Friday, December 11, 2009

Passed VCP 410

So, I did my VCP 4 exam today. Having passed the version 3.5 exam, I was able to take advantage of the (dual) offer of taking the exam before the end of the year without the need for a course, and taking a free second shot should I fail the exam.

So, the last month has been cramming to try and feel ready to take it on, but still leave enough time to schedule that second shot if needed.

I was fortunate enough to pass, and with a far better score than I expected.

So, resources / technique that I used - and also to take the time to acknowledge the work of others who help make studying a whole lot easier.

Well, I manage an (albeit small and V3.5 based) infrastructure in work. So dealing with it everyday in my job helps.

I have a number of HP ML110 machines at home that I run ESXi on for testing / learning - coupled with VMs using my Technet subscription for the more Microsoft centric aspect of my work. So, I’ve been running V4 on these since a couple of days after it was released back in May. Setup for HA/DRS, I use an Iomega IX4-200D unit which allows me to carve up disks space and present as iSCSI and NFS based volumes (was using OpenFiler before that with a VM to provide iSCSI storage to other VMs for testing). All in all, it allows me to do a lot - albeit I don’t have things such as FT working, or VLAN support on my network switch etc.

Documentation - the VMware documentation is where it’s at.

Mastering vSphere 4 by Scott Lowe. Supplements the VMware docs - often easier/more succinct - though remember, whatever happens, whether you agree or not, for the exam, the VMware docs trump all.

Simon Long’s VCP resources - many, many people who have passed reference this material. I don’t know him, but it is well organised and invaluable. I also used his sample exam on several occasions, which gave me the confidence that I was at least heading in a positive direction.

VMware exam blueprint and test exam. I must admit, I only tried the exam here the once - I got enough to pass the actual exam, and used it as a gauge in that respect. If I had failed spectacularly, I think I would have reverted to the sample exam more, until it felt right. The blueprint is what Simon Long’s site listed above follows.

Forbes Guthrie’s resources. The Reference card - used for the VCP 3 exam as well, and his v4 notes. Basically he has summarised a lot of the official documentation into about 36 crammed pages of A4. Again, cuts to the chase. It kind of feels wrong in one sense - someone else did the hard work, but it’s incredibly useful to again quickly reference facts or figures.

In addition, there’s still the old 3.5 resources which, in general are still valid. The VI3 Advanced Technical Design Guide - that they’ve kindly made available as free PDFs - though I have the book as well.

I also have a Safari digital library subscription. With this, I have access to electronic editions of, for example, the O’Reilly VMware Cookbook, VMware vSphere and Virtual Infrastructure Security, VMware VI3 Implementation and Administration plus a few others.

So that’s it really. Kind of boils down to a few things :

Hands on practice. Really, this is what you need to do. The documentation suddenly makes a whole lot more sense when you do it. Or sometimes the other way, maybe you still don’t get the docs, but you get it in practice. A small lab and you can do a surprising amount. You have to practice. The emergency services run drills and practice their procedures time and again for when they need them for real. You need to practice your procedures as well.

Reading. You’ve got to read the documentation and use the resources available via people such as Simon Long and Forbes Guthrie as mentioned above. And blogs. There’s a whole bunch that I frequently review that help clarify something, or point out hidden gems. I’ll pull a list together at some point, but I’m sure if you check blogs for VMware related information, you’ll know the ones.

It doesn’t all stick. I know that I’ll soon be back looking in the docs, checking the maximums PDF, keeping a copy of the reference card(s) close by. Re-reading the stuff to try and clarify things that I still feel unsure of - but without the added pressure/stress/motivation of needing to pass an exam again soon.