Sunday, December 28, 2008

Passing the VCP

Passed the VCP – Here’s what you need to know!

After a few hectic holiday weeks I buckled down and set a date for the VCP (VMware Certified Professional) exam. I found a large number of helpful resources online and figured I’d try to help others by providing some of the resources I used.

In order to receive your VCP certification you must begin by participating in an instructor-led VMware authorized course. If you do not already have your VCP then you can choose between the “Install and Configure” or the “Deploy, Secure and Analyze” courses. This course is available as Classroom learning at a VMware Authorized Training Center, Live Online and also available with on-site training by a VMware Certified Trainer. The course certainly isn’t cheap at $3,000 but make sure to check with your company and see if they might be willing to make an investment. Locate and schedule courses on VMware's Education Services site. (Requires account, but you will use this account many times)

I participated in the “Install and Confgure” classroom course last December (prior to ESX3.5’s release). In the course there is a great deal of lecture from a knowledgeable VMware Certified Trainer as well as hands-on labs as you progress. All PowerPoint information is also available in the provided student manual and lab book. Once you’ve completed the course make sure you hold onto this manual, it will come in handy while studying for the VCP. (If you’re wondering, there was a slight gap between the VI3.0 course and the material for VI3.5 but the core information was the same.)

Study Aids
VMware makes a great deal of resources available on their website for preparing you to take the VCP exam. Begin by reviewing the VCP Blueprint to get an outline of the knowledge you need as well as instructions on where to find the information about each topic. These tools include the various configuration and deployment guides that can be found at

The Education Services page on VMware’s website provides links to additional information about the certification, scheduling a class, and creating your Education account. Once you’ve created your account you also have the ability to post questions on the VCP Forum where a great deal of intelligent folks can answer your questions. Many of the resources I’m mentioning here were recommended from the VCP forum.

One of the more useful and concise resources I used was the “VCP Exam Cram” book, by Elias N. Khnaser, which I found at Barnes and Noble but can be purchased cheaper on Amazon. If you prefer digital copies you can get access to this and others at Safari Books Online where you can either buy the print version or sign up for the monthly subscription. The greatest benefit to the online version is the ability to search through the text quickly without having to use the old fashioned index in print versions. This book very efficiently organizes the core information you need to pass the exam and provides several practice exams. Each chapter has a short exam of 10 questions and provides a reasonable gauge on topics you may need more review. I found that the practice tests are similar and the scores made on them will likely reflect approximately to your final score. Take the tests and review your missed questions and you will probably find your knowledge gaps.

Another good resource for practice test questions is the Mock Exam provided by VMware and located at These mock exams provide 20 minutes to answer 20 questions and are fair representation of the types of questions you’ll find on the exam. You only get 100 attempts so use them well!

Many other resources are out there including training videos and awesome flash cards created by Rob Schmidt with over 300 exam questions. Remember that these are based on VI3.0 and may contain a couple of errors or outdated information, so always trust your documentation.

Finally, check on the various blogs out there for tips and hints that others have found helpful. If you’re reading this then it is likely you will be interested in theirs as well. One that helped me initially was Holy VM! By David Strebel where he provided most of the links you’ll find on this page.

Experience, Experience, Experience
The most important thing that you can do is get experience using VMware VI3 technologies. If you are like me and do not have enough resources for a testing/learning environment at work, or at home, you are left with little options for honing your VMware skills. Fortunately the folks at Xtravirt wrote up a whitepaper for installing VI3.5 on Workstation 6.5 Build 118166. I spent some time in the weeks prior to taking the exam doing test installs of ESX, ESXi, VirtualCenter and the VI Client. This testing provided invaluable working knowledge of the many technologies.

Using trial versions of software like Lefthand Networks will allow you to turn local storage into iSCSI storage to connect your virtual ESX hosts. I did not perform this operation but know many people who have. My instructor for the “Install and Configure” course also highly recommended this software.

There is no better way of getting your hands dirty then playing with real equipment in a real-world environment. Join your local VMware Users Group or make other industry contacts and see if they have labs that you can visit and enhance your skills. If you have free time and don’t mind working pro-bono then perhaps see if a colleague will let you sit in during other implementations. Make sure you have proper permission of course!

The Exam
The VCP-310 Exam consists of 75 questions and you are given 90 minutes to complete it. If you are a non-English speaker you receive an additional 30 minutes. The exam cost is $175 which I found to be reasonable. A score of 70 is required to pass which means you only have to answer 53 questions correctly. (I have noticed that some documentation states that a score of 75 is required but my exam and VMware’s website both state 70) You must schedule the exam through Pearson Vue at and take it at an authorized testing facility. Make sure you sign up with the same email address that you signed up for the VMware course with if possible. This is highly recommended to expedite qualifying you with PearsonVue to take the test. Arrive 15 minutes early and you might as well leave everything in the car except your identification and car keys. You are not allowed to bring anything into the testing area with you. The proctor will log you in and verify that your identity and scheduled exam match.

My test began with a 10 question survey which was timed but did not affect my actual testing time. The exam is computer based and allows you to mark questions for review as you progress. You get the option to go back to these questions once you have completed all of the questions. My advice is to mark questions for review that you do not have 100% confidence in your answer. If you are truly prepared you will have ample time to go back over these questions before finishing up. Use your time wisely and review all of your questions thoroughly as time permits. Fortunately I found an error I made on one question and was able to correct the error.

Once you have completed the exam you will receive your results right away and will be provided a printout containing your Score Report which contains your score, registration number, and validation number. You will be able to use the registration and validation numbers to later print out an authenticated certificate from

I have deduced from the VCP community forums that you will receive your VCP welcome packet within about 6 weeks of passing the test. This includes a license of VMware Workstation ($189.00) which reimburses your for the exam cost ($175). Additionally it is my understanding that you will receive the opportunity to create a new login for connecting to VCP only features, documents, and utilities. I will provide more information on this VCP welcome pack once I receive mine.

The VCP-310 exam is certainly challenging but can be easily passed with the right preparation. Spend as much time as you can gaining hands-on experience and read up on the documentation that I’ve mentioned in this entry. Keep your eyes on the forums periodically and take as many practice tests as you can. Make sure that you understand the purpose and limitations of the Virtual Infrastructure and its components and you’ll find that you’re answering questions quickly without too much thought and deliberation. Take your time and you’ll walk away a VCP.

I hope I have provided you adequate information to make you feel informed about the process. Best of Luck!

Quick Notes:

  • Take a VMware authorized course
  • Read as much material as you can
  • Get your hands dirty and get Experience– Makes it so much easier!
  • Enroll for the Exam at
  • Get some Rest and eat well the day of the test!
  • Take your time and review questions you are not 100% confident about.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Welcome to Day2Day Admin

One of the greatest challenges that I see in this career choice of mine is keeping up with the rapid changing technologies that effect both my professional and personal lives. In the process I try to recognize those technologies that I feel will be relevant for years to come and make the most of them.

This blog is my attempt to chronicle my day to day activities, both work and play, and how I overcome technical challenges or move forward with the "next big thing" that I find myself involved with. Hopefully my posts will be relevant to the challenges, and environments, that other SysAdmins or like-minded individuals are confronted with on a Day 2 Day basis.

I look forward to your feedback. Enjoy!