VCIX-NV exam experience
After a little mishap in November (found a bug in the system, yay!) I could finally sit (and pass) the VCIX-NV exam yesterday. I will skip through telling about the obvious stuff like length and number of questions as they can be easily found in the exam blueprint.
The allotted time for the exam is more than enough, even without a 30 minute language extension you can possibly get. The blueprint is pretty accurate on what you will need to do during your tasks and even while the bits are not downloadable for the general public there is a vast amount of study material ready for everyone to use including live labs.
With the CCIE R&S or DC you can directly take the exam until Feb 28th 2015 which is very nice for people having that kind of certification. On the other hand if you have taken the VCP and want to do the exam you won’t need to be near the actual networking knowledge of a CCIE though. Nonetheless some CCNA level experience for OSPF, BGP, ISIS and subnetting definitely will help during the tasks, be it for configuration or troubleshooting alike.
As always with live administration exams the kits are not hosted in the test taking center. This can lead to some performance sluggishness. Joshua Andrews has outlined in his blog what to do if this happens to you.
One thing that is hard to learn and which I am always doing wrong is to overthink the questions. If you are not asked to implement a specific setting, don’t. If you lack information for optional values, go by the default. If you think you are lacking some crucial information for non optional fields try skipping back or forth a task or two, especially in the beginning that might reveal important information simply displayed that would have taken you minutes to figure out on your own.
You will notice that the tasks are interdependent, meaning that especially the first couple of tasks must be somewhat correct to continue through the rest of the exam. The approach I would suggest is to start implementing the first couple of tasks and during the waiting time skip to the next couple of follow on tasks (not implementing them but skip through the first 10 questions just to see what you are expected to have in the end).
The questions will not notify you when to turn on specific VMs, use proper judgement here, if you are asked to verify connectivity, having the VMs running does help a lot! If possible use SSH to connect to VMs instead of VM console, the screen refresh rate is horrible for continous pings in the VM console while working perfectly fine via SSH. When editing Edges or DLRs you might need to just mash-click the router (or virtual switch) to be able to proceed, sometimes my double clicks would not be recognized due to latency.
I did have some browser issues forcing me to reload the Web Client a couple of times and even restart the browser at some point. After half the exam the Web Client should have needed a restart as Recent Tasks were not progressing at all anymore but vCenter communication was still there so I didn’t bother. In the beginning I actually did have issues starting a couple of VMs with the task simply being stuck. The putty connection does have bookmarks for the ESXi hosts and restarting the management agents did resolve the issue just fine.
Using the start menu of the ControlCenter VM you can also open the classic C# client (what I did for some VM consoles, as they tend to load faster in that client and I am simply more familiar with it).
One very neat thing was the HTML documentation being available and even access to the VMware knowledge base, use it when you are stuck on some configuration details to quickly help you out.
For exam strategy I would recommend to skip the troubleshooting tasks if they are not in the first couple of tasks and complete the configuration tasks first. Note down on your paper sheet what exactly you are missing for the troubleshooting to come back later, but it is far too easy to get lost in troubleshooting and waste a lot of time that could have been spent on straight forward configuration questions which results in less points in the end.
It also helps to note down the various subnets being used and draw (!) out the architecture of the virtual networks you are building and configuring, this will help tremendously during router configurations without the need to go back to each router for a missing IP and uplink name and save you quite some time!
I used several study resources:
General networking knowledge helpful to pass the exam:
CCNA DC Networking Pluralsight course by Chris Wahl (if running of trial watch lessons 8,10 and 13)
HOL-SDC-1402 – vSphere Distributed Switch from A to Z
NSX specific study resources:
NSX: Install, Configure, Manage [V6.0]
NSX for Internetworking Experts Fast Track
HOL-SDC-1403 – VMware NSX Introduction
HOL-SDC-1415 – IT Outcomes – Security Controls Native to Infrastructure
HOL-SDC-1425 – VMware NSX Advanced
Martijn Smit’s study guide
The labs and the guide should be able to cover 90% of the blueprint which is a pretty decent position for taking the exam.
I would like to end this post with a huge thank you for the VMware certification team, I have taken quite a few exams now and there is constant progress visible both in task quality and variety as well as turnaround time for the results of the administration exams. The sheet and the end does say 14 days, from talking to other people and reading different exam experiences most of the time you should have the result way faster, mine took about 5 hours.