Coming Soon – VCAP5-DCA (VDCA511) Exam

A few weeks back, I received word that the beta release of the VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Datacenter Administration (VCAP-DCA) on vSphere 5 is opening. I only recently took the time to examine the beta blueprint in detail, along with some other statements being made by Randy Becraft (Sr Program Manager for Technical Certifications). A few things struck me as worthy of commenting on, so I’ll cover them in this post.

Exam Changes

First off, props to Ed Grigson for taking the time to comb the blueprint for the exact changes over VCAP4-DCA. His blog post here highlights all the new stuff, and I recommend reading it for an idea on where you stand with regards to polishing the skill set. Additionally, Gregg Robertson, who hosts a site that has a ton of certification resource links, has also written a post that goes over some of the changes and his reactions.

VMware Product Changes

Most notably, a lot of VMware products have been removed from the exam. Orchestrator, Heartbeat, vShield, and Linked Mode to be specific. I think these changes make sense for the type of exam this is – while I’m a big fan of vCenter Orchestrator, it does represent a rather niche percentage of the user base, and is more of a “sit down and think of it” type of applications to me (normally I write workflows and then spend a good chunk of time tuning and testing them, not creating them under the gun). As for Heartbeat and vShield … meh … Heartbeat is super niche (either due to awareness or the large price tag) and Zones doesn’t even really “exist” anymore as it formerly did, the big push has been for vShield Manager, Edge, App, and Endpoint.

So, good moves in my mind. I am a little sad to see Linked Mode disappear, but in a live lab environment that can be tough to test for. And, realistically, it’s not that hard to implement (next, next, next, finish).

One very notable addition is AutoDeploy. This may be the elephant in the room for a lot of folks, as I have not used it outside of a lab due to the “1.0” issues that hold it back. By this I mean the fact that it’s a single point of failure unless you design around that, or requires a management cluster of thick installed hosts to protect against a total outage.

Other Product Changes

Also, you may notice that Microsoft Clustering is gone. Realistically, that seems to be one of the more valuable skills to test, as most customers are looking to do some sort of cluster on VMware (either Cluster-in-a-Box or spread across hosts). But I suppose that it’s easier to just test for “clustering” technologies using shared SCSI bus storage rather than make it product specific.

VCP5 Upgrades

I kept hearing waffling from VMware on if a VCAP-DCA would upgrade a VCP4. Due to the very long period it took for them to finally announce this, I went and took my VCP5 back in October of 2011 to avoid having to take a course.

However, the beta blueprint does specifically state that a current VCAP4-DCA holder can take the VCAP5-DCA Exam “until three months after the official release of the VCAP5-DCA exam” and shows the results being a certification in both VCAP5-DCA and VCP5. Huzzah? 🙂

Thoughts

Make sure you’re on your A game for the VCAP5-DCA if you choose to go the upgrade route. If you miss that 3 month window (either by failing the exam or poor time availability) you’ve got to take a VMware course, upgrade to VCP5, and then you can once again take the VCAP5-DCA. That doesn’t sound fun. It may be easier to just get the VCP5 to avoid the stress if you’re crunched for time.

I’m looking forward to the beta exam, which Randy has provided for free (due to some testing hiccups and very short notice). I will make sure to staple a hundred 4 leaf clovers to my lucky VMware socks. If you have any comments on the VCAP exams, changes to this exam, or other musings, I’d love to hear them.