . I’ll touch on this in a moment, but bear in mind that this is a Design exam and not a technical exam. Sure there are many technical areas, such as system requirements that you need to be aware of, but you need to have experience at either producing designs for your own organisation, or consultancy at delivering designs for customers. Without this knowledge, you may struggle with some of the questions around best practice, or picking the ‘best’ answer from multiple possible correct answers.
It was announced this morning that the VDCD511 (VCAP5-DCD beta exam) is available to take from 13th February to 2nd March 2012. You can take it at VMware Partner Exchange 2012 in Las Vegas. When the final exam is released, for a limited time you won’t need to have a VCP5 certification as a pre-requisite. Even if you are not planning on taking this exam during the beta invitations, it’s a great opportunity to get studying. The blueprint does subtly differ from the VCAP4-DCD, and as with the previous exam you’ll be expected to understand the VMware design methodology.
This is the second part to my VCAP-DCA study guide on storage (section 1.1 of the blueprint). As mentioned in part 1, I intend to focus these study notes on what you need to know with essential learning points. There is a big section on LUN masking using PSA related commands in this part of my study guide, and also an introduction to analysing performance stats with esxtop. Whilst esxtop is covered in many of the VCAP-DCA blueprint sections, 1.1 is the first section it is mentioned in regards to assessing storage performance, so at the very end of this post I have included the topic ‘Using ESXTOP for Storage Performance Analysis’.
This is the very first subject on the VCAP-DCA blueprint, and I intend to focus these study notes on what you need to know with essential learning points. Throughout my study notes I have made a few assumptions about the reader. You will:
- Already have a good grasp of vSphere and are comfortable using the vSphere client.
- Have a good understanding of storage types, RAID levels, iSCSI, fiber channel, NFS.
- Have some basic Linux knowledge, such as using Vi or Nano, and navigating around the file system.
- Not be very familiar with using the vMA, PowerCLI, Service Console, or DCUI (at least not for anything advanced).
- Need further guidance on using ESXTOP / RESXTOP and other performance and troubleshooting methods.
With that in mind I recommend that rather that following the exam blueprint in order, you try and focus on the topics you find the hardest. If I’ve not included notes on some topics (RAID for example) it is because there is already a wealth of information available. This way, your VCAP-DCA study can be focused on key learning points that target gaps in your knowledge or areas of weakness. Also bear in mind that at the time of writing this I haven’t taken the VCAP-DCA yet, but as a former virtual infrastructure team lead and admin, in addition to recent knowledge in the field I hope my notes help not only myself, but others to pass the certification too.
If you are an existing VMware VCP then you are probably already aware of the VCAP-DCA exam which is why you’ve landed here. There are two VCAP certifications available, the DCA (Datacenter Administration) and DCD (Datacenter Design). Just a few days before writing this post, VMware announced the new Desktop Certification Program, the VCA-DT (VMware Certified Associate, Desktop), VCP-DT and VCAP-DT. This is great news as it strengthens the VMware certification even further with a recognition into the valuable skills a desktop virtualization specialist will have.
I intend to share my study guides, based on what you need to know with essential learning points. If you are studying for this exam then I will assume you are already a VCP, and I would be surprised if you don’t already know the difference between different RAID levels. With that assumption in mind, I will also guess that you are not that comfortable (like me) with commands like
esxcfg-mpath. It is not my intention with my study notes to regurgitate the exam blueprint, but I will follow the order and provide key learning points for each topic.