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The Network Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX-NV) certification is something recent (introduced in October 2014) in the Network Virtualization path on the VMware NSX product. I’ve recently took the exam and I can share my consideration on it.
This exam is just like other VCAP Admins exam (and a pre-authorization is required), and consists of 18 live lab activities and a short pre-exam survey consisting of 9 questions.
The total time for this exam is 210 minutes (seems a lot, but for this exam could not be enough). Candidates who take the VCIX-NV Exam and have a home address in a country where English is not a primary language will have an additional 30 minutes added to the exam time. An additional 15 minutes is provided to complete the survey questions and agreements.
As usual, the first source of information is the Exam Blueprint (actually in version 1.7, dated 9 December 2014) that give you a lot of information about the exam and also the environment (note that actually there isn’t a simulator or a demo or a mock).
As written you need to build an own lab to make some tests and practice. I’ve build it with NSX 6.1.2, but remember that the exam is still on 6.0.x (anyway does not change too much). You can use also a vSphere 6.0 environment with the new NSX 6.1.3 (see the notes on this KB)… Of course using the same lab environment (see note in exam logistic section) is better.
Gain the NSX binary could be little complicated (see this post), but if you have follow the ICM course or you are a vExpert you can have access… to be honest with the course you obtain (one day after the course) the access to Nicira portal… with vExpert you have a one year key for the product (but probably if you put it on MyVMware site you can have access to the download).
For the preparation I’ve used all the resources listed in the post: VCIX-NV study guides. Mainly the blueprint with notes, but also some HoL (really useful to see some specific features or configuration).
How much does it take? It depends by your level. I’ve took the ICM course one month ago and before I’ve never played with NSX (just because I had not access to the download, before the course). I’ve scheduled the exam so late in order to have more time to learn (and also because I was not sure on when I’ve got the access to Nicira site).
But unfortunately I had only few days before the exam to prepare myself… I think that are not enough… unless if you took the exam the week after the course, in this case the course AND some days in more labs can be enough.
Note that the course itself is not enough at all (at least the ICM), not because it’s bad, but because it lacks in the troubleshooting (really important in the exam) and automation part (could help, but I got only one activity about API). But the lab in the ICM is really good and can help not only for the single tasks, but also in order to have a good vision on what you can build with this kind of product.
And how much are important vSphere or Networking admin skills? In the exam both are required! You need to know vSphere and be able to work with HA/DRS/DVS/… and of course the vSphere Web Client (I’ve not checked if there was also the vSphere Client, but anyway some vSphere tasks where possible only with the Web Client). But you have to know also about networking (L3!) and have some skill in routing (both with static and dynamic rules).
The virtual environment consisting of a management cluster, multiple compute clusters, and related virtual machines. Is almost similar to the one in the ICM course (just little small).
The lab environment is based on vSphere 5.5 and NSX for vSphere 6.0.2. Be prepared with the vSphere Web Client… you will use it a lot, both for the NSX Manager and the vSphere part. Note that all VM are powered off :( …. the most relevant are in a single vApp… just power-on it as soon is possible to avoid time wasting.
The whiteboard is a small (double side) A4 format… Please VMware/VUE, consider to use a bigger format and provide more than a stencil (possible with different color). Build a schema of your environment it’s a must otherwise you can get lost with all those IPs and interfaces and networks.
Another issue that could depend by the testing center is the monitor. Single monitor (how nice could be have a dual monitor to avoid continuous switch between windows?), but in may case was also pretty small and 4:3… really terrible and difficult to have all the information of the vSphere Web Client without scroll it.
Considering that the testing centers enabled for the VMware Advanced exams are still few (still only 3 in my Country!) why don’t provide also the minim equipment that is need for this kind of exam?
And the biggest issues is the one related with each live exam: you can have some issues in latency (see also this post), connections, and more important TIMING both during the exam (deployment and troubleshooting can take really a long), but also for the lab allocation (the lab is build in the scheduled hour… but will be not available forever)… be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the exam start!
Latency was my first concern… having the lab in US is a potential problem for European people… anyway I took the exam in the morning (I cannot immagine how could be in the afternoon european time)… But not the only… Flash in the Web Client has crashed several time… Maybe the control station has not enough memory, but this problem must be correct to avoid other time wasting.
The exam is available only in English, and as usual, you will have an additional 30 minutes added to the exam time if you take the exam in a Country where English is not the primary language. This time extension is automatic, no additional action is required from the candidate.
This exam is just like other VCAP Admins exam, and consists of 18 live lab activities. Each lab activity consist of multiple tasks, where each task is scored. The total number of activities provided is based on the total number of tasks. Because of this, the actual number of lab activities may vary slightly between exams.
I’m not sure on how many different activities exists, but I suppose that are more 18 and are selected random during the lab initialization. Although some must remain exactly the same just because are needed to build and evolve your lab infrastructure.
I’ve got a several questions related on troubleshooting and really lot of security… not so balanced (and not as the ICM course).
Points are awarded for the successful completion of each lab task. Most items on the exam are composed of several tasks, and partial credit is awarded for those tasks that are completed successfully. Candidates can choose to complete a task using different methods, as points are awarded based on successful completion, not on the steps used to complete the task. But note that most of the activities are related each other… if you fail initially you cannot complete (or you can have trouble) on other activities. Note that this also apply in a reverse more… I found the solution of one task in a latest activity.
The flow across the activities is, in some part, similar to the one in ICM labs. Note that not all task are related, but you can’t skip the activities so easy… just try to complete one by one (at least go to the next when you are waiting for something).
Understand correctly the questions could be difficult in some case… maybe for the language, but also because some requests seems not possible with the environment that you have. Anyway use the comments area to write your doubt… at least you will help other people after you. One was also Tricky, but asking complex subnets… remember that the control station is just a Windows Server 2008 R2 and you have the standard calculator… be sure know how to use it for subnet and IP conversion.
Also some questions are really strictly on what your have to do, including the name that you should use (use copy & paste, it will same you a lot of time!), other are really general and you should take some decisions, including the naming convention! Be prepared, because in previous admin exam was more guided what you have to do.
As every VMware admin exam you finish the exam (or, like in my case, you finish your time) but you will not have any result report. You have to wait.
But surprise surprise, I’ve received an email in the same day (less than 2 hour to know the result!)… not expected, considering how much you have to wait for the beta results (or also for the few admin exams that I’ve took outside the beta. Good move… this is the right timing in giving the results!
And fortunately I’ve passed, barely, but I’ve passed :)
For sure I need more practice and increase my networking (at layer 3) skills, but also study better the news in version 6.1 (the ICM course was still on 6.0).
After the exam
Just wait for the transcript in mylearn… It take a lot (compared to the exam result)… I’ve got mine after a couple of day. This time (compared with previous transcripts) the entire process was automatical.
The good news is that you can refresh your VCP expire/renewal date (2 years from the exam date) and also, if you start from other VCP, gain the VCP-NV certification… All with a single exam!