VCAP-DCD Study Guide: Part 2

….So you’ve trawled the libraries/internet/Amazon for (I hope at least some of) the resources I talked about in Part One, so what now?

Blueprint for success

Okay so first I’d highly recommend having a read through the VCAP-DCD exam blueprint, you are going to need to know ALL this stuff and there isn’t really any getting around that if you’re serious about wanting to pass this exam.  See the VCAP-DCD exam isn’t happy with just testing your knowledge, VMware actually take it as read that you know your stuff having force-fed you configuration maximums for the VCP so with this one you have to prove you know how all that knowledge gets filtered and shaken-up and turned out into a working vSphere design.
What this therefore means, is that whereas for the VCP or other multi-choice cert exams you could potentially get away with knowing 80% of the material and still earning a pass, it’s not that simple with VDCD510, mainly thanks to the now infamous Design questions that will give you the Lion’s share of your marks for this exam.  Essentially, you will be given a statement, or a set of requirements for a vSphere design and you will be expected to extrapolate that out into what those requirements mean for your design, and then create the design.  I’ll come back to this later.

So on with the study, the exam blueprint has a lot of ‘suggested reading’ that it’s well worth taking a look at, particularly if there are any areas you don’t have a lot of experience in and need a bit more background on- handily there are several places where someone has done the legwork for you and bundled all the additional resources together, such as this one from Justin Langer.  There is a lot of useful information, case studies and white papers here that could prove invaluable when you’re in your exam, so do take a look.


What next?  Well back in Part One I claimed that Scott Lowe’s Pluralsight (formerly Trainsignal) course Designing VMware Infrastructure was the single most useful resource for VCAP-DCD study, and here’s why.  Yes the course gives you good background info (as does Scott’s VMware vSphere Design book- an essential read for this cert), yes it gives you some incredibly useful scenarios to work through, but more importantly it absolutely nails the mindset you need to have for this exam.  The key is to consider the implications the given requirements will have on your design, and also the impact your design choices for one component of your design will have on the rest of it.
For example, your customer details in the requirements that they wish to virtualise their current physical Microsoft Exchange instance.  Fair enough, but what does this mean for the design?  First off you’ll need some block based storage (look elsewhere in the requirements- does your customer state they wish to utilise their existing NFS storage? Do they say that there is no budget for storage hardware?  I smell a potential conflict!), also is their Exchange clustered and if so what does this mean to your design??  The overriding thing to take here is that the design is an iterative process, a cycle you need to go through until all requirements are met and conflicts resolved- this is essential to keep in mind for the design portions of the exam.
Scott also introduces the ‘mindmap’ as a good way to visualise the effect one design choice can have on the rest of your design, and again this is key to remember.  Scott explains it better than I can, but here’s an example to get you thinking…


So this is a starting point by way of example and by no means exhaustive but this is exactly the way of thinking you need for the VCAP-DCD exam.  You can of course drill down into each of these points and spawn another mindmap from there depending on how granular you want to be with it.
You can see how, by making a design decision at any point of the mindmap can affect many other aspects of the design, which in turn will affect others etc.  Selecting a 10GbE iSCSI array or FC array for example, will mean you will have to have the network infrastructure to support that and also the budget to do that, as well as the operational expertise within the customer to support it.  Above all, are you still able to meet ALL of the requirements?  Remember that a design that does not meet the requirements, is not a good design- especially where the VCAP-DCD exam is concerned!
You will not be asked explicitly in the exam to say, list or select the vSphere Enterprise Plus features, but you will be expected to know what these are so when your customer requirements state that they don’t have excessive budget for licensing, you know what features you can effectively rule out of your design, and what impact that will have on other design decisions.

Simple as that?

So I have recommended some reading- obviously I haven’t covered them all in this post but trust me they are all valuable resources and you would do very well to dedicate some time to all of them, and make notes as you go- not only will it give you a great set of study notes by way of review but it will also stick in your brain better, believe me.  Don’t be afraid to grab a study partner or post a question on the community or LinkedIN, your fellow VMware architects are one of your greatest resources to tap for ideas and bounce concepts off, and we’re more than happy to help 🙂

I hope this has helped give you some direction to your study, come back soon for Part Three which will deal with the exam itself and what you can expect.  You have been warned….


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