Passed VCIX-NV :: my experience

Brutal. Vicious. Savage.

Remember those movies where they waterboard their captives. Now imagine being waterboarded for 210 minutes (or longer if your in a non-English speaking country). With no letup all that time.

The above analogy may be taking it to the extremes, but you get my drift right?! The VCIX – NV drains you out. The actual exam that is, not preparing for it. The preparation part was tons of fun. I haven’t had as much fun with any other certification than I’ve had with this one. NSX is very cool technology and being able to play with it in my home lab and on the VMware HOLs was exhilarating.

Exam day:

I took the 6am flight to Sydney which meant getting to the regional airport by 5 meaning I got up by 4 etc etc (I know, I know!). I dozed off for about 2 hours in one of the departure areas at Sydney airport. Fast forward the next few hours and it’s exam time. Heavily caffeined up, I started my test at ITIC on Pitt Street. Just as it started I noticed the screen looked a little smaller and sure enough the 19″ monitor wouldn’t cut it. Got the proctor to move me to a different computer. The moment they got me started, the computer wanted to install updates (what the…!!). Proctor asked me to wait as there was no other available computer, clock’s ticking. Told the proctor who said there wasnt much they could do about it. I requested for a time extension to which I was told they’d consider at the end). Fast forward another 20 or so mins, the computer’s was finished with its updates. I started again.. Issues this time:

  • NUMEROUS disconnections to the control center. I counted upto 20 after which I lost track, each disconnection lasted anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. I estimate I lost 15 or so minutes to these disconnections
  • laggy screens, especially the console sessions to the VMs. The latency wasnt as bad I think as compared to my 2nd attempt but still annoying
  • the web client crashed numerous times and I ended up closing the browser and logging back in. Clock’s tickin’!
  • still couldn’t get OSPF going between the DLR and ESG they wanted me to work on. I really wonder what the issue is behind the scenes..

I totally forgot asking for the time extension because my brain was absolutely cooked fighting the issues and trying to get things going. I only realized I had forgotten as I was walking out of the exam room. The extra 30 minutes would’ve made a world of difference to my comfort levels waiting for the result. I walked out of the building thinking I’d likely done enough despite the issues I had. Headed to some bar to get some grub and drink. Two hours later – passing score!!

1st and 2nd attempts:

I was first booked in to take the exam in Melbourne’s ITfutures test center but I didn’t even get to begin because the link to the lab was broken. Good thing was the proctor didn’t waste too much time and told me within the hour. Rescheduled my next attempt for the next available date, which was in Sydney. Not-so-shockingly, no exam centers in Melbourne offered any VMware advanced exams, which sucks big time. Hopefully something will be done about this otherwise people like me are going to have to fly to Sydney/Perth to do an advanced exam. Anyways, my 2nd go at the test had issues such as:

  • for the first 15 or so minutes, the NSX Manager didn’t show up in the web client. After 15 minutes, it magically did
  • high latency to the lab environment causing things to load frame by frame periodically throughout the test
  • router adjacency could not be established among some of the components
  • general L2 issues
  • VMs wouldn’t power on

I was given a retake voucher in light of the above issues and booked the retake, again for the next available date (also in Sydney).

Advice:

The best advice is contained right here > http://sostechblog.com/2016/06/16/current-vcix6-nvvcix-nv-exam-environment/ . I’ll add to this:

  • all non-NSX bits they ask you to do – do them via the fat client. If you cannot find the fat client in the start menu or desktop go to C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware…\Launcher\vpxclient.exe. Fire up VMs the questions ask you to, make changes to HA/DRS as needed etc.. I suggest not powering on VMs or making any changes till the questions ask you to, a lot of things are inter-twined and you dont want to make things any harder
  • some things you do are hard to roll back so do them carefully to begin with. Things like creating your DLRs, ESGs, getting them talking via OSPF/static routes, attaching VMs to the edges etc and then having to delete them when you’ve realized you’ve made an error (such as placing them in wrong network) all end up eating into the little time you have. My advice is – when they ask you to create these bits just take a bit longer and go slower so you know you are doing it right
  • DON’T do things they don’t ask you to do as you may find it affecting other things you may need to do in the following questions. If for instance, if they ask you create something with say 2 interfaces only, do just that – don’t anticipate needing more interfaces down the line
  • dont wait for things to finish deploying, click ‘finish’ and go onto the next question/task, come back to the previous one later. You are in a time vortex, as Anthony Spiteri said, you are losing time while you wait. Keep going..
  • before I began, I wrote the numbers 1 through to 18 (you get 18 questions to do) – so while doing the questions I kept marking them off as I moved through them. This served two purposes – it gave me a visual of how I was doing (this gives me a psychological edge) and how many I had got left in the allocated time. Besides, I knew which questions I had to get back to after running tasks had finished
  • the moment you encounter any issues, tell the proctor so they know and can log a ticket for you. This ticket is key to getting a free retake voucher! When you email VMware Edu Services, put in as much detail as possible about what you encountered and hopefully they’ll give you a voucher
  • dont get bogged down by any question, if you find yourself going down a rabbit hole I suggest you move to the next question. Your aim in the test should be able to get through and maximize the number of questions you answer. There may be questions further down that you’d answer with relative ease, so if you find yourself spending more than 10 or so mins one one, you should move on and come back to it later if you still have the time

Prep material:

  • VMware HOLs and my own home lab. I used the HOLs till I was able to get access to the NSX bits. Make sure you go through all through the content in all 4 HOLs – the introduction and advanced labs for both APJ and US regions. What’s important is to understand what’s going on
  • Jason Nash’s Pluralsight video series. Great introduction to the technology, I also used it as a filler for gaps here and there. I believe Pluralsight have a free trial of their entire library, maybe the 7 days of the trial will convince you to invest in yourself! I downloaded his series on my phone so I could listen to it on my daily commute
  • Martijn Smit’s free study guide. I used this guide during the initial stages of my preparation and it was really handy. For folks that like structured learning, this guide’s going to be good
  • Video series by Iwan Hoogendoorn (the guy’s got 6 x CCIE’s for Christ’s sake!). GREAT stuff Iwan! > http://www.vcix-nv.com/
  • Blogs by (in NO particular order of importance):

Been said before and I’ll say it again – lab it up, lab it up and do it over and over. Dont miss any item in the blueprint.

My shiny new certification:

VCIX_logo

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