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Certification Profile: VMware Certified Design Expert for Datacenter Virtualization (VCDX-DCV)

This article profiles VMware's VCDX-DCV Certification. Pearson IT Certification provides a variety of preparation tools to help IT Professionals in their quest for certification. As part of our service to you, we have developed this Profile series. Each profile is developed based on the experience of one of our trainers or authors. You won’t get exact questions or answers, but you will get a real feel for the Certification. This certification profile describes question forms, trouble spots, hints for exam preparation, and recommendations for additional study resources. Find out what you can expect for this certification and how to best prepare for it.
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The VMware VCDX-DCV defense is required for certification as a VMware Certified Design Expert for Datacenter Virtualization. This in-person defense session will evaluate your knowledge on complex designs that use vSphere as the underlying technology platform. The in-person defense is approximately 3 hours in length and includes a 75 minute defense of your design, a 30 minute design scenario, and a 15 minute troubleshooting scenario. These sections evaluate your design skills, your knowledge and presentation of design considerations, design patterns, design skills, and troubleshooting skills as an architect.

Exam Details

  • Exam Number: There is no exam number as this is a defense session.
  • Types of questions: Dependent upon the design submitted and the scenarios used.
  • Number of questions: n/a
  • Time limit: 3 hours (75 minutes for defense of the submitted design, 30 minutes for the design scenario, and 15 minutes for the troubleshooting scenario)
  • Passing Score: Pass/fail based upon scoring rubric
  • How to register: Submit application and your design. The instructions, blueprints, and application forms can be found here. You will need to first register in MyLearn to get two links add to your “My Enrollments” page. There will be a link to the VCDX5-DCV Design Defense Blueprint [151283] and the VCDX5-DCV Handbook & Application [151286].
  • Upon acceptance, a fee of $300 is submitted with the application and design, and a first level review is done on your design to determine if scheduling can happen. Once review is complete and design is accepted, a second fee of $900 is submitted to schedule the defense. The latest information on the fees can be found at the VMWare website.

  • Prerequisites: VCP-DCV, VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD, completed design

Trouble spots

Time management is likely the biggest challenge for a prepared candidate, because there are three fixed-time components to the defense. Each area has specific challenges.

The application must be complete and include specific details related to the creation of the design. If this is incomplete, the application will not be accepted and returned with a request to fill in the missing information. Be sure to include others that worked on the design with you as multiple individuals may submit the same design that they worked on collaboratively.

The design must include components listed in the corresponding VCDX blueprint. Candidates who do not add in missing areas cannot get scoring opportunities in those areas. This may require addition of fiction pieces with the corresponding requirements, constraints, assumptions, and risk. The design also must include conceptual, logical, and physical design areas.

The design defense is the first part of the VCDX defense. You should create a presentation that represents highlights of your design that can be covered in less than 15 minutes. Panelists typically wait until completion, but if you cover an area that a panelist has questions on, they will ask them at that point. Be clear in articulating your answer, but also be brief to ensure the panelists can get the other questions they have on your design answered.

The design scenario is the second part of the VCDX defense. Typical challenges for candidates include the following:

  • Time pressure
  • Challenges in developing a starting design in front of a customer
  • Mistakes in understanding the requirements, constraints, and supporting information
  • Not utilizing the information presented in the slides, or provided by the panelists in response to your questions
  • Spending too much time in one design area when there are other critical areas that need to be addressed
  • Unable to articulate what they are thinking
  • Unable to articulate aspects of the design or technology used
  • Not utilizing the white board which can be used for topology diagrams, notes, calculations, and design areas to focus on

The troubleshooting scenario is the third part of the VCDX defense. Some of the same challenges for candidates under the design scenario apply here. The following are in addition to those listed above:

  • Unable to ask questions on technologies they need more information on
  • Unable to identify multiple problem areas and focusing instead on only one specific area
  • Unable to demonstrate a methodical approach in analyzing the provided information and working towards a solution
  • Unable to identify whether a problem is rooted in the design or the implementation

There are also challenges waiting for the unprepared candidate in these areas:

  • Scenario Technologies: Scenarios may include technology that a candidate is unfamiliar with. This may require the candidate to quickly learn through questioning the panelists.
  • Operational Considerations: Understanding the operational considerations is essential for all three parts of the VCDX defense.
  • Interoperability and Compatibility: Candidates must understand how multiple technologies work together, and understand both the strengths and weaknesses.

My Personal Experience as VCDX-001

As the first VCDX certified, there were several challenges that I faced. The biggest was the time required to prepare the materials and then prepare for the actual defense. Identifying what to include and how to integrate the different pieces for a full design submission was something that I felt comfortable with, but I needed to ensure the blueprint components were represented in the design. This required the addition of fictional pieces that had realistic requirements, constraints, and risks that demonstrated the same skills required for a real design project.

Another big challenge faced by the initial starting VCDX candidates was that we were breaking new ground in how the certification was being developed. Although there are similar architect-level certifications in other computing areas, we chose a new approach similar to a university graduate level defense of a thesis or dissertation. The development of the process and going through this as one of the first VCDX was a both interesting and challenging. In many ways, the original bar for the first candidates was set extremely high. At the time there were no boot camps. Our mock defense was one and the same as our real defense. I chose a design from one of my customers, expanded on the material to meet the blueprints, and worked to understand every aspect of my choices in detail. This included the integration points and the pros and cons of each design choice. I kept careful notes, along with the others defending, to provide guidance in the handbook and to also create the VCDX tips that eventually led to the VCDX Boot Camp book.

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