This past week I finally scheduled my first Advanced Exam from VMware, the VCAP-DCA (Data Center Administration). I’m a person that insists on not failing any certification exam I take. Only on my last exam, the VCP-IaaS exam I was a bit worried as there really was no official study material. I was working with vCloud Director and vCloud Networking& Security for the past two years both at customers and it was the service portal to my Home Lab. Because of that experience, I passed without issue.
Before we begin, I want to also point out that VMware has released and updated version of the VCAP-DCA based on 5.5 as well, however, you can take either, I chose to stick with the 5.0 based exam as I have already started to study based on that version.
While the VMware VCP exams are simply just question/answer, the Advanced Exams are interactive, situation based, and you actually have to complete configuration(s) in order to meet the desired task. I’m extremely excited as I have yet to take an exam that truly tests your skillset by doing, and not just questions on an understanding of a topic and this follows along with my learning style which is learning by doing.
I took the time to research what was required and to setup a nested VCAP-DCA lab within my home lab. There are several blogs out there that will point you to building a lab for this, but one stood out the most, and that’s Josh Andrew’s blog over @ SOSTech.
Josh outlines the VCAP exams and recommends the lab configurations you will need to test your skills against. Based on Josh’s recommendations I set out to build the Lab. Before I go through the lab config, I first want to point out that yes, there are easier methods of deploying the lab with tools like Autolab and yes, you can set this up on VMware Workstation, Fusion, ESXi, whatever floats your boat. In my case, I have a three node lab with VSAN Storage (which caused me issues which i’ll discuss in a minute), and built a nested Environment for VCAP-DCA. This way I do not impact my overall lab and I can have a repeatable environment that I can destroy, bring back up, snapshot..etc.
Here is the list of software based on Josh’s blog post:
1. 2 x ESXi Hosts (I chose the latest 5.5 u1a as I reached out to my fellow Hardforum Community members and Jason Nash responded that I wouldn’t need to use 5.0, I could still complete the tasks on the latest release.) Keep in mind when you are doing Nested you must choose to Expose Hardware Assisted Virtualization to the Guest OS option under CPU. I also built out my networks on my Home Lab Infrastructure as well prior for the different traffic types I would need.
*Note I did run into an issue on the installation of nested ESXi on a VSAN datastore which I will discuss later in the ISSUES section.
2. 1 x vCenter Server w/VUM (Windows Based vCenter Server w/Update Manager, I also setup the SysLog and Coredump as well just in case)
3. 1 x vSphere Management Assistant Appliance for CLI related Tasks
4. Storage Appliance (VSA) I chose Nexenta Community Edition as my storage appliance. I’ve used it in the past, it’s a breeze to setup and supports NFS, iSCSI, you could do FC, but in my case I will use our lab at work on UCS connected to our EMC Array for FC related training.
A. Since I was running the install on storage provisioned from my vsanDatastore, during the ESXi installation, I ran accross an error when ESXi was attempting to format the VMFS volume:
After a brief search on Google, i see William Lam saves the day yet again. The article that addresses this issue is posted at virtuallyGhetto . You can read the explanation on William’s site. Quick fix is to add this command to fake iSCSI-2 reservations on the hosts that are providing the vsanDatastore:
esxcli system settings advanced set -o /VSAN/FakeSCSIReservations -i 1
After the lab was built and configured, I proceeded to obtain the latest reference and training material. I then composed a five step plan of attack:
1. Read and continue to reference the official VMware VCAP-DCA Blueprint. As of the date of this post, the latest is version 2.9 dated March 11, 2014.
3. Jason Langer and Josh Coen’s VCAP-DCA Study Guide. This is material I will reference to re-enforce the Video Training from the Pluralsight Course.
4. Lab work. I will validate what I have learned in my training and to practice things I already know or may not have done before using the the lab created above.
5. Chris Whal’s VCAP-DCA Study Sheet: Chris has created an awesome study sheet to track your study progress. It’s used to validate that you KNOW the subject matter by taking a methodical approach to each objective area.
This is my plan for success on passing the VCAP-DCA (VDCA510) The exam is scheduled for June 20, 2014, and I gave myself a little bit over one month of consecutive study time.
Look for my feedback on my experience following the exam with results!