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December 12th, 2010

I am a little over 12 hours away from sitting down to attempt my VCAP-DCA for the first time. I say “attempt” and “first time” as I am actually really nervous about sitting this exam! I have relaxed back into an architects role over the past 6-12 months and so I am feeling the pressure of not being as hands on as I once was or as I was when I previously sat the Enterprise Administration exam last year. There is so much study material, and I haven’t really put in enough good lab time.

However I also think this period is one of the more difficult times to take this exam. Why?  When I sat my EA exam last year it was focused around ESX and vCenter. There was no additional software to worry about, no fancy features, you just needed to know the ESX CLI pretty well. Seeing how the ESX Service Console is Linux based, and I have spent a lot of time with Linux, this wasn’t a major challenge (although I did do a lot of studying anyway!).

The VCAP-DCA sits at a frustrating time as we have to know 2 products quite well; we need to know both ESX and ESXi. Sure the differences aren’t much as we focus on doing things the “right” way (that is, vMA, PowerCLI, Orchestrator, etc. etc.), but some stuff is applicable only to ESX (firewalling as a single example), and other stuff is applicable only to ESXi (lockdown mode as a single example). The next release from VMware will be a bonus as it’s back to one core product that we need knowledge of. Additionally a lot of the really good deep-dive documentation and blogs you find out there are from admins and engineers that get down and dirty with the Service Console, and many haven’t yet been updated the details for ESXi (some you simply can’t do in ESXi). So I’m trying to achieve the same things I used to achieve with ESX by learning this almost from scratch again. If I enable tech-support mode and jump into BusyBox, is this an okay practice in the exam? It might not include ESXi hosts at all! Certainly some scenarios would negate the ability to use the BusyBox, but I guess so long as I can get the job done, it shouldn’t matter!

Additionally there are several tools to do the same job. I can pretty much interchange vMA, PowerCLI,  Tech-Support Mode for many troubleshooting tasks (admittedly not all), and I can also use Orchestrator for some other tasks, but the blueprint describes me needing to know all of these. Do I just take my pick and make sure I know one of these well, or do I need to know a little about all of these tools? Jack of all toolkits, master of none!

Anyway, I wanted to vent my thoughts as I’m having a 5 minute break from study and wanted to share a little of my frustrations. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

If you find this post and are looking for some guidance on what has helped me revise for the VCAP-DCA, here you go…

Print off the exam blueprint, cross off everything you think you already know and concentrate on the stuff you don’t first. I found this the best way to kick off revision as the number of topics is pretty overwhelming. Once you have all these new topics, start going over other areas, you’ll be surprised how much you learn about topics you already know!

Get yourself a home-lab. You don’t need an server or host that’ll run ESX / ESXi natively, just invest in a decent desktop and run everything from Workstation. You’ll find this much more functional for future work as you can reprovision and file away VMs very easily. Having said that I come from a storage background, so physical storage concepts aren’t something I need to focus on too much. Building an FC lab is going to be tricky, but NFS/iSCSI is pretty easy with things like OpenFiler. I run the ONTAP simulator, but I guess you could also use the Celerra simulator, or LeftHand or other. MPIO concepts aren’t that different between iSCSI and FCP, the rest can be learnt (for the most part) from text books.

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  1. Sean Crookston
    | #1

    Thanks for the mention of my site(vfail.net) and good luck with the exam tomorrow.

    I sat the exam last week and it was definitely difficult, but fair and look forward to receiving the results sometime this week hopefully.

  2. | #2

    So I wanted to post a follow up, but I didn’t want to complain and make too big a fuss after sitting the exam, so I’ve been waiting for the results.

    My experience of the exam was that it was tough, really tough! I think you’d only have exposure in real life to all the content if you are a consultant and you are doing a variety of projects. If you have only one environment to manage, chances are you may have limited exposure to some areas of study (same goes for the VCAP-DCD).

    I did definitely struggle, and there’s some areas where I could have kicked myself for dismissing while I was studying, but the final results are in and I made it! It is a pass!

    Very pleased about this as the study for this exam is very tough and takes a lot of planning and time to go through. Now I can look forward again towards the other technologies I need to learn as once again I have my VMware certs out of the way!

    Thanks again to the guys contributing to the links above as they all helped me tremendously and I don’t believe I would have passed without their technical details.

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