Author: David Davis
With many enterprise applications running on VMware vSphere today, VMware professionals are in demand. As virtualized workloads continue to grow, VMware-certified IT professionals will continue to be highly valuable in the job market.
These certifications are designed to test individual knowledge in VMware-specific capabilities, whether you’re an operational specialist, a designer or a systems architect.
There are several topic areas, including:
- Data Center Virtualization (DCV)
- Network Virtualization (NV)
- Cloud Management and Automation (CNA)
- Digital Workspace (DW)
- Security (Sec)
- Application Modernization (AM)
There are also several role-based certification levels, which you can learn about here.
For those interested in the VMware Certified Professional in Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV), this article describes the available options and provides insights on how to successfully prepare to take the certification exam.
VCP-DCV certifications are designed to gauge your level of skill designing, installing and managing VMware vSphere environments in a real-world environment—in other words, the majority of VMware professionals.
The VMware Certified Technical Associate (VCTA) is for operators and administrators who would typically work within a vSphere environment that’s already up and running and need to understand how the environment works. This has a low cost, low barrier to entry and can be completed from home. This entry-level, 51-question multiple-choice certification exam is a good starting point for those who are new to VMware certification.
The VMware Certified Professional 2021 (VCP) is for those who are installing and configuring vSphere and know the more advanced features. If you already have VMware experience, or are willing and able to pay for a VMware education course, the VCP may be right for you.
For example, if you’re already working as a network or storage administrator and want to be able to prove your skills as you seek promotion or search for a new job, the VCP is a good option. This certification is the gold-standard for proving your VMware vSphere knowledge, and is arguably one of the more valuable certifications in IT today.
The VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) – Deploy is designed to show that you can deploy and optimize VMware vSphere infrastructures.
The VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) – Design tests advanced knowledge of end-user computing environments and components, and the ability to recommend and design VMware solutions to meet specific goals and requirements. With the focus on design, it’s very different from the other three data center exams.
Both VCAP certifications include a 3-4 hour in-person practical exam where a panel asks you questions, and you are required to configure things as quickly as possible. I took these certification exams and really enjoyed them, in part because they’re 100% hands-on and there are no multiple-choice questions.
- The VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) is the highest level of VCP-DCV certification. To complete this certification, you will need to submit a design that you’ve created and pass a lengthy, in-person panel exam and defense of your design. This is typically for advanced architects or consultants, and I recommend achieving your VCP certification prior to considering the VCDX.
Now that you have an idea of the available VCP-DCP certifications, here are a few tips to help you through the certification process.
1. Create a training plan
Having a plan and following through with it will give you the best shot at achieving your certification on the first try.
Begin by asking yourself some key questions: What certifications do you want to pursue? What do you have to know? When do you want to take the certification exams? Once you answer those questions, work backwards from your target test date to come up with some milestones.
For example, you could take the VMware Certified Professional Exam Blueprint, break it into seven or eight specific objectives and plan to study each of those different objectives over several weeks.
You could also create a sample test for yourself at the end of each week to help you identify concepts you’ve mastered for each objective and where to focus additional effort. Another option is to watch specific training courses, then recreate the modules in your own lab environment online.
2. Schedule time on your calendar
Productivity gurus say that if you want to accomplish something, whether it’s reading a book every day or learning something new, you should block out time on your calendar.
The fact is, you’re not going to learn what you need to know to achieve your VMware certification simply by listening to a video while you’re out for a run or driving to work.
By scheduling time each day or night before you go to bed, even if it’s just 15 minutes, you’ll form the basis of a lasting study habit.
3. Gain hands-on experience
Hands-on experience is critically important for any VMware certification. Military pilots call this stick time, which for them is time in the cockpit flying the plane. If you want to achieve your certification on the first attempt, you need the technology world equivalent of stick time, and that’s screen time.
Screen time is doubly valuable: It will not only help you achieve your VMware certification, but it will also help you to be a more valuable employee. IT hiring managers would much rather bring someone onboard with real time working with the technology, even if it’s in a lab environment, rather than someone who just read a book and passed a test.
(Important reminder: Never do any sort of testing, training or education in a production environment.)
If your company doesn’t have VMware or you don’t have a job where you have access to a VMware environment, there are free options available to help you gain hands-on experience using a local virtual lab.
It’s easy to create a virtual lab environment using VMware workstation if you’re on a PC or Windows machine or VMware Fusion if you’re on a Mac or with an Apple device. Here are two courses on the Pluralsight library to help you get started:
Another option is to create your own local physical lab, using real servers running VMware vSphere. To set that up, you’ll need to:
- Consider the number of CPUs you’ll need to run your workloads
- Ensure they’re compatible with vSphere
- Ensure you have enough RAM and storage, since vSphere has an ever-increasing amount of storage and memory required
- Consider heat, power, space and noise
- Consider the numerous small form factors available, including those from Intel, NUC and Supermicro
It’s also ideal if the system is on the VMware hardware compatibility list to help alleviate issues.
Free vSphere evaluation software is available, but it’s worth noting that these typically time out after a while. Members of the VMware user group (VMUG) can access lab licenses of vSphere to run in your environment. Cloud-based labs are also available on a subscription basis.
And finally, VMware Hands-on Labs provides another way to test out vSphere in a web environment. You can even access lab guides and try a series of different exercises to enhance your knowledge base, all without having to spend a dime.
4. Know the exam blueprint
VMware does a great job of publishing the objectives that will be covered in each exam. In other words, the requirements are no secret.
Still, information changes frequently with VMware vSphere and VMware has refreshed its certifications for 2021. Visit the VMware website to confirm the exam you’re planning to take and get the latest details on any exam or certification you intend to pursue.
Next, confirm that the materials you’re using to prepare for the exam are also up to date, and purchase and download the exam guide, which breaks down what you need to know step-by-step to prepare for the exam.
5. Work your plan
The final tip for achieving your certification goals with VMware is simple: Set reminders every day and tenaciously follow your plan step-by-step.
Check back for more courses
Watch for more upcoming courses sessions on VMware Data Center certifications and vSphere. For more resources, check out the Pluralsight website or visit my Pluralsight author page where all my courses are published.