It’s official. VMware’s Certificate Manager is showing my newly acquired VCIX-NV certificate. Phew … this was a pretty heavy exam. One of the first things you do nowadays when embarking on a study adventure for a hefty certification like VCIX-NV – after reading the official blueprint several times – is read up on (unofficial) study guides and exam experiences from brilliant guys in the VMware Community. My self-confidence reached a pretty low point after that because it seemed everyone, even seasoned VCDX veterans, was actually failing this exam on their first try. Man … what did I get myself into this time?
Preparing for the exam
My networking background
I got flashbacks of my Cisco CCNP study period, sitting at my desk at home with a pile of old Cisco switches and routers gathered trough scavenging the Internet, configuring VLANs, OSPF, Frame-relay and so on. That was an intense period of network studying. I kind of lost focus on in-depth networking because I switches jobs shortly after completing the 4th Cisco CCNP exam. With NSX storming the market, and networking being a key component in any hybrid cloud strategy, my focus on networking is back. And as it turns out, all my Cisco studying efforts way back did come in handy now. Although most of my detailed knowledge slipped away to the back of my memory, I was surprised how quickly quirky little details came back when studying for VCIX-NV. While I did most certainly not ace the exam, I felt extremely comfortable around the more traditional L2-L4 networking tasks in NSX during the exam. A fundamental understanding of networking most certainly helps. Piles of books have been written on networking. The Cisco Press books are excellent but thats a lot of pages to digest. I can highly recommend the Brocade IP Primer whitepaper if you want to do some reading up on basic networking stuff.
I’m not going to list all the study material out there for VCIX-NV. There are tons of excellent study guides out there. Google is your friend! One resource I explicitly am going to mention is VCIX-NV.com. Iwan Hoogendoorn put in a cray amount of time and effort and recorded videos of literally every task described in the blueprint. Great work and very helpful.
I am fortunate to work for VMware knowledge powerhouse ITQ Consultancy. So many smart guys there. NSX Ninjas Sjors Robroek and Marco van Baggum have lots of NSX experience and they really helped me out. Sjors and Marco both submitted VCDX-NV designs and I’m aiming for the next VCDX-DV window in Staines so our VCDX study evenings where we discussed our designs really helped.
VCIX-NV is a lab based exam of course so hands-on experience with NSX is crucial for succes. Thankfully gaining access to a lab environment is pretty easy nowadays. NSX is pretty resource hungry from a homelab perspective so I primarily used VMware Hands on Labs. HOL-SDC-1425 – VMware NSX Advanced is a great lab environment to use for exam preparation. Just strip out all NSX components except the NSX Manager and start building your environment. Create new IP Pools, Transport Zones, Logical Switches, ESGs, LDRs, and so on. You can build pretty much anything you need! A great service from VMware which we often take for granted but it is pretty amazing when you stop and think about what VMware is providing … for free!
I was really dreadful of the lab experience. I read horrific stories about extreme latency issues, broken lab environments, frozen test center desktops and so on. My lab worked perfectly well. The performance was actually pretty good. Of course the test center equipment came straight out of the ’90s with a 17″ 4:3 monitor at 1024×768 but hey … performance was good. I openend two web client windows: one focussed on Networking & Security and one on Hosts & Clusters. This saves time when switching between these two views is required. I worked through the tasks one at a time. There are dependencies between questions and skipping a part of a question because you are waiting for a deployment can be tricky. You have to make sure you come back to that incomplete task and finish it. My head was racing so I personally was unable to multi-task and keep open tasks organized. Because the performance of my lab was good, I had enough time to complete the tasks one at the time.
I’m very glad I made it. My test results arrived in my mailbox very quickly and I literally shouted out of joy!