In this inaugural VMware-related Fast Lane blog post, we introduce the various VMware certifications and take an in-depth look at the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification. In subsequent posts, we’ll explore some of the other VMware certifications that you can obtain as you further your career.
VMware certifications provide a clear, objective measure of your virtualization expertise. There are two certification tracks: datacenter and desktop. You can also think of the datacenter track as infrastructure. Most of what VMware does in the enterprise virtualization space starts with a foundation based on a vSphere infrastructure. The desktop track is based on VMware View which you use to virtualize Windows desktops.
Your first certification should be the VCP. After you’ve gotten your VCP, you have several different options for more advanced certifications depending on your career interest, expertise, and virtualization experience. VMware has several levels of certification in the two tracks, as shown in the following table:
It’s unclear if the VCA4-DT is going to be updated and renewed for View 5. VMware does not currently offer a VCA5-DT certification. If they do not update the VCP-DT, then the entry-level certification in the desktop track will be the VCP-DT.
The following flowchart shows you the recommended, but not necessarily required paths to attain each certification:
While the flowchart shows the most common path that people take as they add more advanced certifications, there are a number of allowable variations. For example, you can take either of the datacenter VCAP exams before you take the other VCAP exam. Most people take the VCAP-DCA first simply because most people start out as administrators and then, as they gain more experience with the technology, they move into a design role. Likewise, you might achieve advanced datacenter certifications before your job requirements take you into desktop virtualization. There are however a few prerequisites:
- You must start with the VCP certification before attempting any other certification (including the VCP-DT) except for the VCA-DT which has no prerequisites
- You must achieve both the VCAP-DCA and the VCAP-DCD before you attempt the VCDX (and presumably this applies to the as-yet-unreleased VCD.next for vSphere 5)
- In the desktop track, you must achieve the VCP-DT before you attempt the VCAP-DT
VMware Certified Professional (VCP5) Course Requirement
The VMware Certified Professional (VCP) is the entry-level certification. The current version is VCP5, based on the vSphere 5 release. You must attain the VCP5 before attempting any other certifications in either track. The VCP is the only certification that includes a requirement that you take a VMware authorized training course. The following VMware-provided graphic shows the VCP5 requirements:
There are a couple of interesting aspects to the VCP5 requirements that are highlighted in the graphic. First, the VCP certification is the only certification that requires you to attend a VMware authorized training course. You have two options to satisfy the course requirement. If you are already a VCP4 (or have attended a vSphere 4 course in the past), then you need take only the What’s New V5.0 (VIWN) two-day class. For everyone else, you can satisfy the VCP course requirement by taking any one of the following courses:
- vSphere 5: Install, Configure, Manage (VICM)
- vSphere 5: Optimize and Scale (VOS)
- vSphere 5 Fast Track (VVFT)
The VICM class is designed for IT professionals who are just starting out with VMware technology. It is an introductory course that, while fairly comprehensive, does not include everything that you need to know for the VCP5 exam. More advanced topics are covered in the Optimize and Scale course.
The vSphere Optimize and Scale class is brand new (as of May, 2012) and is designed as a follow-on to the VICM class. The course is for experienced VMware administrators or those of you who have taken the VICM class. The Optimize and Scale course can be very useful if you are getting ready to take the VCAP-DCA exam. The class counts toward the VCP5 course requirement, but you should only use this course to satisfy your VCP requirement if you have been working with VMware technology for a while but haven’t had a chance to take the VCP exam. If you are very new to VMware, you should attend both the VICM and the Optimize and Scale classes even though only one is required for the VCP.
The Fast Track class is essentially a combination of the VICM course and the Optimize and Scale course. It’s a five-day, ten hours/day class, so it’s definitely challenging. At the same time, it can be very worthwhile for those of you who can’t spare more than a week away from the office for training and want to quickly come up to speed on VMware technology. It is appropriate for both new and experienced VMware administrators.
Preparing For and Taking the VCP5 Exam
After you attend one or more of the required courses, you are ready to take the next step. Although you might think that next step is to schedule and take the VCP exam, you probably want to spend some time working with vSphere and virtual machines first, especially if you are a new VMware administrator. VMware wants to know that VCPs have real-world, hands-on experience with the product, and that objective is reflected in some of the VCP exam questions. Make sure you know how to use the vSphere Client to configure the more common vSphere components (virtual machines, networking, storage, clusters, and so on). At the same time, I always recommend to my students that they not wait too long after they take the course to take the exam. It’s easy to forget some of the things you learn in class that you might not use very frequently, or at all, in your production environment.
Once you feel ready to take the exam, go to the VMware page on the Pearson Vue website to sign up for the exam. The VCP exam consists of 85 multiple-choice questions. At the testing center, you will be asked to relinquish your cell phone, and your picture will be taken for identification. Make sure you have a legal ID with you as well. You have 90 minutes to complete the exam, not including a ten-minute survey at the beginning. You can go back through your answers before you submit your final responses and you can flag questions that you want to review, so don’t spend too much time laboring over a question if you’re not sure of the answer. Flag it and move on so that you do not run out of time. You can go back and work on it at the end if you have any time remaining.
Once you submit your final answers, the computer will tell you immediately if you passed or not. You need to score 300 points out of a total possible score of 500. Some questions are worth more than others, so you can’t really gauge how you’re doing by simply counting to 51 (60% of 85 questions). The testing center will give you a printout of your score before you leave. Don’t lose the printout, since it’s your proof that you took, and passed, the exam.
After You Pass
Of course you will pass the exam (right?), so what next? You should already have an account in VMware’s education management portal, mylearn.vmware.com, as a result of taking the required VMware class. Login to your mylearn account and select the myTasks tab. Once you pass the VCP exam, a new task will be added to your mylearn account. The task contains the following steps:
- Complete the Request for VMware Workstation License
- Confirm your shipping address
- Consent to transcript release
- Accept the VMware Certification Agreement
Complete the steps in this task to finalize the VCP certification process. Once you complete the task, VMware Education Operations will begin the process to grant you access to the VCP portal, where you can download VCP logos and access other information related to your newly-minted VMware Certified Professional certification.
In this post, we reviewed the various VMware certifications and dived into the details of the VCP5. Obtaining your VCP though, is only the beginning. If you plan to work with VMware products and technology going forward in your career, then you should definitely also plan to pursue advanced certifications beyond the VCP. In later posts, we’ll explore the VCAP, VCDX and desktop certifications in more detail so check back soon.