Having spent a bit of time on VMware’s NSX platform I decided I would take the next step up the certification path. I sat the VMware advanced exam – VMware Certified Implementation Expert Network Virtualisation – VCIX-NV. I was quite confident walking into the exam. I had heard the horror stories about sitting this exam from within Asia pacific due to latency. I had heard about the awfully constructed exam environments and tricky rabbit warrens. Needless to say the war stories were scary. I booked the exam given I have had substantial hands on with the product.
Of course the first place to start is the official blueprint. This blueprint outlines all the exam parameters. The environment , the length of the exam, questions and what to expect. The important part to remember is that this document is THE source of truth when it comes to the exam.
There were a couple of Twitter friends who were looking to study for a VCIX on a short time frame. These people joined a Google Sheet that mapped all the blueprint requirements. Then we initially went through and assigned an honest score.
- 1 – unfamiliar, not configured
- 2 – familiar, configured
- 3 – well versed, configure and troubleshoot
This rudimentary scoring system allowed an appraisal of where I was at. Whilst I am very familiar with EVPN/MPLS VPN and SSL VPN in the Cisco/Juniper world I honestly put down a 1 under VPN subjects for NSX. This is totally due to not doing under the NSX way. After configuring it a few times it was very familiar as was the troubleshooting of this environment. One of many aspects of how NSX really is just networking after all – just done in software. Skills do translate.
With my test environment I used internal training labs and Hands on Labs. This allowed me to quickly spin up basic vSphere environments which allowed me to spin up NSX on top. I can test all features of NSX against basic application topologies. It allowed me to just keep adding functionality. I build up from logical switching, adding routing, VPN services, firewall, NAT rules and more. The topologies that I had built in my lab were so far from the real world. The point was to test and validate technologies. This was not just simply using the clicky clicky GUI but jumping down into the CLI of the ESX hosts or NSX edges and validating the environment. This helped solidify my knowledge of many aspects of NSX I had not touched such as Data Security and Activity Monitoring.
So this was my first VMware advanced exam. The environment – Pearson Vue Testing Melbourne – was like a Gestapo facility. With more cameras than a prison, I had to turn out my pockets, roll up my sleeves, remove my watches. I’ve actually had less scrutiny going through a TSA checkpoint as a foreigner or into prison for IT work. That had me a little off guard. The exam environment was not too bad with regards to latency. The latency was like VMware staff access our internal cloud in the US. I would say 300-400ms. It definitely adds time and delay to the exam. It makes you worry a little when things pause. I freaked out a few times when things too a while but I got there.
I learned that some times complex exam environments are just as scary as basic environments. Whilst I can’t say much more I feel some times distilling and validating basic technology is just as daunting as piecing them all together. In the heat of the clock you can sometimes self-doubt over simple things.
Time management is just as important as other VMware exams. Whilst you have 220 minutes to do this exam the time ticks down. Tasks which don’t seem to take long outside of an exam environment do seem to take an eternity within the testing centre. You can click back and forward between questions which allows you to see what requires configuring next and sometimes if there are no dependencies you can go ahead and configure the next task. Use the comment fields to track where you are up to. Also use your laminated whiteboard too.
In the end there was a pass for me which is what I was hoping for. There are some combinations of technology and methods of approach that were testing. The exam was not as wide of scope as I had hoped but all in all it was not too bad. For a version 1.0 of the exam you couldn’t ask for much more. Just remember – the clock is counting.
Dilemma now is – CCIE RS or VCDX-NV.