Tag Archives: vsphere5

VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – my thoughts

Summary: A good book which is ideal for those new to design with plenty of real world examples and exam preparation tips.

I’ve been meaning to take my VCAP5-DCD certification for a couple of years but still haven’t made the required time available.  I attended the Design Workshop (last year) and was lucky enough to have Paul McSharry as my instructor – I’d not met him previously but I was familiar with his work through his website (www.elasticsky.co.uk) and via Twitter.

Now Paul’s written the official VMware Press certification guide to the VCAP5-DCD exam. This book takes a slightly different approach compared to other study resources as it includes a practice test and considers the mental transition a VCP-DCV certified engineer might need to make when moving into design. To quote Paul;

I decided to approach the guide with the mindset of a VCP5-DCV qualified engineer who has yet to complete a full design.

 How do you make the transition from engineer to architect? Whats the process? 

I like the format of the book and found Paul’s writing style to be very easy to read. In many ways the VCAP5-DCD is a less technical exam compared to the VCAP5-DCA but there are some concepts which can be hard to wrap your brain around if you’re used to an operational focus (which I am). There has been plenty of discussion on the web around functional vs non-functional, logical vs physical designs, and constraints, risks, assumptions, and requirements and Paul’s book tackles them all pretty well.

One thing you’ll notice when you look at the contents page is Continue reading VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – my thoughts

VMworld 2013 – Is it just me?

vmworld2013logo-300x169Overall I guess I feel disappointed. Over the last week I’ve been trying to keep up with developments from VMworld and to be honest it’s not been as tough as I thought because most of the announcements were already known quantities and very little ‘new’ information was given. I see this as a reflection of the growth and maturity of VMware – release cycles are getting longer, innovation takes longer to gestate, and the low hanging fruit of ‘wow’ features has been exhausted (and having written that I see Chris Wolf’s article which says much the same thing. I’m in good company). Chris Wahl’s blog has full details of the new stuff.

caveatUPDATE 4th Sept: It’s been pointed out to me that as a vExpert and blogger I do tend to have early access to both information and beta releases so what I consider new and what most attendees consider new is different. Fair comment.

Eric Siebert, a long time veteran of VMworld and the technology involved, has a great writeup of the main announcements along with his thoughts, which largely mirror my own. Maybe we’ve been spoilt over the years by the ‘cool’ factor of the vMotion and svMotion, maybe I woke up on the wrong side of bed, or maybe VMware aren’t delivering the goods as they used to.

vSphere ticks along

vSphere has been on a two year release cycle for major versions but that seems to have slipped. The next release of the core vSphere platform will be out later this year (probably at VMworld Barcelona as with v5.1 last year) but even when it does v5.5 is not much to write home about;

  • SSO has been rewritten but it probably shouldn’t have been released as it was in the first place :oops:. OK, there are a few new features too.
  • New maximums will probably only help the minority
  • VSAN might be nice but isn’t even in beta yet and will still be an extra cost when it is released.
  • We still have two clients, both of which are required. The web client has been improved but they haven’t discontinued the GUI client as expected.
  • App HA is apparently significantly improved from previous editions but application support is still limited. Good for MS SQL maybe but there’s no Oracle, SAP etc. It’s also an Enterprise+ feature. SMP support for VMware’s FT feature (which could be great) is still just a technical preview with no release date.
  • OK – vSphere Flash Read Cache is a nice addition, as is lifting the 2TB VMDK limit and OSX support for the remote console (a personal gripe there) 🙂 Shame vFRC is also Enterprise+ only…
  • OK – the vCSA can now handle larger environments, but vCenter is still not a scalable, highly available service. Yeah, I’m grumpy.

If you look at the benefits they’re largely for the admin or behind the scenes. If I have to justify time and resource to upgrade my hosts, what benefit does the business get? I’m on Enterprise licencing, so precious little sadly. 🙁

reality

vCloud Suite still isn’t as compelling as it should be

With public vs private vs hybrid cloud all the rage I can understand why VMware aren’t focusing on the hypervisor so I was expecting a big vCloud push. There was much fanfare about the launch of VMware’s public cloud, vCHS, but I’m still unconvinced;

  • It’s launch is US only and is potentially missing some key functionality (though I think some of those referenced features are less in demand for enterprise apps). I accept that the US cloud market leads the world but as a European this leaves me somewhat in limbo – I’m sure it’ll reach us eventually but Amazon and Azure (among others) are already available….
  • I’ve not seen any official statement from VMware so take it with a pinch of salt, but vCD looks like it’s on the chopping block and being replaced by vCAC (though both are still included in v5.5). This is a product that’s been at the pinnacle of VMware’s spearhead into the cloud market and it’s being ‘retired’ at only three years old? What about the vCloud Service Providers? Apparently it’ll live on for them but for how long? The launch of vCHS probably didn’t please too many service providers and this move looks set to alienate them further, along with many customers who have invested in vCD. One of the big selling points for vCHS is the seamless experience of running VMware’s stack for both your private and public clouds, but how do I start down that road today? Should I buy into the vCloud Suite and invest in vCloud Director knowing it’s going away? By the same token I know vCAC is going to change significantly in the next year or two and today it lacks key functionality like multi-tenancy. Maybe I should wait a year or two and see how things pan out? In that case, where’s the synergy in vCHS? Unfortunately VMware don’t have a great history in providing seamless upgrade paths – need I mention Lab Manager, Stage Manager, VDP…

After VMworld last year I speculated that VMware needed to accelerate their customer’s journey to the cloud or suffer and I don’t think this reshuffle/repositioning helps matters. For something of such strategic importance would you want to be an early adopter of the vCAC/vCD amalgamation? Dynamic Ops were initially a competitor to vCD, then post VMware acquisition they became mutually beneficial, and now vCAC is becoming the primary cloud solution. VMware have always excelled at promoting a vision which helped get ‘buy in’ – you knew that when you were ready for the next step it’d be waiting for you. Now I’m not so sure. On the bright side the pricing for the vCloud Suite seems better than I realised. Looking at pricing for vSphere Enterprise+ vs vCloud Standard it’s almost the same despite the fact you also get vCD, vCAC, and vCOPS with the vCloud suite.

fojtaUPDATE 1st Sept: A twitter conversation with Tom Fojta and Dave Hill, both of whom work for VMware (though tweets are their own) implied that vCD may not be retired but merely realigned because enterprise and service providers need different solutions. This makes more sense as it will at least minimise the disruption. Let’s hope there’s some official clarification from VMware soon as I’m not the only one with concerns.

UPDATE 4th Sept: VMware have now provided a directional statement which confirms how this will affect customers, how functionality will migrate to vSphere/vCAC, and clarifies that vCD will continue in use with service providers.

EUC moves forward

I’m not much of an end user computing guy as my company haven’t bought into it conceptually, and with the release of the Horizon suite earlier this year we finally have some of the products VMware have been talking about for the last few years. I’m excited about the possibility of desktops in the cloud but Brian Madden, a well known VDI guru, seems to think the vision is spot on but execution and delivery are lacking.

SDDC is a grand vision but can it succeed?

I like the idea of the software defined datacenter but it’s going to be a tough sell for VMware. It’s disrupting major technologies, networks and storage, which are well embedded in the datacenter which puts them in competition with many of their major partners.

Storage is going through an exciting time and VMware are now beginning to promote their storage credentials. With the addition of VSAN and vFRC they’re pushing vSphere storage towards the ‘software defined’ concept they’ve coined  although I was hoping for some advance on the Virsto acquisition. The announcements and sessions around NSX, VMware’s network hypervisor, do look interesting and if they can be successful we’re in for quite a ride! Maybe this is where VMware can recapture some of that magic they had four or five years ago. Even if they succeed the SDDC will arrive slowly because of financial, technical, and social factors. Given the potential complexity and disruption introduced by SDDC we need a clear value statement otherwise the perception may be that we’ll all be better off in a cloud where someone else manages it for us…

The process of writing and researching this article has actually made me more optimistic and I still think VMware have huge potential to innovate and disrupt (in a positive way) the datacentre of the future. I think I’m just grumpy because we still don’t have the VMTN Subscription! I’m sure I’ll soak up the boundless energy VMworld Barcelona generates and be back to my optimistic self later in the year.

Cloud threatens VMware

Which VMware certifications should you invest in?

IT is a fast moving industry, and the current shift to cloud computing is accelerating the rate of change. With the forthcoming release of the vSphere5 VCAP exams (VCAP5-DCA and the VCAP5-DCD) I’ve been planning to study my socks off to get both exams under my belt. I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling to make study time, particularly as my day job doesn’t tend to cover all of the material either because we’re only Enterprise level licensing or because we don’t use all the features. On top of that I’d like to update my VCAP-DCA study guide which will consume a significant chunk of time.

This serious case of study contention has made me revisit my priorities. The VMware ecosystem has evolved considerably over the last few years and there’s considerable buzz around VMware View and vCloud Director (not to mention the whole Cloud Foundry and vFabric ecosystem). Maybe these would be better areas to focus on? As John Troyer said about certifications “You don’t have to collect them all!” but it does make me wonder – which VMware certs are most likely to benefit career progression?

VCP or VCAP?

First some facts. The VMware platform which evolved into vSphere was launched in 2001, the first VCP exam was available in June 2003 (@susangude is VCP#1), and the first VCAP exams were launched seven years later in August 2010. Nine years on and the statistics are well known – around 60,000 VCPs worldwide and approximately 600 certified in each of the two VCAP tracks (so 50 VCPs for every VCAP!).

Continue reading Which VMware certifications should you invest in?

VCAP-DCD Design workshop – my thoughts

After a course postponement in January (due to lack of attendees) I finally took the VMware Design Workshop (v5) this week, a three day course designed to help you prepare for the VCAP-DCD exam as well as real life solution design using VMware vSphere. If you’ve sat the v4 course there’s very little difference so you can probably stop reading now…

I’ve been responsible for the same vSphere implementation at my company for well over four years now, so unlike contractors or consultants I’m not seeing new infrastructures every week and I’m not redesigning mine week to week either. So why go on the workshop you ask? I hoped that spending some time away from the office thinking about design might allow me a fresh look at how we currently have our environment configured as well as giving me a gauge on my own skillset. There was a select group of four on the course which was a slight shame as I think more people would have increased discussions and added value (everyone does things differently and has different circumstances). Despite the limited numbers we had diverse opinions and experience covering government, army, SME and enterprise environments. Luckily our instructor Paul McSharry (@pmcsharry) is one of those trainers who’s also still consulting/contracting so he was more than able to fill any gaps with real world experience including some great discussions around VMware’s vCloud in particular (although neither vCD nor vCloud are on the blueprint they made for great examples). I’ve was lucky to have Mike Laverick for my ICM course back in 2007 and equally lucky to have Paul, he’s a great trainer.

The workshop is still a three day course with minimal hands on work – it’s all whiteboards and discussions. That in itself is quite refreshing as many courses are ‘heads down’ in a PC racing through labs whereas this course is more social. It also meant I kept my mind off work for the three days as I didn’t have a PC in front of me as a distraction! It looks as if the order of the modules has changed from the v4 course but the content is largely the same;

  • Day one – Course introduction, the design process, and storage design
  • Day two – Network design, host (compute) design, and virtual machine design
  • Day three – Virtual datacenter design, management and monitoring design

I was surprised to see some topics which I expected to be ‘bread and butter’ subjects get minor coverage;

  • The section on storage design didn’t cover RAID to any degree and simply states ‘For the majority of VM workloads the RAID level does not matter for performance if the array has sufficient battery-backed cache’ along with ‘Select RAID level based on availability requirements’. As a Netapp guy I agree it generally doesn’t matter – large numbers of spindles are put into aggregates anyway rather than the older RAID group per LUN philosophy of low end MSA arrays etc. The lab exercises didn’t include any IOps, latency or throughput figures either but as Paul rightly pointed out that could overcomplicate the design process given the time constraints, plus it’s a vSphere design course not a specialised storage design.
  • The host design section did cover cluster scale up vs scale out but briefly (given the column inches on blogposts!). Without going into vendor specific detail this topic is rather tricky as many companies will have standards to adhere to, preferred choices (personal or corporate) and extra constraints. That’s exactly what the course states – organisational constraints are most likely what you’ll have to contend with.
  • There is a single page on licensing which simply states ‘buy the license version that supports the features required in your design’. Thanks for that, great way to gloss over the controversial vRAM!
  • I also expected a heavy focus on the new features of v5 (Autodeploy, Storage DRS etc) but while they were covered it wasn’t in depth. On reflection that’s probably correct as there are so many things to consider for the average design that the basics are still the same.

Every vendor course has some ‘best practices’ which you take with a pinch of salt and this course is no different. ‘Always use jumbo frames’, ‘Always buy the fastest CPU you can afford’, ‘Prefer distributed switches’. Keep your questioning hat on!

The lab scenarios didn’t always give enough information but that does at least make them flexible – there’s no reason why you can’t set yourself some constraints. There was no requirement around storage protocol choice for example so I found myself picking NFS but having to justify it based on other elements of the design. Cost wasn’t mentioned in mine beyond ‘it should be cost effective’ so you have to make you own mind up – would vCSHB be worthwhile for example? I decided not and as long as you understand the implications of your choices you’ve achieved your goal.

Overall I found the course very useful although given that I’m not doing design as part of my job I suspect I’ll find the exam very tough. The blogosphere covers a lot of relevant material which the course skims over due to time restrictions – I doubt the workshop alone would be sufficient to pass the exam. Now I just have to hit the whitepapers and the design bible (VMware vSphere design by Forbes Guthrie, Scott Lowe, and Maish Saidel-Keesing) while I wait for the v5 exam to be officially released. Given that the beta has already come and gone I don’t think I’ll have long to wait!

UPDATE May 2012 – The exam has now been released. You can get details on the official VMware Education page and sign up for authorisation here.

Further Reading

Sean Crookston has a collection of links from other workshop reviews.

The VCAP-DCD forums

VCP5 – done and dusted!

The VCP5 exam is;

A. Remarkably easy, a bunch of monkeys typing randomly would probably pass.

B. Unreasonably hard, even a team of VCDX’s working together would be lucky to scrape a pass.

C. A fair test of real world knowledge. If you’ve worked with vSphere for a while and v5 in particular you’ll be fine.

D. all about Veuve Clicqout Ponsardin, a premium brand of champagne.

Choose one.

Hint – one answer is related, but not correct!