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April, 2014

Thoughts on VMware’s Expert-Level Certification Plan

This week I’ve had the privilege of sitting in a new program being introduced by VMware to create a new expert-level certification.  Before we get in to the program itself I want to talk a little about what I’ll be doing over the next few months which excites me more than a new certification.  VMware is slowly but surely rolling out their NSX offering.  As part of this they are working to train and enable both customers and partners.  This week I’m in Miami for the first week of training in this program.  There will be several weeks of training covering several areas of NSX:

  • First Week – NSX on vSphere
  • Second Week – NSX in a Multi-Hypervisor Environment
  • Third Week – Architecture and Design

Even though we just started the training has been excellent.  Very informative with excellent conversation, whiteboarding, and questions.  The class is made up of an interesting mix of people that have a mix of networking and virtualization backgrounds.  We have strong networking students but light in virtualization and vice versa which leads to great discussions around the hows and whys you would do something.  It’s easily been one of the most interactive classes that I’ve ever attended.

Along with 3 weeks of in-class training we also get access to a private lab environment for testing.  These labs are hosting in the VMware HoL environment, just like the public labs but they are ours to use for 3 months without disruption.  This is an absolutely great resource as these complex products, like NSX, can be hard to install in a lab without disrupting other testing or being disrupted due to changes.  We can now build up our labs without fear of them getting changed and if we mess them up we can have them reset.

I’m sure VMware will expand this program to a larger scope of candidates and if you have the option to attend I’d highly recommend it.  NSX is not a crazy complex offering, but it does require a good mix of skills and understanding of both virtualization and physical networking.  VMware has been slow to roll out NSX to the partner community.  While I’ve been a critic of that, I do understand the reasoning.  A proper NSX design and deployment is a large undertaking and if done improperly can really hinder a customer.  Therefore this sort of training program is welcomed with open arms.

Expert Implementation Certification

Think of this as the CCIE for VMware.  Many of you are probably asking….  “Well, isn’t that the VCAP-DCA?”.  No.  The VCAP-DCA is a good administration certification but even with the newly expanded DCA lab it’s not nearly equivalent in difficulty or scope as something like Cisco’s CCIE lab exam.  VMware is working to fill that gap with this new program…and before you ask, their currently isn’t an official name for the certification yet.

There isn’t a lot of detail yet about what this new certification will require outside of an in-depth lab exam.  But in my opinion it’s going to, again, be similar to the CCIE Lab.  Most likely at least one full day of lab configuration and build focusing on the technology for that certification, such as NSX or vCAC (if they move to other products).

One thing that may cause some unhappiness with VCDX candidates is that if there is an expert implementation certification in your focus area you’ll be required to do that before attempting the VCDX.

My Thoughts

VMware has had a difficulty/scope gap in their certification offering.  They’ve done a good job of expanding “horizontally” to have exams and certifications cover more of their product offerings.  But…they only have the VCAP-DCA-type exams which, while are hands on, basically have the candidate do pretty straight forward daily administrative tasks.  They did not have a complex hands-on deployment certification and this program hopes to resolve that.  Right now it looks like the first iteration of this will be geared toward NSX but in the future I expect we’ll see these for many different product families.

We (Varrow) are a VAR with many different levels of engineers.  The ability to gauge expertise is not always easy or straightforward.  Cisco’s CCIE program has shown that a tough lab exam can be a good indicator of a potential employee’s knowledge and capabilities.  Now..before everyone comments…I get it.  Certifications aren’t always accurate but the VCDX and CCIE programs have done a good job of making sure the quality of passing candidates has stayed up.  My hope is that VMware does the same and we see these extended lab exams be able to confirm knowledge.

For another opinion check out my classmate Chris Wahls post titled “VMware To Offer Hands-On Expert Level Certification for NSX” on the new program here.

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