Long time no see!

Ok so it’s been a while since I’ve last put anything on my blog and some people will wonder why I’ve been off the RADAR so to speak. Well lets cover off a few things which I’ve been up to and you might understand better.

  1. Parenthood

Well I’m a proud new father and at the time of starting the vBikerblog my responsibilities and duties were just to support my wife while she breast feeds our awesome boy Maximus. I do chores around the house to help out and try my best to keep mother happy – and often get my ear bent by her! Well that was all well and good but Max is growing at a rapid rate of knots and becoming more and more demanding in his needs. So my wife and I have had to dig in and devote more of our time to him while still maintaining order in the Ward household and Max is now in full on teething mode. We still have to look after two demanding border collies too and I need to work so time is at an absolute premium as is the mental and physical energy levels! No one told me just how much they melt your heart when they start blowing raspberries at you and making all sorts of baby noises. Very cute! Check out the video for a little giggle.

  1. Training and learning

I’ve already taken one VCAP-DCD exam in January and just failed it by 10 points as I missed the last 10 questions due to a massive balls up in calculating the time needed for each question. While this was a failure I also learnt a lot from the experience and the style of the exam questions and have since been trying my best to study to rectify some areas in which I saw myself as a little weak.

In order to make sure I was prepared to sit the exam again I recently attended the VMware Design workshop hosted by QA right next to the Tower of London. I was under the impression that this course would be geared towards to preparing candidates for the VCAP-DCD exam. In actual fact this was not to be and it wasn’t directly aimed at the exam at all but a general principle of VMware logic and design methodology which to our instructors own admission, was a little out of date in terms of the content.

However an awful lot of the content was helpful if you’ve never done architecting before and will enable you to take a good logical approach to design. I big take away for me was just the sheer differences in approaches to design at different levels from my fellow students. Another nugget of info was that there was now a “back” button on the exam so that you can do the design questions first and then return to the lesser scoring questions after.

With this knowledge and my performance on the course I felt I was ready to take the exam and promptly booked it for a few weeks later while I just prepared mentally and covered some technical details.

So the exam day came and I had to travel quite some distance to the exam centre (about 200 miles) and I elected to take my R1 (Yamaha Superbike) as I was going to go on the dreaded M25 Motorway which orbits London. This turned out to be a very good call as lo and behold there was an epic jam and congestion all along the sections of road I needed to go so being on two wheels I was able to filter through the traffic and get to the exam centre with time to spare.

So I did the obligatory signing in process and went and did the exam. A few things went wrong for me. The first was the fact that this time I had got to the end with enough time to go back to the questions I wasn’t sure about and to perfect my design answers. The first issue I found was that some of the multiple drag and drop answers I had placed in the tables were not where I’d left them and were in different sections so I corrected these again and moved on to the designs. I decided to re-do a few from scratch and found that for some bizarre reason when i selected active connections from the drop down boxes they were now blue dotted lines instead of the solid red. Just to make sure I wasn’t going mad I clicked on redo and tried again carefully selecting the active connectors and found that this was still showing the blue dotted line.

Anyway I made the designs as best as I could and and with about 5 minutes to spare I clicked confidently on the END exam radio button.


To my horror I saw that the I’d not only failed but I’d actually a worse score than I did the first attempt.

I was in a state of shock and disbelief and left the exam room gutted. I did report to the reception about some of the issues I had but nothing was really done so I left the centre completely flattened with depression and self doubt. Just to compound my life a bit more the heavens decided open to pour the entire contents of the Atlantic all over me on the motorbike on the way home completely soaking me making me even more miserable.

I’d already alerted my wife of the massacre of what was my confidence and she greeted me on my return with a cold bottle of Magners cider and a big hug and kiss. I was despondent and sulked upstairs and the first thing I did was to open a word document and write down as many as details of the design questions and other questions. I wanted to get some clarification over what it was asking and what I’d answered so I could see if where I went wrong. A post mortem as such.

Once I’d downloaded brain memory to internet memory I then shut off the PC and continued to sulk and second guess where or what I did get right and or wrong. It bugged me a lot and I won’t lie, I was hard to live with or talk to as my mind was in turmoil. I’d listened to all the advice, I’d read all the books, I’d viewed many hours of Pluralsight videos and Youtube videos so what the hell did I do wrong? The worst thing about the exam is that the results only give you generic areas to review i.e. the whole bloody blueprint. It doesn’t give you an area(s) of where you are weak so you can go back and reassess/learn so VMware would do well to implement this in the future.

So after the dust had settled and my mood turned from sulk to get even, I took to twitter to ask for help. That in itself was a tough pill to swallow but I’m man enough to admit my failings as clearly I must be doing something wrong and wanted to put it right ASAP. As with all things in the community I had no less than two VCDX’s contact me offering some assistance which blew me away and reminded me of why I do love Twitter and being in the VM community as everyone wants to help you.

Step up Sir Michael Webster @VCDXNZ001 my virtual knight in shining armour. Michael set up a webex so we could have a chat about some design concepts and have a discussion about the way I was going about doing the exam questions. While Michael couldn’t actually give me an specifics of the VCAP-DCD exam due to NDA he did convey some critical advice for me next attempt which was to draw the design out before I look at the available components in the drop down box. The thinking behind this was that if my design fits the requirements and all the necessary components were available in the selection boxes; there would be a high chance that I would get the question correct rather than be fooled by a few red herrings and un-necessary components that would be available.

Michael did also console me in the fact that he thinks the anomalies I experienced is highly likely due to a bug in the exam and as this is written I still have not had a reply from VMware Certification as to my queries but I can’t and won’t dwell on it. The past is the past and I can’t change it but I would like some closure on this just incase this happens again.  

We also had a discussion with regards to one particular concept which both Michael and I agree (I think he did?) VMware’s interpretation is not how we would explain it to a customer . This one item has kind of vexed me because it’s possible I could have got this wrong in the exam which could have meant the difference between pass and fail. What is it that vexed me you ask?

Upstream and downstream dependencies!!!!! ARRRGGHHHH Pulls hair out whilst banging the desk!!!. I will dedicate a single blogpost to this alone so that others can refer to it and perhaps set me or the record straight so look forward to that.

After Michael and I’d finished our webex we came to the conclusion that my method of thinking and technical knowledge might not be at fault but perhaps maybe missing a the subtleties of the way the question was being asked or that I shouldn’t apply too much real world thinking to the design i.e. instead of trying to save the customer money on arrays and have two different IO profiles on a single array perhaps just separate them on two completely different arrays. There’s still the question mark over the anomalies I had which I don’t think helped me one iota. 

4. VCDX design scenario selection.

While I still have the hurdles to get over I still want to use my time effectively and get the ball rolling. I’ve actually selected my first ever design case which I was asked to do for a company I used to work for. The reason is that I feel that it will fulfill the blueprint requirements and also a chance for me to do it right having got a lot more experience since I did it. I’ve written some initial paragraphs on the scenario and will flesh them out and improve upon them but you should hopefully get the idea. I’m actually considering doing an open VCDX design submission so that anyone can assist, criticise or offer advice on my design. I think for others who are also starting at the beginning or thinking about doing it will be able get some useful ideas for their own application. I might not be allowed to though however but I’ll find that out in due course.

There’s more to come so keep an eye out especially for the applications mapping post as I want/need your input!

Comme Je Fus
(As I Was)



IT virtualisation professional since 2002 after serving 7 years in the British Army as a REME Corporal. Currently a Solutions Architect. I'm a dedicated husband, motorcyclist, proud father and owner of two beautiful border collies Monty and Mitch. Hobbies are: Motorcycles - Isle of Man TT/Road races and MotoGP/BSB/WSB Rugby Union Skiing DCS Flight Simulator -A10A/C and SU25 Frogfoot specialist Airsoft - Closer Quarter Battle

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