VCDX - So You Want To Become a VMware Architect?

10 Feb 2015 by rayheffer

VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) Becoming a VCDX (VMware Certified Design Expert) doesn’t mean you have reached the path to enlightenment or qualify you for an immediate pay rise. There, I said it. That is the reality. Yes it is the highest level of certification by VMware but it should NOT be your end game. The VCDX should be an incremental goal to where you want to be, you just might not realize it yet.

I’ve had a lot of time recently to catch up with the latest tweets and blogs from the virtualization community and I’ve noticed a few misconceptions about the VCDX. I have also seen some excellent comments from other VCDX’s that reflect what I am about to say. In The Beginning

Back in the early days when the VCDX was in low double digits, there were awards, branded beer, and songs around the camp fire under the star lit sky. Well maybe not the last one but it was a big celebration and rightly so. The number of VCDX title holders are in the hundreds now and I wouldn’t think it is practical to have such a merry dance and award ceremony each time someone achieves their VCDX. Don’t get me wrong I would love this to be case, camp fire songs included, but that just isn’t going to happen.

Becoming a VCDX

For those less familiar with the VCDX I will briefly explain how it is achieved. There are 3 tiers to conquer before being awarded the title, starting with the VCP (VMware Certified Professional). Then there is the soon to be available VCIX (VMware Certified Implementation Expert) but for now the second tier still requires two VCAP (VMware Certified Advanced Professional) exams. In fact there is a VCA (VMware Certified Associate), which isn’t a requirement but still an excellent certification for newcomers to VMware technology.

At the top of the pyramid is the VCDX, but it is not as exam as such. By this stage and making the decision to go for the VCDX you really need to be a consultant or architect that is either working on, or about to work on, a VMware design project. You need to own the design and will be responsible for the majority (if not all) of the design decisions, approach and at least be a key part of the engagement with the customer.

Now you have a design, plenty of technical knowledge and VCP and VCAP certifications under your belt. The next step is to submit your design along with the application for review by existing VCDX experts, specifically chosen by VMware for the appropriate subject matter (Datacenter, Cloud, Network or Desktop). If your application is accepted then you need to attend one of the defense panels that take place at various location around the globe. These are usually held during VMworld and Partner Exchange. This is itself can be expensive for most it requires hotel accommodation and flights.

But I Want To Be An Architect!

…VCDX is setup to verify that you are an architect, not to become one.

Being awarded the title of VCDX is a true recognition of your design and architecture skills. If you are on this journey then you have already proved yourself technically capable with the VCP and VCAP (soon VCIX) certifications.

Whether you are a consultant or systems engineer by title, do you have the skills and ability to architect a complex VMware design for a customer? If the answer is yes then you are on the right path. If your job role doesn’t provide the opportunity to work on a VMware design then you have an extra challenge on your hands. It won’t be impossible but a 100-200 page design document for a VCDX application is going to take a whole lot of time if that isn’t part of your day job.

So what about fictitious designs? If you need to do this because you’ve never carried out a VMware design before then I’d question whether you are ready to take on the VCDX. However, I can see many valid reasons why you would need to create a fictitious design. You may have moved on from owning and creating designs and taken on another role in management, engineering or pre-sales for example.

The journey to becoming a VCDX will teach you a lot. There is no doubt that it will provide many lessons in discovering what it takes to be a VMware architect.

On Reflection…

The VCDX is not beyond your reach. Personally I’d like the number of VCDX certificate holders to be in the thousands, not by lowering the bar, but by recognizing the many thousands of very skilled architects and consultants in our industry. You really do need to go for it. If you fail, then try again. I have spoken to many people that didn’t manage to pass the first time round, but they were awarded with buckets of knowledge helping them prepare for next time around.

As I said before, achieving the VCDX doesn’t mean you’ve reached the path to enlightenment. We are in the IT industry because we love learning and that should never stop. The question we, as VCDX’s, ask ourselves is ‘What’s next?’. I wanted to prove my capabilities in both core vSphere (datacenter) and end user computing (desktop) architecture so I took the VCDX-Desktop in addition to VCDX-Datacenter. I would also like to understand TOGAF better, and for others it might be ITIL, other technical certifications or to focus on career advancement.

One thing for sure is that 2015 will bring us many new challenges. vSphere 6 will introduce long-distance vMotion, NSX, vGPU, VSAN 6 and many other features that will be sure challenge the next VCDX candidate during their defense.

If this is one of your goals then good luck and see you on the other side!

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