VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – my thoughts

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Summary: A good book which is ideal for those new to design with plenty of real world examples and exam preparation tips.

I’ve been meaning to take my VCAP5-DCD certification for a couple of years but still haven’t made the required time available.  I attended the Design Workshop (last year) and was lucky enough to have Paul McSharry as my instructor – I’d not met him previously but I was familiar with his work through his website ( and via Twitter.

Now Paul’s written the official VMware Press certification guide to the VCAP5-DCD exam. This book takes a slightly different approach compared to other study resources as it includes a practice test and considers the mental transition a VCP-DCV certified engineer might need to make when moving into design. To quote Paul;

I decided to approach the guide with the mindset of a VCP5-DCV qualified engineer who has yet to complete a full design.

 How do you make the transition from engineer to architect? Whats the process? 

I like the format of the book and found Paul’s writing style to be very easy to read. In many ways the VCAP5-DCD is a less technical exam compared to the VCAP5-DCA but there are some concepts which can be hard to wrap your brain around if you’re used to an operational focus (which I am). There has been plenty of discussion on the web around functional vs non-functional, logical vs physical designs, and constraints, risks, assumptions, and requirements and Paul’s book tackles them all pretty well.

One thing you’ll notice when you look at the contents page is that the sections don’t follow the exam blueprint or even the typical technology layers (storage, compute, networking etc). I’ve listed the seven chapter headings below;

  1. Introduction to technical design
  2. Creating a design
  3. Thoughts on good choices for virtualization and design
  4. Developing a design on paper and delivering it physically
  5. Virtual Machine design
  6. Project execution
  7. Tips for passing the exam

I like this because it’s more aligned to the process of design rather than just passing an exam, but it does sometimes mean you’re not sure where to look for certain content (although each chapter does state at the beginning which sections of the blueprint are addressed). For example online pharmacy no prior prescription where would I find my logical vs physical design discussion – is it in the ‘Creating a design’ chapter or the ‘Developing a design on paper and delivering it physically’ chapter? Obviously there’s an index which solves this so it’s a minor niggle. It also means you might find it harder to use as a day to day reference compared to the other popular VCAP5-DCD book (by Scott Lowe, Forbes Guthrie, and Kendrick Coleman).

Each chapter starts with a ‘Do I know this?’ quiz and ends with some exam preparation tasks (including review questions) so if you’re already well versed in some areas more than others you won’t have to read the whole book cover to cover. Much of the content obviously comes from real world experience as Paul talks you through projects he’s led. These make great examples with sufficient complexity to make you think – they’re also plain interesting!

The included test uses InformIT’s test engine which is a general test engine – I imagine over time there will be more tests available. It requires online sign in and I couldn’t get mine to work due to firewall restrictions at work so unfortunately I haven’t seen the test and can’t comment on it. I would say there aren’t many alternative tests around (though Josh Odgers is doing a good ‘design choices’ blog series) so whatever you can practice prior to the actual exam is worthwhile.

As well as the old fashioned paper edition it’s also available as an eBook (MOBI, PDF, and EPUB formats). If you’re at VMworld Europe in Barcelona this week (14th – 17th October 2013) you can buy this at the VMware store for a 20% discount. Happy days! Alternatively you can buy Kindle or hardback/paperback editions via Amazon UK / US. Paul’s attending VMworld Barcelona so if you buy the book you can get it signed (if you can find him!) 🙂

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of the ebook but my thoughts are my own and I wasn’t obliged to provide a blog post (either positive or negative).

One thought on “VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – my thoughts

  1. Good read, thank you for this post, very handy.

    It’s good to see that a different approach has been taken, I think based on your review i’ll buy this book and hopefully sometime, actually take the exam too.

    I’m always very interested in real life examples, the issue at hand, what is required and what was done to resolve it.

    Hope you’re well,


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