My setbacks & challenges on my way to obtaining my VCP-NV 2019 (NSX-T 2.4) (2V0-41.19 exam) Certification

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I know I am a terrible test taker. Point in fact, the only “exams” I recall being easy/best for me is when I would sit at a terminal and be given tasks to complete in a lab. Taking the educated guess that there are plenty of people like me in the world, I thought I would finally get my first ever VCP certification and write an article to help others obtain it. Why not choose the ultra new NSX-T 2.4 certification by VMware. I have had a great ten year run in IT and I would like to think I have gotten to do some pretty cool things and never needed a VCP to do it. I still stand by my belief that you don’t need a cert to be good at what you do. To the gatekeepers out there preventing qualified people from getting opportunities because they don’t have a cert; you’re only hurting your companies. Here it is; the good, the bad, the embarrassing, and the ugly.

I only have two complaints. First, the VMware on VCP exams. Start giving partial credit. If you ask us to pick 2 or pick 3 out of 4 or 5 possible answers and we get 1/2 or 2/3 right then give us something. Second, can you please put together a central repository of documents, blogs, & other related material. I had to search VMware sites, end user blogs, and all over the internet to pass this exam.

Background
I have deployed NSX-T 2.4 a couple times in my production environment and touch it daily, which gives me 6+ months of hands on experience. I have taken the NSX-T 2.4 install, configure, and management course, which is a requirement. I have also had the privileged to get to know a lot of the great people in the VMware NSBU and several VARs NSBUs. You have to love a dial a friend or a let’s figure it out together friend.

Exam Blueprint:
https://www.vmware.com/education-services/certification/vcp-nv-nsxt-2019-exam.html

Where to find NSX-T documentation
https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-NSX-T-Data-Center/index.html

NSX-T 2.3 CLI web page: Sorry no 2.4 yet
https://vdc-download.vmware.com/vmwb-repository/dcr-public/182d387c-eaa8-4cdc-812d-8cb25812fefd/d09cad1f-553d-4c9e-a5b1-6544280eec25/NSX-T%20Command-Line%20Interface%20Reference.html

NSX-T Reference Design Guide
https://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-37591

KB articles: Sort by NSX-T Datacenter then 2.4
https://kb.vmware.com/s/global-search/%40uri#q=nsx-t&t=MoreContent&sort=relevancy&numberOfResults=100&f:@commonproduct=[VMware-NSX-T-Data-Center]&f:@commonversion=[2.4]

Useful Blogs:
http://virtualbrigade.com/vmware-identity-manager-is-not-accessible/
https://blogs.vmware.com/networkvirtualization/2018/10/flexible-deployment-options-for-nsx-t-edge-vm.html/
https://blogs.vmware.com/networkvirtualization/2017/09/nsx-t-routing-where-you-need-it.html/
https://blogs.vmware.com/networkvirtualization/2018/01/nsx-t-routing-part-2.html/
https://www.livefire.solutions/nsx-t/nsx-t-logical-routing-architecture-part-2/
https://vxplanet.com/category/vmware-nsx/
https://my-sddc.net/
Of course you may find some good nuggets in my other blog articles that may help you.

Failure 1: Score 246
To save others like me the heartache I endured. Even with hands on experience you cannot pass the exam without studying rigorously for it.
My biggest mistake was believing my experience and reading through the ICM document a couple times would be enough. As you can see from my score, it was not. The exam will ask you questions on things you will not encounter on a day to day basis, especially, if you are a VMware only environment.

Lessons learned:
1. Study every log there is. Ctrl+f for .log on every PDF you can find. Also, know what they do, why you need them, and which you would export while troubleshooting various scenarios.
2. KVM, KVM, KVM, and once again KVM. NSX-T supports more than just VMware and you are not as familiar with bare metal and KVM options you won’t stand a chance of passing. Learn every way to deploy every component on both ESXi, KVM, and bare metal.
3. CLI. You have to learn ESXi, NSX, and KVM CLI if you want a chance at passing this exam. Just drawing up a list of questions in your mind, followed by how would I do that in ESXi vs KVM vs NSX CLI.
4. Services. Even if you don’t plan to leverage the entire suite of services that NSX-T provides you still must learn them all. Please, do not make the mistake I made by thinking if you pick the top 2 or 3 services that will be enough to pass. All services are fair game.
5. Troubleshooting. Even if you have had smooth installs (LOL). You will still need to dig even deeper into troubleshooting then even the NSX-T Troubleshooting PDF goes. Dial a friend, email a VMware SE, read as many end user troubleshooting blogs as you can find. You literally need to know how to troubleshoot from every angle.

Failure 2: Score 290
I didn’t let my poor score on the first exam get me down. If anything, I looked at it as 250.00 bucks well spent. After getting an eye full of the structure of questions and types of questions on the exam it allowed me to focus more. As you can see my previous 5 lessons learned caused a dramatic increase in score. Looking back at it, had I slowed down and thought out what the question was intending to ask (not what it was asking, still a beta exam after all) I would have passed.

Lessons learned:
1. Slow Down! I made the mistake of reading through the exam and seeing key indicators and answering the question and moving on. Reflecting back, I now know I missed a couple questions because I did not slow down and fully understand from what angle was the question coming from. Yes, some things are automatically created in NSX-T but only after you manually tie them together or there are different ways to troubleshoot an issue in you are at the management plane or at the data plane.
2. Blue Print. My mistake was reading the blueprint and having the topics I knew I needed. However, on round 2 I took the blueprint and mapped each topic to the pages on each PDF as a reference guide. No, I won’t publish that because I found great value in manually mapping those pages. Yes, this is tedious work but it will speed up your review time when you get the print out indicating what topics you missed on the exam.
3. Not all questions are fair. This one sucked and there is no other way to put it. I recalled several questions from both exams and went to look up the answers and could not find them in any documentation, anywhere! Yes, VMware you need to work on that because when you have to turn to a random end user blog not associated with VMware to find the answer that is just unfair.
4. NAT. I know you would think at this point I would have studied NAT services till I knew it cold but turns out in my attempt to take the exam every week until I pass I skimmed over some areas. I know what you are going to say, “Paul we could spend a week just reading through the security documentation.” Yes, you easily can and yes you still need to know all services.
5. Authentication. This is a key topic and not always covered in great detail but understanding authentication, RBAC, and permissions is very important.
6. Restarting services. This one isn’t always as easy as it sounds. There are so many services that run on ESXi/KVM/NSX in this eco-system and knowing them all and which to restart and when is vital. Also, remembering what commands are needed to restart services is also a major help.

Passed: Score 360
For this exam I changed study habits. I went more scenario based learning instead of just trying to memorize components and features. IE, what would happen if X were to occur in the environment or what would I do if I wanted to troubleshoot Y. Also, I doubled down on what is needed for features and functions I do not use on a daily bases, IE NSX-T Load Balancing, what do I need to setup Kubernetes, what do I need to do to setup different NSX-T NAT, and etc. Obviously, by moving to a scenario based approach after digging deep into all the components & features from my previous two failed attempts allowed me a much better score on my 3rd attempt.

Lessons Learned:
1. In-depth study of all permissions and user roles including which roles are responsible for what. Local vs VMware Identity Manager roles/permissions.
2. I cannot state it enough, know all of your CLI commands. KVM, ESXi, and NSX.
3. Practice different scenarios around deployment and troubleshooting issues in your environment.
4. This is probably the most important lesson I learned during this entire testing period. Read the question and fully UNDERSTAND what you are being asked. Ask from what point of view, from which component, from which requirement. Understand exactly what you are being asked before answering.

Summary:
As you can see this exam was challenging for me. I hope y’all learn from my mistakes and I hope you avoid some of the challenges I faced in my pursuit of this certification. I will end with obtaining this certification after this long attempt was well worth it.

One comment

  1. Thanks for this guide Paul, I failed it yesterday with a score of 290 after a couple of weeks prep after the ICM, with my only other exposure being to the Hands on Labs (only 2-3 years in the IT industry, haven’t done any NSX-T deployments). Must say, definitely agree with slowing down to read the questions and using the blueprint.

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