VMUG Presentation – HCI Concepts

I was given the honor of presenting at the October 19th NYC VMUG meeting (that’s VMware User Group for my non-virtualization friends). The topic that I was asked to speak about was Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Concepts. I am by no means an expert on the topic but given my numerous years dealing with infrastructure, I know enough to get by. I wanted to share my presentation with you all. The presentation is at a high level just going over the key points for those new to the space. I tried to keep it at a level that my non-technical wife can understand what I’m talking about.

Side Note: I run all this stuff by her. If I can keep her attention, I should be able to keep yours. 🙂

Here are the key points that I touched upon:
– A little history lesson on how VMware changed the supply chain when it comes to deploying servers and applications to customers (or users).
– An overview on the journey from Converged to Hyper-Converged.
– A run down of the different infrastructure approaches (Traditional, Reference Architectures, Converged, Hyper-Converged).
– Different players in the market today.
– Use cases.
– Where HCI fits in and some of the drawbacks.
I must say, I was humbled by the response that I received from everyone at the meeting. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I helped clear up a few points of confusion for some of the attendees. They were actually able to get something out of this and hopefully you will too.

Enjoy!

My VCAP6-DCV Deploy Beta Experience

A little over three years ago my wife introduced me to the wonderful world of 5 year plans. At first I was skeptical. I may have even thought of it was a little lame (Don’t tell her that though). Even still, I humored her and created one. We actually did 1, 3 and 5 years plans based on our personal, professional and family goals. I’m not going to go into all of the details of my plan but there is one section that I am going to touch on. Under my professional goals, I had a an education section. This section was mostly based around IT Certifications. I had a 1 year goal of re-certifying my VCP5-DCV (Achieved!), a 3 year goal of achieving a VCP5-DT (Achieved!), and a 5 year goal of achieving a VCAP5-DCA. As you can see I completed 2 out of 3. Technically, I still have 2 years left to achieve my goal but the universe had different plans for me.

I’ve actually paid for the majority of my training and certs out of pocket. So the cost of exams is a factor on when I can actually take them. The VCAP is not cheap. Last time I checked it was around $400. This is an advanced level exam so this isn’t surprising but it’s still a lot of money especially for those of us with families. VMware does provide beta exams though and they come at a fraction of the cost. In this case the VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam was only $100. The only problem was that I didn’t have a lot of time to study. I figured I’d give it a shot though. Even if I failed, at least it would be money well spent, I could experience the exam first hand and see where I stood. There was another outcome though, I could pass, WHICH I DID! I achieved my goal, well ahead of time and saved some money to buy my little guy more Thomas The Tank Engine trains. 🙂

This post is going to document my experience and any tips that I may have to help others achieve their goals of becoming VMware Certified Advanced Professionals. Here’s how I did it.

Exam Blueprint
You can find all the information that you’ll need regarding the topics covered, how to register, exam fees, recommended training and other helpful hints directly from VMware on their exam blueprint page.

Your Peers
This one is perhaps the most important item that I’m going to talk about not just for this or other exams but for any issue you run into at work or in life. One of the greatest venues to talk to your peers is the VMUG. I’m lucky enough to be part of one of the best chapters around in NYC. These guys and gals love what they do, are extremely talented and have diverse backgrounds from every industry that you can think of. If you have a goal in mind, chances are there is someone else in your group that has the same idea in mind or has already achieved it. My VMUG leaders are always willing to help out or give guidance where they can. I highly recommend joining or starting a study group nearby or online. There are plenty of LinkedIn & Google+ groups filled with individuals just like you that want to pass this and other exams. I’m always here to help where I can as well. You can find me on Twitter at @NScuola.

VMware Hands On Lab

Those of you that have never heard of VMware’s Hands On Labs are really missing out. Not only are they really in depth but the material is coming straight from the horse’s mouth. The interface is nearly identical to what you’ll use on the actual exam as well. The material is extremely helpful not just for the exam but it may help you at the office as well. It’s also much cheaper than standing up a home lab. Here are some of the specific labs that I went through.

HOL-SDC-1627 – VVol, Virtual SAN & Storage Policy-Based Management
HOL-CHG-1695 – vSphere 6 Challenge Lab
HOL-SDC-1402 – vSphere Distributed Switch from A to Z
HOL-SDC-1602 – vSphere with Operations Management 6: Advanced Topics
HOL-SDC-1607 – From Beginner to Advanced Features with PowerCLI
HOL-SDC-1604 – vSphere Performance Optimization

PLURALSIGHT
One of the tools that I use in my certification endeavors is a paid PluralSight account. PluralSight is a great resource for video training on a variety of subjects. The courses that I went through included but weren’t limited to the following:

VMware vSphere 6 Foundations Series by David Davis @davidmdavis
VMware vSphere 6 Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV) Series by Greg Shields @concentratdgreg
VMware vSphere Optimize and Scale (VCAP-DCA) Series by Jason Nash @TheJasonNash

These courses go into great detail and all real world examples of how to install, configure and troubleshoot the different components involved with vSphere.

BLOGS
Just do a search for VCAP exam experience and you’ll find endless experiences from people that were successful and others that weren’t. Each experience should provide you with helpful information that will help you in your attempt.

In closing, this exam is tough. There are no shortcuts. You’re going to need to do the work. There is a time crunch that will get you if you let it. I’d recommend taking notes on each item and knocking out the questions that you know and returning to the ones that you don’t at a later time. I actually missed 2 questions entirely because I ran out of time. The interface is very similar to the hands on labs that VMware provides and you can actually see exactly what it looks like here. There is access to documentation as well but it will chew up a lot of time searching so try leaving the questions that you’re stuck on for the end.

Keep in mind this is a 3 hour exam. Make sure that you’re hydrated and have used the restroom prior to going into the exam room. When you’re sitting down for this long, you’re going to want to be comfortable. It’s pretty tough to concentrate if you’re not.

At the end of the day though, if you study to the best of your abilities and can successfully complete all of the objectives on the blueprint, there is no reason you can’t pass this exam too. Good luck!