Well my expiry date for my current VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification was due to expire on March 10 2015, and in all honesty for one reason or another I have not been proactive in renewing the certification, ideally I wanted to progress on the certification roadmap with the ‘VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration’ accreditation. However, through lack of study time and then discovering that the nearest available test centre for my deadline was 219 miles away I decided to renew my existing certification through the Delta Exam offered.
So, what is the focus of the exam from the outline?
This exam is focused on changes and updates from vSphere 5.1 to vSphere 5.5, and is available to existing VCP5 holders who took the VCP510 exam and need to recertify on or before March 15, 1015.
Always a good place to start is downloading the VCP550D Exam Blueprint which at an initial glance appears to be quite heavy for an exam that appears to be focused on changes and updates available in vSphere 5.5, but the majority of topics you should be familiar with being a current holder of the VCP-DCV certification and administrating your vSphere environment in your day to day activities.
Firstly, In order to prepare for the new material between vSphere 5.0/5.1 and vSphere 5.5 the whitepaper What’s New in VMware vSphere 5.5 Platform and a free one hour online course is also provided by VMware to help you prepare for the exam VMware vSphere: What’s New Fundamentals of V5.5 are a good start on your road to preparing for the recertification. There is also a number of training resources available on Pluralsight to which a free 10 day trial is offered to which the only limitation during this period is a maximum viewing time of the 200 minutes for the training videos.
For those who have previously undertaken the VCP-DCV examination, it has always been helpful to gain an understanding of the configuration maximums and features available in the various vSphere editions, so I familiarised myself with those:
vSphere 5.5 Configuration Maximums
VMware vSphere Pricing Whitepaper
Now, I decided to familiarise myself with the new features and enhancements which further extend the core capabilities of the vSphere platform in VMware vSphere 5.5, to which these are listed below:
vSphere ESXi Hypervisor Enhancements
- Hot-Pluggable PCIe SSD Devices
- Support for Reliable Memory Technology
- Enhancements to CPU C-States
Virtual Machine Enhancements
- Virtual Machine Compatibility with VMware ESXi 5.5
- Expanded Virtual Graphics Support
- Graphic Acceleration for Linux Guests
VMware vCenter Server Enhancements
- vCenter Single Sign-On
- vSphere Web Client
- vCenter Server Appliance
- vSphere App HA
- Architecture Overview
- vSphere App HA Policies
- Enabling Protection for an Application Service
- vSphere HA and DRS Virtual Machine – Virtual Machine Affinity Rules
- VMware vSphere Data Protection Enhancements
- vSphere Big Data Extensions
vSphere Storage Enhancements
- Support for 62TB VMDK
- MCSC Updates
- 16GB E2E Support
- PDL Autoremove
- vSphere Replication Interopability
- vSphere Replication MPIT Snapshot Retention
- VAAI UNMAP Improvements
- VMFS Heap Improvements
- vSphere Flash Read Cache
vSphere Network Enhancements
- Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) Enhancements
- Traffic Filtering
- Quality of Service Tagging
- SR-IOV Enhancements
- Enhanced Host-Level Packet Capture
- 40GB NIC Support
From reading the exam blueprint, I made a note of objectives related to the exam to which I required to refresh my knowledge or to which I have not had much exposure to in the real world to which I would also concentrate on:
- VMware Data Protection
- VMware vCenter Operations Manager
- VMware Virtual SAN
Registering for the Exam
The registration process is different from the usual process as this is available online, so there is no need to visit a test centre. Firstly, you need to request authorization for the exam from VMware, once you have received your Candidate ID you can the schedule the exam with Pearson Vue. This initial process took one business day to process and once notification was received I was able to complete the registration for the exam and once payment has been processed you can take the exam within an 48 hour window.
The Actual Exam Experience
Once I completed the registration and made the payment I decided to take the exam immediately, no time like the present! So we have 65 questions to answer in the allotted time frame once the initial questionnaire was completed. In terms of time management I completed the 65 questions with approximately 15 minutes to spare, this gave my time to review my answers in particular those that I had marked for review, at no time during the exam process did I feel I was pushed for time – so one less thing to worry about!
There was two things that struck me about the exam. Firstly, unlike previous VCP exams I have taken there was no questions relating to configuration maximums and secondly the content of the questions as described in the outline are not entirely focused on updates from vSphere 5.1 to 5.5. As per the NDA, I cannot go into the content of the exam questions but a number of questions were around the topics to which I concentrated on from the exam blueprint which came in useful.
So how did I get on (drum roll…)? Well after completing the online test, I received instantly that I had passed the exam with my score so that was a relief, so I am now certified until 27th February 2017. The next day I received a notification from VMware of my result and my transcript was updated accordingly.
It is also worth noting that the user experience of the online test was excellent, very responsive and no issues experienced at all. I am sure I am not on my own when I recount of number of bad user experiences in testing centres over the years!
I would definitely say that in terms of exam preparation this was probably the most unprepared I had been but time for recertification was of the essence, and I have been using VMware products for a number of years I was confident (rightly or wrongly!) that I would have a good chance of passing the exam. In my opinon, hands on experience is the most important aspect of studying for an exam so I would encourage where possible to create a lab environment in particular for features you may not use on a day to day basis as part of your job role. Alternatively, if you do not have a lab environment have a look at the VMware Hands On Labs (HOL) this was particular useful for VMWare Virtual SAN. I find just reading a text book or a document is not enough, it is a lot more beneficial to gain experience with the product features.
Also, there is some great resources at CloudCred in particular practice questions related to the exam provided by the community.