In this post I will share my journey to achieving the VMware Certified Implementation Expert 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCIX 6 – DCV) achievement this year with the methods that I used, in the hopes that others will be able to replicate my results. The VCIX is an achievement earned by passing both advanced VMware certifications (VCAP Design and VCAP Deploy) in a given track and the only prerequisite for their top level VCDX certification.
This read will be will be focused around the VCAP6-DCV exams (Design 3V0-622 and Deploy 3V0-623). VCAP6.5-DCV Design (3V0-624) was released this past August (in a much different layout) but the 6.5 Deploy Exam has not yet been published.
My travels began at VMworld 2016 by taking advantage of the discounted certification pricing and taking both VCAP exams with no preparation other than my experience with VMware. I wanted to try my luck to see what these exams were about and to evaluate where i was knowledge wise. I did not pass on my first attempts but it did give me a good baseline on what areas i needed to focus on and how the tests were structured.
As far as comparing the difficulty of each exam and against one another it will really depend on your experience with vSphere 6. If you are in an operational role that has a lot of hands-on experience then the Deploy exam will likely be easier for you. If you are doing a lot of engineering and architecture, specifically based off of VMware design and language, then the Design exam is likely to be more familiar. Both exams will require an in-depth amount of knowledge and experience with the vSphere 6 suite.
There are 26 objectives on the Exam blueprint and 27 questions total. You are very likely to have to complete a scenario for each of these objectives give or take one or two with some objectives having multiple questions. The time allotted for all of this is 205 minutes, which comes down to just over 7 ½ minutes per scenario. Now I’d like to think I can get a lot of done at work in 3 ½ hours but 27 complex tasks is certainly pushing it.
Now a few of the nicer things about the exam layout. It is a preconfigured virtual environment but there is no one way to complete the scenarios. If you are a CLI wizard with some of these tasks you may be able to save some time by skipping the not so responsive GUI altogether. On the other hand if you do not know one of the objectives very well you may be able to find your way through it to the completed answer.
You are also provided with a large list of VMware documentation in the form of PDF files on the desktop (Yay openbook…. Not quite). Those documents are not there for you to learn the answer to the scenario, they are meant to be a reference for some of those minute details that one may need a little extra information on.
During my study process for the Deploy Exam I worked through the scenarios using the VMware Hands on Labs. I personally recommend using this method as opposed to a home lab because it will get you familiar with the interface that you will be using during the exam. This will be key to doing well on the exam as it will likely challenge your time management abilities.
As I mentioned before time management is a key factor to this exam. With only 7 ½ minutes for each question you need to be able to do a quick evaluation with each scenario on whether or not you will be able to complete it in that amount of time. If a question was on something I may be a little weak on or I thought it may take more than 7 ½ minutes I utilized the provided dry erase pad to take a quick note of the objective and moved on to the next scenario. After one run through of the test I would look at my board to see what ones were remaining and did my best to work through them.
Here is a really great Deploy guide that was put together by Kyle Jenner. He breaks down each of the sections covered by the the exam with some easy to run scenarios as well as a number of additional resources to reference.
There are 16 objectives on the Exam blueprint and 18 questions total. You are very likely to have to complete a scenario for each of these objectives give or take one or two with some objectives having multiple questions. The time allotted for all of this is 205 minutes, which comes down to just under 11 ½ minutes per scenario. Unlike the Deploy exam, time does not seem to be as much a factor on this test.
The structure of this test is scenarios composed of a mixture of multiple choice, multiple answer questions as seen here: VCAP 6 Design Questions Quiz and a Visio-like design tool in which you build out the required design. This is a link to a sample design to get your feet wet: VCAP 6 Design Graphical Quiz
The Multiple Choice, multiple answer questions will really test your VMware design principles. Understanding what the difference between functions vs non-functional requirements, knowing what is conceptual design vs logical design vs physical design, and knowing how to identify if an element relates to Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability, and Security will be the meat of these questions. You will need to understand how the VMware infrastructure relates to these principles.
The Graphical design portion is a bit of a finicky tool that is not present in the update 6.5 VCAP Exam. The questions it asks can be a little vague so be sure to read them over multiple times to understand exactly what it is asking for.
One of the most important resources in preparing for this exam is to become very familiar with the VMware Validated Design documents (For VCAP6 you will want go over the Release 3.0): VVD documents
The VVD will show in detail the VMware design for SDDC that they use as their base blueprint. Going through it you will learn the language used in the exam as well as how all the components fit together.
One key piece to remember is that these questions will need a pretty specific answer. You can very easily lose out on a lot of points by putting items into too many categories on the Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer, or by adding extra elements into the graphical design portions. Unlike the Deploy Exam, the Design is far less forgiving with wrong answers and you will have less of an ability to know if you are answering correctly or not.
And that is all there is to passing these Exams, Simple..
Maybe for some, they certainly were a challenge for me but I am a much better VMware architect and engineer for having gone through the process. You are likely to learn a few things about different pieces of the infrastructure that you did not know before.
I hope that my experience rundown has been informative. There are a number of blogs and resources out there that go into a great bit of detail (Some of the ones I have included links to) so if you made it this far I hope that this will prove to be of value to you. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me here or on twitter: @gregmadro