Home > Certification, VMware > VMware Recertifications–Options for you

VMware Recertifications–Options for you

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on the VMware certification requirements where certifications will expire after 2 years if not renewed (https://vnetwise.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/vmware-certification-expirationsgood-or-bad/).  This has been a very popular post of mine, I didn’t even realize the world knew I was out here.  Thanks for the visibility, whoever started it – much appreciated.

There have been, however, quiet a few comments and complaints.  Largely they’re centered around costs for the recertification and whether or not it pushes out the “little guy” or “SMB”.  I don’t think that it does, and as I’m always trying to find a way to solve a problem, let’s see if we can’t find a few ways to help folks out who might be concerned.

End Users/General IT:

Realistically, the biggest barrier to entry for you is the Install, Configure, Manage course or equivalent to meet the courseware requirement to get in the door.  Your best bet, be it out of pocket or by your employer is to look at the VMUG Advantage membership (http://www.vmug.com/p/cm/ld/fid=10) .  First of all, it gets you into the VMUG community (Advantage membership is NOT required to join VMUG – come one, come all!), networking with peers, etc. 

But it also gets you 20% off certification exams and courses.  This means that for a $200 VMUG Advantage membership, you could make the ~ $3500 USD course about $2800.  Add in the course of the membership, and you’ve saved $500.   You’ll also save 20% off the $250 exam, so that’s another $50.  On top of that, you’ll get VMware Workstation for 50% off, and you’ll probably want to use that for your lab to test and practice. 

Every year there’s different promotions as well, last year included a free Exam Voucher.  Thus, your $250 exam was free with the $200 membership.  So if you absolutely have to pay your own way in, this is going to be your best route.

Employed IT Professionals:

The above still applies, if you’re working for a company.  I’d make the pitch to management that if you’re working enough with the product and your entire business rides on it, maybe ensuring staff are trained isn’t a horrible idea.  Often it comes down to presentation.  We’ve established that it costs < $3600 for the course and certification exam.  That’s $300 a month, or about $2/hour at 160 hours a month.  Personally, I made that pitch and won. 

Another option is when ordering VMware licences or other hardware (most companies I’ve worked for tend to order the licences through the same VAR or a manufacturer like Dell), ask them to bundle in the cost of training credits.  Quite often businesses have a good budget for hardware, but very limited for training.  Instead of shooting for the absolute bottom dollar on the hardware/software, see if training credits can’t be included instead of further discounts. 

Another good fact of the above, is that the credits tend to expire – which helps lend some weight to actually being able to complete the course without as much kicking and screaming from management.

If time out of the office or travel costs, consider the Live Online courses.  (http://mylearn.vmware.com/portals/www/search/results.cfm?ui=www_edu&menu=search-results&searchtype=simple&category=schedule&id_subject=46424&deliveryType=16&filters=deliveryType)  If you can’t find an evening course, consider one in your language but in another time zone.  The printed materials and the labs are the same, if anything there might be some accent issues – which isn’t really that big of an issue. 

Consultants:

Much of the above applies the same.  You’re buying and reselling things for your customers.  Your job is to ensure you’re covering your costs of doing business.  Taxes, office space, software… and training.  If your customers are important to you, then there’s good reason to present that you’re certified and qualified to work with the product(s) in question. 

Recertification Exam Only:

Let’s assume you’ve already run the course, and you have a VCP of some sort.  All you have to do is write another parallel or up level VCAP exam to extend all of your certifications.  For $250 every two years, we’re looking at a cost of about $11/month.  40 hours a week, 4 weeks a month, you’re looking at $0.065/hour.  Granted you need to factor in your time for training.  But if you, your employer, or clients, can’t fit in an extra 7 cents an hour to the benefit of your certifications… then we have a problem. 

Software for your lab:

The next thing I hear is that software is too expensive and there’s no way to get it.  Especially with VMware, this is absurd.  First of all, all of the software comes with a 60 trial version.  Frequently, you’ll hear that “reinstalling every 60 days is too much hassle”.  It shouldn’t be.  The more you install it, the more proficient you become.  I’d argue that if you *haven’t* installed the product 6 times in a year for vSphere, you probably don’t know it well enough to pass the exam. 

What is really so hard about reinstalling?  Create a new vCenter, go through the DB/ODCB requirements, add your hosts back in.  It’s to your best interest to find repeatable methods to automate the configuration of your hosts and clusters and settings.  This is a good time to learn PowerCLI, or VMware Management Assistant appliance, or even ESXCLI commands via SSH.  Either way, the more of this you get under your belt, the better you’ll be.  This is also a chance to blow everything away and try again with a clean slate.  You can do this for all product, vCenter, Horizon View, vCloud, etc.  There’s no reason you can’t use the 60 day trials to get you where you need to be.

If you need a more long term lab for some reason, consider a vSphere Essentials Kit (http://store.vmware.com/store/vmware/en_US/pd/productID.282883900&src=WWW_eBIZ_productpage_Essentials_Buy_US).  This gets you vCenter Server Essentials, and 6 sockets/3 hosts of Essentials licences.  A tip – keep your vCenter Server up, and just reinstall the hosts. 

An option for those who can leverage a consulting role is to consider a VMware Partner program.  A few of the options only require one VCP on staff, and minimal cash investment.  Most programs allow for NFR software or Internal Use Software. 

Lab Hardware:

This is often one of the biggest costs – and just doesn’t have to be.  At the very simplest, use VMware Workstation and run it on a laptop.  Most current model laptops will support 16GB via 2x8GB DIMM’s.  At the higher end, you can find some that support 4x8GB for 32GB – Alienware 17’s, Precision M6700/M6800 (my personal choice), Lenovo W530, Dell XPS 17 (L701x with a i7-720QM says it will only do 16GB, but I ran it with 32GB for some time).  Couple this with a $70-140 128-256GB SSD.  Using linked clones for your Windows VM’s (eg: DC/vCenter) and vESXi boxes, you can keep your disk space down.  If you create a virtual SAN VM of some sort, with deduplication on the SSD, you’ll find you can really stretch your disk space.

If you’re looking for some actual hardware, quite often out of lease Enterprise equipment can be a good buy.  Personally I prefer Dell vs IBM or HP.  Largely because Dell makes all their drivers and firmware freely available, whereas HP now charges and wants an active service contract, and IBM often needs special hardware keys to unlock features. 

Inexpensive options include the 2U Dell 2950.  A couple of Dual Quad Cores, and 16-32GB RAM, and an add in NIC will get you a decent box for under $250.  Get 3 boxes and make one have internal disk – 3x2GB in RAID5, and you now have a box that can also be a psuedo SAN.  You’ll need a switch, and anything from a Dell 54xx/55xx/62xx would work good, so would a Cisco 2960G or 3560G.  If you need extra NIC’s, look for HP NC364t (but watch for support on the HCL) for around $25/port.   The newer NC365T will cost a bit more, but will have longer term longevity (http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_sop=15&_nkw=hp+nc365t&LH_PrefLoc=2)

If you’re looking for a little more power, consider a Dell C6100 (Click this link to access DELL POWEREDGE C6100 XS23-TY3 2 NODE 4 x QUAD CORE E5520 96GB)  – 4 nodes in a 2U chassis, often found with 2x L5520 CPU, 24GB, and 2x 1GbE NIC with IPMI on each node.  Add the same quad port NIC’s for some extra ports, and you have a pretty amazing lab box for around $1200. 

The above options will likely require a rack, and some decent amount of power.  But your employer may allow you to co-locate them at the office, or even use obsolete/recycled equipment they would otherwise have disposed of.  This has the benefit of the power and cooling being paid for by someone else.

There are good ways to build some low power desktop based units that I’ve seen, but personally I have no experience there.  I highly recommend the Cloud Computing Home Labs site (http://www.scoop.it/t/home-computing-labs) for some good ideas. 

Training Materials:

Once again, VMUG Advantage can help out.  One of the benefits is that you have access to the previous years’ VMworld sessions online and the Hands On Labs.  Don’t underestimate how much this can help. 

Never forget to check out your local VMUG events.  At ours here in Edmonton, we always give away a VMware Press VCP5 or similar book, and we’re always looking to help with labs, pair up people who are looking for lab partners, find companies with excess hardware, or vendors who might be willing to help out.  Communities are good for helping you get where you need to be. 

I strongly advise that anyone looking for training check out PuralSight.  (http://www.pluralsight.com/training/Courses/Find?highlight=true&searchTerm=vmware)  There’s a wealth options available from $29-$49 a month, all you can eat.  I recommend to all the folks I participate in mentoring that they book the exam to draw a line in the sand and then focus on that training for 30-60 days – which is often enough.  It helps give you a deadline and motivate you, but it also helps you stay focused and get it done – like a spoonful of medicine.  The side benefit, is that that $49/month, you’re likely only paying for a month or two, which keeps your costs down.  Ask your employer if they’ll cover the costs if you pass, which helps keep you motivated to stay on track, and lets them know you’re serious and aren’t just going to squander the benefit. 

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Categories: Certification, VMware
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