Passed VCAP5-DCD!!! v5.5 Exam Experience/Review

I took VCAP5-DCD 5.5 and passed with a 334!!!

I have to say both VCAP exams are the only 2 I have ever done where I have had no idea whether I was in with a shot of passing once I clicked the finish button!

I want to thank everyone in the Google+ DCD group, as seriously without the group and the experiences of everyone in it, I don’t think I would have passed . It is a tough exam, I have found design a tough thing to do, there are so many what ifs and it depends. I have spent long periods of time very confused…but they say confusion comes before understanding… …..and that is true!

My journey to the DCD has been a long road, I passed my DCA in January, after that I realized I still had some weak points so I went through the Pluralsight videos on vSphere Advanced Networking, Site Recovery Manager/vSphere Replication/Veeam/VDP, and labbed it all out.

I then booked myself on the vSphere Design Workshop v5.5 as I had never really done any design work before this.  It was really good for a novice like me, and the other people on the course were way more knowledgeable with regards to designing than I was.

After the course I realised my storage skills were lacking quite heavily, as I work with FC SANs mostly, but working for a DR company the SANs are old IBM DS4700s. So I decided to go through and do the CompTIA Storage + exam using the pluralsight videos, and I learnt a massive amount from that, I learnt that I knew so little about storage before. I also took the NetApp NCSA exam as I wanted something vendor specific and since I had used it with SRM in the past it seemed like the logical way to go.

I didn’t read the blueprint much to be fair, I worked through various areas and worked on calculations and aligned myself with what people were mentioning with regards to the exam, and made sure that I knew bits of each topic area.

I didn’t read Scott Lowes book on vSphere Design, I actually preferred VMware vSphere 5.X Datacenter Design Cook book – Hersey Cartwright, it covers 5x, with some 5.1 stuff and a few updates for 5.5. I just found it an easier read.

I bought the Official DCD book, but I just didn’t like it, I have heard mixed things about it from various people. Some swear by it and others say it’s not that great.

I also worked my way through 1 of the case studies that were given to me on the Design Workshop. After the design course I did a rough draft, and after I learnt more and more, I kept adding to it. Using various other design documents as guides to how to lay it out etc. I then had anyone who was willing to look at it…look at it, point out stuff they thought was good or bad etc. As I had no one at work that I knew that could understand what I was writing.

A few people have said to me the document is easily well on the way to being part of a VCDX application, I still have trouble believing that lol

I also used the Hands on Labs, if you haven’t used them, please use them…They are free!

Also special shout out to the people ( Biran Wlech  especially though) that let me harass them via private messaging etc, with my basic questions and my ramblings while I tried to wrap my head around topics, and working out how stuff interlinked and what was considered best practice etc, I can only imagine how annoying that could have been haha, and for that I am truly grateful and forever indebted to you!

In some ways coming in as a novice from a  design perspective may have helped me, as I had no choice but to really take what VMware say as gospel and correct.

I was very nervous going into this exam, I found the DCA hard…and this was tougher haha. I booked the exam on the chance I could pass it, but also I just needed to know where I was at.

As I started to feel like I was just studying blindly, and it was better to take the exam and fail it, but know what areas I was weak on and then refocus my studying as a result. The exam isn’t cheap, but it’s an option that I would recommend.

I followed the same advice as everyone in here, design questions first and flag the drag and drops for the end. My first question was a design,  a few of the design questions had me pondering over  them for a bit, as I wasn’t quite sure how to lay it out in the design tool, but I started and figured it out as I went. It’s similar to+Jason Grierson  sim but also different in a few areas, as obviously Jason was unable to copy VMware exactly. Without that simulator I probably wouldn’t have known where to start with laying it all out lol. 

One thing I did was to ask for was multiple sheets of writing material before I went into the exam, and this came in handy. On the labs I would read through the scenario and write down the key points that they wanted, taking out all the fluff they put in.  This way I built my design to the letter and I had key points to quickly reference against.

I then went back and did the Drag n Drops, now these are nassttyyyyyyy – most of the descriptions can be placed on multiple answers – so you have got to know the areas at least on a basic level . What I didn’t know I had to use best judgement. If I thought something needed to be in multiple areas, I just put it into multiple areas…no time for second guessing myself.

Also some drag and drops say v5.5 while others say 5.x, so that something to note as the answer could be different depending on the vSphere version….so bare that in mind!

I finished with exactly an hour to spare…and I was like……whooops!!

So I went through the design questions again, and on one of them I realized that I had skimmed over a key detail, and I redid the design as a result!

If I hadn’t have picked up on that during the re-read, there is a good chance I would have failed… please read them carefully, there are such subtle hints in the questions.

Quite a few bits on dependencies, so know them and know which way the arrow points! I learnt this from the group webex the Google+ DCD group did and from all the dependency diagrams that have been drawn in the group.

A list of the things I studied:

Pluralsight – 

  • Designing VMware Infrastructure 
  • VMware vSphere Advanced Networking 
  • VMware vSphere Security Design: Advanced Security
  • VMware vSphere Security Design: Architecture 
  • VMware vSphere Security Design: Security Basics 
  • Professionalvmware – vBrownBags

VMware –

  • HOL – Networking vDS, SRM/VDP, vCNS

Books –

  • VMware vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deepdive by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman
  • Networking for VMware Administrators by Chris Wahl and Steven Pantol. 
  • VMware vSphere 5.X Datacenter Design Cook book – Hersey Cartwright
  • vSphere Design Best Practices – Brian Bolander and Christopher Kusek

I am a firm believer you can know all the stuff, but without some form of exam practice you can easily fail the exam. So this was key, thank you Jason!

Overall it has taken me about 7-8 months to become a dual VCAP! I can truly say I have learnt something new every day over that time. It has been amazing and also very humbling, as the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know as much as I thought!

If I can offer any general advice etc please do drop me a msg, I am more than happy to help and it’ll help us all learn.

Just bare in mind, if I can come in with my limited knowledge of design and pass the widow-maker, its possible for any of us to do it!


I have had multiple people msg me since I have passed it asking questions and I have been responding to questions in the Google group. I firmly believe there is no stupid question. I have asked plenty on my journey….and I assure you I still do! People went out of their way to help me, and I believe it is only fair that I return the favour 🙂

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