VCAP5-DCA – What’s new?

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Certification is a never ending treadmill of learning...

Along with others I received an email from VMware last week stating that the VCAP5-DCA exam was due to enter it’s beta testing in the next few weeks, along with the beta blueprint. As with any beta the contents are subject to change and the exam is NOT publically available yet – it’s currently scheduled for release this summer.

The contents of the beta are covered by an NDA so you won’t be hearing any other details from me but Randy Becraft, the senior Program Manager running the beta, has specifically allowed me to post these blueprint details to give candidates more time to prepare.

Before I cover what’s new it’s worth pointing out how much hasn’t changed;

  • The bulk of the content (around 60%) is very similar to the VCAP4-DCA blueprint.
  • You still need to be VCP5 certified as a prerequisite. The one exception is if you already hold the VCAP4-DCA certification you’re eligible to sit the VCAP5-DCA exam without first passing the VCP5 exam, provided you upgrade within three months of the exam’s release.
  • The exam is still a live lab with a time limit of 225 mins (210 for the exam and 15 mins for a survey). There will be roughly 26 tasks to complete (which is less than the 36 for v4) but this can vary for each candidate.
  • The exam is booked through Pearson-VUE professional centres.
  • There will be a ten day wait for results (approximately)
  • Will the exam environment include a task switcher or a higher resolution? We can but hope! 🙂

…and what’s no longer included (some significant chunks of learning);

  • Orchestrator
  • vCenter Heartbeat
  • vShield Zones
  • vCenter Server Linked Mode

There are two recommended courses for this exam;

This is a change from the v4 DCA exam which listed four courses as ‘recommended’, including both the vSphere Manage for Performance and vSphere Troubleshooting neither of which are available yet for v5. The exam still includes troubleshooting and performance issues on the blueprint but maybe VMware felt that so many course recommendations for a single exam was too much.

It’s interesting to see that this new exam focuses on the core product – the biggest omissions are in the wider ecosystem and I wonder if they’ll reappear in some other, more specialised, certification (VCAP-Security etc). There may also have been practical considerations as the release cycle for these products isn’t aligned with the vSphere releases. This was apparent even with the VCAP-DCA4 release where the exam blueprint covered vShield Zones v1 even though v4 was released just before the exam went public (the Manage for Security course, which was recommended for VCAP-DCA, covered vShield Zones v4 so of limited use!).

VMware have also published extra guidance about the infrastructure you will be expected to work with during the exam, which will consist of two ESXi hosts and a vCenter server. This is similar to the v4 exam but you weren’t given this information in advance.

I’m running a poll on the value of the VCAP exams (to the right of this post) – I’d appreciate your feedback.

As with the VCAP4-DCA I’ll be publishing study notes as I work towards the exam. Watch this space!

Here’s the section by section breakdown based on the 1.4 beta blueprint (note: some people got the 1.3 blueprint in their beta email invitation- the differences are negligible);

  • green = skills new for vSphere5
  • grey = same as v4 (although most objectives need up to date knowledge of vSphere 5 particulars)
  • red = no longer included in the exam
  • Section 1.1 – Implement and Manage complex storage
    • Determine use cases for and configure VMware DirectPath I/O
    • Determine requirements for and configure NPIV
    • Determine appropriate RAID level for various Virtual Machine workloads
    • Apply VMware storage best practices
    • Understand use cases for Raw Device Mapping
    • Configure vCenter Server storage filters
    • Understand and apply VMFS resignaturing
    • Understand and apply LUN masking using PSA‐related commands
    • Analyze I/O workloads to determine storage performance requirements
    • Identify and tag SSD devices
    • Administer hardware acceleration for VAAI
    • Configure and administer profile-based storage
    • Prepare storage for maintenance (mounting/un-mounting)
    • Upgrade VMware storage infrastructure
  • Section 1.2 – Manage storage capacity in a vSphere environment
    • Apply space utilization data to manage storage resources
    • Provision and manage storage resources according to Virtual Machine requirements
    • Understand interactions between virtual storage provisioning and physical storage provisioning
    • Apply VMware storage best practices
    • Configure Datastore Alarms
    • Analyze Datastore Alarms and errors to determine space availability
    • Configure Datastore Clusters
  • Section 1.3 -Configure and manage complex multipathing and PSA plugins
    • Install and Configure PSA plug-ins
    • Understand different multipathing policy functionalities
    • Perform command line configuration of multipathing options
    • Change a multipath policy
    • Configure Software iSCSI port binding (now via GUI)
  • Section 2.1 – Implement and Manage Complex Networking
    • Determine use cases for and apply IPv6
    • Configure NetQueue
    • Configure SNMP
    • Determine use cases for and applying VMware DirectPath I/O
    • Migrate a vSS network to a Hybrid or Full vDS solution
    • Configure vSS and vDS settings using command line tools
    • Analyze command line output to identify vSS and vDS configuration details
    • Configure NetFlow
    • Determine appropriate discovery protocol
      • CDP
      • LLDP
  • Section 2.2 – Configure and maintain VLANs, PVLANs and VLAN settings
    • Determine use cases for and configure VLAN Trunking
    • Determine use cases for and configure PVLANs
    • Use command line tools to troubleshoot and identify VLAN configurations
  • Section 2.3 – Deploy and maintain scalable virtual networking
    • Understand the NIC Teaming failover types and related physical network settings
    • Determine and apply Failover settings
    • Configure explicit failover to conform with VMware best practices
    • Configure port groups to properly isolate network traffic
  • Section 2.4 – Administer vNetwork Distributed Switch settings
    • Understand the use of command line tools to configure appropriate vDS settings on an ESXi host (ESX is no longer included)
    • Determine use cases for and apply Port Binding settings
    • Configure Live Port Moving
    • Given a set of network requirements, identify the appropriate distributed switch technology to use
    • Configure and administer vSphere Network I/O Control
    • Use command line tools to troubleshoot and identify configuration items from an existing vDS
  • Section 3.1 – Tune and Optimise vSphere performance
    • Tune ESXi host memory configuration
    • Tune ESXi host networking configuration
    • Tune ESXi host CPU configuration
    • Tune ESXi host storage configuration
    • Configure and apply advanced ESXi host attributes
    • Configure and apply advanced Virtual Machine attributes
    • Configure advanced cluster attributes
    • Tune and optimize NUMA controls
  • Section 3.2 – Optimize virtual machine resources
    • Tune Virtual Machine memory configurations
    • Tune Virtual Machine networking configurations
    • Tune Virtual Machine CPU configurations
    • Tune Virtual Machine storage configurations
    • Calculate available resources
    • Properly size a Virtual Machine based on application workload
    • Modify large memory page settings
    • Understand appropriate use cases for CPU affinity
    • Configure alternate virtual machine swap locations
  • Section 3.3 – Implement and maintain complex DRS solutions
    • Understand the DRS / storage DRS migration algorithms, the Load Imbalance Metrics, and their impact on migration recommendations (updated to add storage DRS and Load Imbalance metrics)
    • Properly configure BIOS and management settings to support DPM
    • Test DPM to verify proper configuration
    • Configure appropriate DPM Threshold to meet business requirements
    • Configure EVC using appropriate baseline
    • Change the EVC mode on an existing DRS cluster
    • Create DRS and DPM alarms
    • Configure applicable power management settings for ESXi hosts
    • Properly size virtual machines and clusters for optimal DRS efficiency
    • Properly apply virtual machine automation levels based upon application requirements
    • Create and administer ESXi host and Datastore Clusters
    • Administer DRS / Storage DRS
  • Section 3.4 -Perform capacity planning in a vSphere environment
    • this section is no longer included
  • Section 3.4 – Utilize advanced vSphere Performance Monitoring tools
    • Configure esxtop/resxtop custom profiles
    • Determine use cases for and apply esxtop/resxtop Interactive, Batch and Replay modes
    • Use vscsiStats to gather storage performance data
    • Use esxtop/resxtop to collect performance data
    • Given esxtop/resxtop output, identify relative performance data for capacity planning purposes
  • Section 4.1 – Implement and maintain complex VMware HA solutions
    • Calculate host failure requirements
    • Configure customized isolation response settings
    • Configure HA redundancy
      • Management Network
      • Datastore Heartbeat
      • Network partitions
    • Configure HA related alarms and monitor an HA cluster
    • Create a custom slot size configuration
    • Understand interactions between DRS and HA
    • Create an HA solution that ensures primary node distribution across sites
    • Analyze vSphere environment to determine appropriate HA admission control policy
    • Analyze performance metrics to calculate host failure requirements
    • Analyze Virtual Machine workload to determine optimum slot size
    • Analyze HA cluster capacity to determine optimum cluster size
  • Section 4.2 – Deploy and test VMware FT
    • Modify VM and ESXi host settings to allow for FT compatibility
    • Use VMware best practices to prepare a vSphere environment for FT
    • Configure FT logging
    • Prepare the infrastructure for FT compliance
    • Test FT failover, secondary restart, and application fault tolerance in a FT Virtual Machine
  • Section 4.3 – Configure a vSphere environment to support MSCS Clustering
    • this section is no longer included

     

  • Section 4.4 – Deploy and maintain vCenter Heartbeat
    • this section is no longer included
  • Section 5.1 -Manage host profiles
    • Use Profile Editor to edit and/or disable policies
    • Create sub-profiles
    • Use Host Profiles to deploy vDS
    • Use Host Profiles to deploy vStorage policies
    • Manage Answer Files
  • Section 5.2 -Deploy and Manage complex Update Manager environments
    • Install and configure Update Manager Download Service
    • Configure a shared repository
    • Configure smart rebooting
    • Manually download updates to a repository
    • Perform orchestrated vSphere upgrades
    • Create and modify baseline groups
    • Troubleshoot Update Manager problem areas and issues
    • Generate database reports using MS Excel or MS SQL
    • Upgrade vApps using Update Manager
    • Utilize Update Manager PowerCLI to export baselines for testing
    • Utilize the Update Manager Utility to reconfigure vUM settings
  • Section 6.1 – Configure, manage and analyse vSphere log files
    • Generate vCenter Server and ESXi log bundles
    • Use vicfg‐syslog to configure centralized logging on ESX/ESXi Hosts
    • Configure the vMA appliance as a log host
    • Use vilogger to enable/disable log collection on the vMA appliance
    • Use vilogger to configure log rotation and retention
    • Use esxcli system syslog to configure centralized logging on ESXi hosts
    • Test centralized logging configuration
    • Analyze log entries to obtain configuration information
    • Analyze log entries to identify and resolve issues
    • Install and configure VMware syslog Collector and ESXi Dump Collector
  • Section 6.2 – Troubleshoot CPU and memory performance
    • Troubleshoot ESXi host and Virtual Machine CPU performance issues using appropriate metrics
    • Troubleshoot ESXi host and Virtual Machine memory performance issues using appropriate metrics
    • Use Hot-Add functionality to resolve identified Virtual Machine CPU and memory performance issues
  • Section 6.3 -Troubleshoot Network Performance and connectivity
    • Utilize net-dvs to troubleshoot vNetwork Distributed Switch configurations
    • Utilize vSphere CLI commands to troubleshoot ESXi network configurations (was Utilize vi-cfg commands…)
    • Configure a network packet analyzer in a vSphere environment
    • Troubleshoot Private VLANs
    • Troubleshoot vmkernel related network configuration issues (was Troubleshoot Service Console and vmkernel…)
    • Troubleshoot DNS and routing related issues
    • Use esxtop/resxtop to identify network performance problems
    • Use CDP and/or network hints to identify connectivity issues
    • Analyze troubleshooting data to determine if the root cause for a given network problem originates in the physical infrastructure or vSphere environment
    • Configure and administer Port Mirroring
    • Utilize Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) and ESXi Shell to troubleshoot, configure, and monitor ESXi networking
  • Section 6.4 – Troubleshoot storage performance and connectivity
    • Use esxcli to troubleshoot multipathing and PSA-related issues (was Use vi-cfg* and esxcli…)
    • Use esxcli to troubleshoot VMkernel storage module configurations (was Use vi-cfg* and esxcli…)
    • Use esxcli to troubleshoot iSCSI related issues (was Use vi-cfg* and esxcli…)
    • Troubleshoot NFS mounting and permission issues
    • Use esxtop/resxtop and vscsiStats to identify storage performance issues
    • Configure and troubleshoot VMFS datastores using vmkfstools
    • Troubleshoot snapshot and resignaturing issues
    • Analyze log files to identify storage and multipathing problems
  • Section 6.5 – Troubleshoot vCenter Server and ESXi host management
    • Troubleshoot vCenter Server service and database connection issues
    • Troubleshoot the ESXi firewall (was Troubleshoot the ESX firewall)
    • Troubleshoot ESXi host management and connectivity issues (was ESX host management)
    • Determine the root cause of a vSphere management or connectivity issue
    • Utilize Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) and ESXi Shell to troubleshoot, configure, and monitor an environment
  • Section 7.1 – Secure ESXi hosts
    • Add/Edit Remove users/groups on an ESXi host
    • Customize SSH settings for increased security
    • Enable/Disable certificate checking
    • Generate ESXi host certificates (was Generate ESX host certificates)
    • Enable ESXi lockdown mode
    • Replace default certificate with CA-signed certificate
    • Configure SSL timeouts
    • Configure vSphere Authentication Proxy (was Configure ESX Web proxy)
    • Enable strong passwords and configure password policies
    • Identify methods for hardening virtual machines
    • Analyze logs for security-related messages
    • Manage Active Directory integration
  • Section 7.2 – Configure and Maintain the ESXi firewall(was ESX)
    • Enable/Disable pre-configured services (was ESX not ESXi)
    • Configure service behavior automation (was ESX not ESXi)
    • Open/Close ports in the firewall (was ESX not ESXi)
    • Create a custom service (was ESX not ESXi)
    • Set firewall security level(was ESX not ESXi)
  • Section 7.3 – Deploy and Administer vShield Zones
    • This section is no longer included
  • Section 8.1 – Execute VMware cmdlets and customize scripts using PowerCLI
    • Install and configure vSphere PowerCLI
    • Install and configure Update Manager PowerShell Library
    • Use basic and advanced Cmdlets to manage VMs and ESXi Hosts (was ESX hosts)
    • Use Web Service Access Cmdlets
    • Use Datastore and Inventory Providers
    • Given a sample script, modify the script to perform a given action
  • Section 8.2 -Administer vCenter Orchestrator
    • This section is no longer included
  • Section 8.2 – Administer vSphere using the vSphere Management Assistant
    • Install and configure vMA
    • Add/Remove target servers
    • Perform updates to the vMA
    • Use vmkfstools to manage VMFS datastores
    • Use vmware-cmd to manage VMs
    • Use esxcli to manage ESXi Host configurations
    • Troubleshoot common vMA errors and conditions
  • Section 9.1 – Install ESXi hosts with custom settings(was ESX)
    • Create/Edit Image Profiles
    • Install/uninstall custom drivers
    • Configure advanced bootloader options
    • Configure kernel options
    • Given a scenario, determine when to customize a configuration
  • Section 9.2 – Plan and execute scripted installations
    • This section is no longer included
  • Section 9.2 (new) – Install ESXi hosts using AutoDeploy
    • Install the Auto Deploy Server
    • Utilize Auto Deploy cmdlets to deploy ESXi hosts
    • Configure Bulk Licensing
    • Provision/Reprovision ESXi hosts using Auto Deploy
    • Configure an Auto Deploy reference host
  • Section 9.3 – Configure vCenter Server Linked Mode
    • This section is no longer included

25 thoughts on “VCAP5-DCA – What’s new?

  1. Very helpful article! Thank you!
    I’m planning taking VCAP5-DCA, and really wanted to know what’s new and what is ommited.

    Now, I can study effectively 🙂

    1. Thanks for the feedback. That’s the good thing about blogging – I needed this info for me to study effectively, and by spending some time writing it up it’s usable by anyone. Bargain.

  2. Thanks for this. I am invited to the VCAP-DCA5 beta, as well, and this is the list I wanted to create but needed to spare some time for it… Thanks to you, I can use this time for preparation. As I did my VCAP-DCA4 only a short while ago, it will be – hopefully – easier to get prepared for the exam in May… Especially if I do not need to learn about Orchestrator/vShield/Heartbeat/Linked Mode again! 🙂

    1. I almost wish I’d done my VCAP4-DCA more recently as I’ve forgotten quite a bit of the detail! Not having to revisit Orchestrator et al is definitely a benefit but there’s plenty of new material to take its place – AutoDeploy, SDRS, Storage Profiles and all the v4.1 featues (NIOC, SIOC) etc which weren’t in the original. I’m sure it’s still going to be very tough! Good luck to us all…

  3. Thanks for the information.
    Guess it time to start reading again.
    Better re-build my lab again, so that i can prep for the exam.
    Ed will you be making notes like you did for VCAP-DCA4? or will those notes be valid for DCA5?

    1. I’ll be updating my notes – like the exam 60% of the content will still be relevant but quite a bit will need updating and several sections will be completely new (AutoDeploy, SDRS, storage profiles etc). I’m not sure how long it’ll take me as I also need to study like everyone else AND create notes/blogposts!

  4. Ed Grigson :
    I’ll be updating my notes – like the exam 60% of the content will still be relevant but quite a bit will need updating

    I think many of the CLI commands have slightly different parameters compared to VCAP4, not the least the esxcli tool.

  5. I agree, it will be nice when perhaps most (or all) esxcfg-* commands have been integrated into esxcli.

    A bit confusing is that many of the esxcli internal namespaces has changed since VCAP4 too..

    1. I don’t think so. The VCAP4-DCA was never updated with the vSphere 4.1 release and I’ve seen no mention of a change for the VCAP5-DCA. The official blueprint hasn’t been updated since July 12th (before the release of vSphere 5.1) so that should be definitive.

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