Review – Foundation for Cloud Computing with VMware vSphere 4

I just received a copy of “Foundation for Cloud Computing with VMware vSphere 4” by John Arrasjid (@vcdx001), Duncan Epping (@duncanyb) and Steve Kaplan (@roidude). I was one of the lucky people to receive a copy of this book by retweeting a message from Steve.

The timing of this book could not have been better. I am constantly working with project managers, client relationship managers and technical resources that are looking to better understand virtualization and how it relates to cloud computing. In fact, I am working on putting together a Virtualization Roadshow to deliver for several internal audiences. A similar roadshow was critical in gaining initial virtualization buy-in, and this second round is aimed at promoting internal cloud computing initiatives and driving for deeper adoption of virtualization. I can already tell you that “Foundation for Cloud Computing with VMware vSphere 4″ will be the handbook to accompany many of these roadshow presentations.  This book covers a wide range of topics, with chapters ranging from “The Benefits of Infrastructure Virtualization” to “Migrating Virtualization Candidates”.

This is not a technical manual designed to walk you through a vSphere installation, this is the book that will explain why you need to develop a virtualization strategy and identify the key items that you will need to address in developing that strategy. This book is a must have reference source for people working with virtualization, whether you are deploying it, developing strategies around it, or simply looking for a better understanding of virtualization technologies and strategies.

This is the 21st book in the Short Topics series by USENIX, available on the SAGE website. In fact, I like this book so much that I will probably join SAGE to get access to more of the Short Topics series.

2 VCPs in 48 hours

Finally, I am a VMware Certified Professional (VCP)…twice. The last week in January, I was able to pass the exams for my VCP3 and VCP4. On January 28, I passed my VCP 310 exam. That night, I decided to begin studying for my VCP410 exam. I only had 48 hours left to pass it without having to take a vSphere training course. I was fortunate to have some VCP4 friends that passed on some good notes (I will link to exam tips below). With a lot of cramming and a good amount of prayer, I passed the VCP410 on January 30.

Though I am proud of these accomplishments, I am disappointed that this kind of effort was required. I waited too long, let too many things get in the way and brought on the days of no sleep and hours of frantic studying that my last week of January became. I took my VMware 3 Deploy, Secure and Analyze course in the summer of 2007. In the summer of 2008, I quit using ESX 3 and moved my focus to beta testing ESX 4. Fast forward to Janaury 2010 and I am having to forget 18 months of ESX 4 data to pass the VCP 3 exam. Then, I had to switch gears and dump the ESX 3 settings and maximums so I could relearn the ESX 4 settings. I waited way too long to take the VCP 3, and did not give myself enough time to properly prepare for the VCP 4. I passed the VCP 4, but not with the score I would have liked. If I wanted to be an instructor, I would have to retake the VCP 4 for a higher score. I did it, but I cheated myself out of the more positive experience that it should have been. Moral of this story…when you take a qualifying VMware education course, spend a few weeks studying and take the VCP exam right away.

To see my collection of VCP410 exam tips, go to http://blog.mvaughn.us/2010/02/11/vcp-4-exam-tips/.

VCP 4 Exam Tips

I recently passed my VMware Certified Professional (VCP 410) exam, and wanted to share some of my experiences for those who may be preparing for the same exam.

I collected a lot of great resources while I was preparing, and I will share them here. I began with VMware’s VCP page at http://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=12457&ui=www. That page will provide you with the certification path and provide a link to the all important VCP4 Blueprint. I also focused on the Changes to ESX Service Console for ESX 4.0 and the What’s New in VMware vSphere 4.0.

Other critical resources for me was Scott Lowe’s (@scott_lowe) book Mastering VMware vSphere 4, this is a great resource on vSphere and the index is extremely helpful in looking up terms and details. Whether you are taking the VCP 4 or not, this book is essential for anyone working with vSphere.

Another critical resource is Trainsignal’s VMware vSphere Training DVDs by David Davis (@davidmdavis). Not only does this have 18 hours of training on all kinds of topics, but it contains MP4 versions of the videos that I keep with me on my iPhone. That gives me 18 hours of video material for reference while I was studying or even performing my daily tasks. I picked the key areas I needed to focus on for the VCP 4 and listened to the audio while driving to and from work.

I was also fortunate to get a great email from John Blessing (@vTrooper). He sent me some notes that he and several others had been compiling in a Google Wave. Though I am not sure of everyone that contributed to the Google Wave, I believe it was started by Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe) and Denis Guydeen (@dguyadeen) Here are the contents from that email:

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Useful Documents

Useful Websites

Tips and Tricks

I imagined this area for those that have completed the exam and have some insights or useful information to share that might help others pass the exam.

Practice Exams

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For my studies, I focused on the VMware documentation, and on Matthijs van den Berg’s amazing study guide, VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 4 – Learning guide. Matthijs turned VMware’s 16 page VCP 4 blueprint into 53 pages of detailed notes on each item VMware noted. In reading this guide, I made another 11 pages of my own notes for details that I needed to research further (again using Scott Lowe’s book and David Davis’ video training). Another critical piece is access to a vSphere enviornment. At several points, I stopped and went back into vCenter to verify default settings or specific configuration options.

That is how I studied for my VCP 410 exam. There is a lot of information here, but the exam covers a lot of information. Not just the details of vSphere and vCenter, but also study up a little on VMware Server, VMware Player, VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion and the other VMware products. Though you should read up on the basics of all products, I mention these 5 products because they involve hypervisors; be aware of how they are alike and how they are different from ESX/ESXi.

I was on a real time crunch to get my exam completed. If I had more time to prepare, I would have spent more time on Simon Long’s (@simonlong_) blog, taking his VCP 4 practice exams.

I hope that these resources help you as much as they helped me. I would wish you luck, but don’t make this about luck. Make it about learning the subject matter and then showing what you have learned on the exam.

Be Good On Purpose

You do a little online research, pick a mature technology that is well established, perform a quick install and everything just works. The sun is shining, deadlines are met, birds are singing and you are a hero. That scenario is not a stretch, it happens every day. Many tools have dedicated significant effort to making their installation “idiot proof”, but what happens next?

As your environment grows, cracks begin to emerge in the foundation of your new tool. They may start small, but they grow and spread. Where did these cracks come from, where will they appear next, what damage can they cause? At every step of the installation, you accepted the default settings and moved on. Each of those options were forks in the road and you took a direction, without knowing the options available and without knowing why. Now, you do not know where you are, how you got there or how to correct course.

Maybe you did everything right, but did you do it on purpose? If you do not know why your deployment was successful, if you did not develop and enact a careful plan to result in a solid environment…then you got lucky, at best. The initial results may look the same, but the long term results and the value provided will be miles apart.

Too often in IT, I meet people willing to simply get a task done and move on, literally leaving a mine field in their wake. It would be better to fail following a plan than to succeed without one. When you follow a plan, you can retrace your steps, correct course and move forward. When you have blind success, you create a false sense of security that can cripple an organization when things finally go “bump” in the middle of the night. Trust me…eventually, everything goes “bump”.

Be good, be bad, be deliberate or be careless, just do it on purpose.

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**PS-I really will post a technical entry eventually. Look for one on Linux P2Vs soon…