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On Becoming a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)

You might remember my May 2008 InformIT blog post entitled "On Becoming a VMware Certified Professional (VCP)." In that essay I described why I think that VMware certification is important and how you can qualify as a VCP. In today's installment I want to describe the next level of VMware certification: the VMware Certified Design Expert, or VCDX.

According to the VMware Web site, the The VCDX on VMware Infrastructure 3 credential is an advanced certification that was developed for design architects of VMware enterprise deployments.

However, according to the regular posters at the VMware Communities Web site, the VCDX credential may be aimed more directly at people who want to become (or who are already working as) VMware Authorized Consultants, or VACs.

Jon Hall, a technical certification developer for VMware, had this to say at the VMware Communities site:

"It is important to understand that the VCDX is not the next level in our certification process. Where you look at other industry certifications, a 'Master' level is typically the next level in a certification track. If we had a multi-level certification track, the VCDX would probably be two or three levels above the VCP."

Jon then goes on to describe in some detail the focus of the VCDX title:

"So why then did we create this certification before some other potential mid-level certification? To put it simply, this certification was created to address a specific need. VMware uses VACs (VMware Authorized Consultants) to help design and implement virtual infrastructure solutions for our customers, and these VACs have to have individuals who are able to design and implement a virtual infrastructure and who understand the entire process. The VCDX certification helps ensure that those individuals have the requisite skills for that specific process."

In other words, whereas the VCP represents the skill set of the "rubber meets the road" VMware administrator, the VCDX title is intended to validate the skill set of VMware enterprise architects.

It would therefore be incorrect to define the VCDX as a "professional" level certification (like the CCNP is in the Cisco certification world) to complement the VCP "entry" level certification (like the CCENT and CCNA titles are in Cisco-land).

In a nutshell, here are the qualification requirements for attaining the VCDX; they are pretty steep:

  • Certify as a VMware Certified Professional (VCP) on VMware Infrastructure 3
  • Pass the VMware Enterprise Administration Exam
  • Pass the VMware Design Exam
  • Submit, present and defend a VMware Infrastructure design and implementation plan

Let us examine the second, third, and fourth requirements. You can learn more about the VCP requirement by reading my previous blog post here at InformIT.

VMware Enterprise Administration Exam

Compared to what is known about the VCP exam, relatively little is known about the VMware Enterprise Administration exam, save for the blurb at VMware's Web site that describes the test as "include[ing] live labs and test[ing] a higher level of skill set than the exam for VCP on VMware Infrastructure 3."

Okay. Some more detail here would be nice, good VMware folks!

You can check out the VMware Enterprise Exam blueprint in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, however.

Registration for the VMware Enteprise Administration exam is, shall we say, a bit different from most other certification registration procedures with which you might be familiar. VMware requires that Enterprise Administration exam candidates complete an online VMware VCDX Qualification Review in order to determine their eligibility for taking the VMware Enterprise test.

If VMware determines that you are a good fit for the exam, then a VMware representative will contact you individually to schedule the test. Please be aware that you cannot schedule to take the Enterprise exam at any ol' Pearson VUE testing center. You must work with VMware to schedule the test at a VMware-approved testing center that supports the lab-simulation technology.

Therefore, taking the Enterprise  Administration exam may require you to book some travel.

Another VMware staffer, Molly K., made the following comment on the VMware Communities site:

"Right now there's no way to issue the test over WebEx. There are a number of security issues that would be associated with testing in this fashion. Testing for this exam will be performed in major metropolitan areas, and during the qualification process we wil ask you for your first and second preferred locations. The travel/limited seating warnings are intended to warn people that some travel may be required depending on their location. When the Design Exam launches the process will be similar."

Speaking from my professional experience as an exam developer, I am guessing that the "live lab" questions involve a terminal services connection to a VMware server where the student is required to complete tasks on live, and not simulated, software. Just my hunch, though.

A gentleman named Kent Altena shared his experiences with taking the VMware Enterprise Administration Exam. Following are the exam tech specs in a nutshell:

  • 100 questions
  • A mix of scenario questions and a number of live lab items
  • Registration Fee: $400 USD

VMware Design Exam

If little is known as of today with regard to the Enterprise Administration exam, then even less is known concerning the Design Exam. According to the good folks at VMware, this exam has not hit beta yet as of this writing in July 2008.

You might recall that you are required to sit for a VMware-authorized training class in addition to passing the certification exam in order to earn your VCP.

The good news for VCDX candidates is that, while you are still required to take and pass two additional exams, the training component is formally considered to be optional. That represents a valuable time and cost savings to prospective VCDX candidates.

VMware Infrastructure Design and Implementation Plan

This project-based requirement will doubtless involve additional travel and accommodations expense for you or your company (whoever is footing the bill for your VCDX certification).

The board members to whom you present your VMware infrastructure and design plan will initially consist of VMware PSO employees and will eventually expand to include non-VMware VCDX certification holders. Says VMware employee Molly:

"More extensive travel may be required for the Defense portion of the certification, but even then we will make an effort to find board members in your area to limit the amount of travel incurred."

Study Resources

Jason Langdon has a nice blog up where he published VCDX study tips and resources.

At the moment I could find only one title from Pearson: VMware ESX Server in the Enterprise: Planning and Securing Virtualization Servers by Edward T. Haletky.