VMware To Offer Hands-On Expert Level Certification for NSX

Let’s start by setting the stage. Back in 2012, I successfully defended my data center design required for acquiring the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) for Data Center Virtualization (DCV). The journey leading up to the defense, and the actual defense process itself, was immensely beneficial to my skill sets and professional growth. I consider this yet another step in a journey, rather than crossing any sort of finish line.

VMware’s network virtualization product, NSX, has stirred up the silo pot in many different ways. I’m seeing the lines between server and networking administration blur to such a degree that it’s incredibly difficult to find where one discipline begins and another one ends. I don’t consider this a bad thing; it encourages cross-discipline communication, which ultimately creates a strong data center environment. But it begs the question: how does one enter the realm of network virtualization using VMware NSX from either a networking or server background and expect to be successful?

Rockin' out to some NSX!
Rockin’ out to some NSX!

I’m pleased to share that there is an answer in the works. A brand new, hands-on, expert level NSX certification is being crafted to offer server and networking professionals a transition path into the world of NSX. Although the official name and availability of this certification is not yet public, I think the emphasis should be on the fact the program will focus on a live lab environment. For those that have taken the VMware VCAP-DCA exam, expect something that is similar in nature but incredibly more in depth and considerably more challenging – which is fitting for an expert level certification.

Hands-On Expert for NSX

Much like other expert level certifications provided by VMware, this one will sit at the top of the certification stack. It will be something that a technical professional works towards by way of hands on labs, real world experience, and various forms of lab and written material study. Once certified, the individual will have the credentials to quickly prove that they have indeed worked with NSX and can provide the skills necessary to meet the various blue print skills.

A sample hands-on NSX lab
A sample hands-on NSX lab

At this point, the program is undergoing a trial run from a small group of technical professionals from varied backgrounds: CCIEs, VCDXs, infrastructure admins, security professionals, data center engineers, and so on. The idea is to hit the program from as many different angles as possible to really ensure that the hands-on NSX expert certification will be a program that a wide variety of individuals can be successful within, assuming they have the time, drive, and passion to complete the journey (there’s no free lunch!).

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Another member of the NSX hands-on expert course, Jason Nash, has written an excellent post entitled Thoughts on VMware’s Expert-Level Certification Plan

I’ve extremely impressed with the NSX lab environment being created for the expert certification. It’s complex enough to offer a variety of tasks that offer a non-trivial challenge but designed in such a way that follows a relatively real-world conceptual and logical design. Back in my VCAP4 days, the lab environment was relatively small and often plagued with latency issues, but even over hotel-grade wireless I’m able to cruise through my NSX lab and work through tasks.

Inspecting flows within NSX
Inspecting flows within NSX


I’m really enjoying the coursework because it challenges such a wide variety of data center skills. At one moment I’m working through VXLAN flows across host VTEPs, and the next moment I’m digging into VMkernel design as they relate to data plane packet walks. NSX offers such an incredible amount of flexibility at the management, control, and data planes that each use case we review drives a fair amount of architectural conversation. Stay tuned for more updates as I continue through this program, and feel free to leave a comment if there’s something you’d like me to share (assuming I can).

[symple_box color=”yellow” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”]If you want to roll up your sleeves and work with VMware’s NSX in a controlled environment, check out the Hands on Lab (HoL) for NSX:

  • HOL-SDC-1303 – VMware NSX Network Virtualization Platform
  • HOL-SDC-1319 – Tech Preview: VMware NSX for Multi-Hypervisor Environments
  • HOL-SDC-1320 – OpenStack with VMware vSphere and NSX
  • HOL-SDC-1321 – vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) 6 from A to Z