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  • Marcus Yeo

Attending VCAP 6.5 - DCV Design course (Live Online)

If you read my previous blog, you would know that I passed my VCP 2019 late last year (which, for some reason, was automatically upgraded to 2020 recently). It has always been a small ambition of mine to continue the pursuit of the next tier of certification one day. I have some downtime in March this year and decide to apply for the class.


VCAP - DCV is a 3 days class, which is probably one of the shortest lesson offered by VMware. The class is extremely rare in many parts of the world. In Singapore, there was only 1 class scheduled to be held for the whole of this year and it was already over! Thus, I opted for a 'Live Online' class, which was my next best option. Unfortunately for me, the only course available started at 10 pm and ends at 6am, at my local time. I was desperate and really wanted this, so I made my sleep adjustment for those 3 days and went for it.


It was my first experience attending a 'Live Online' course. The course was conducted using Webex and there were 9 other students attending the course. Everything was conducted live and students could interact with the instructor during the lesson. There would be morning, lunch and afternoon breaks during the lesson. Students can put up a 'raise hand' icon when they have questions, 'coffee cup' icon indicating they went for breaks, etc. When it was time for lab or group discussion, students will be separated into teams through Webex to discuss among themselves. In my opinion, It was quite a pleasant experience. Probably not as good as a face-to-face actual class, but it's really is the next best option. It can be done at the comfort of your home, and not restricted to courses held in your country.

The course turns out to be full of content and a jam-packed 3 full days. The pace was unlike that of VCP and really reference a lot to what you learned in VCP. Long story short, this course covers the entire workflow and content of conducting a proper vSphere workshop and to develop a design. I find the lab work extremely informative and a good experience as it breaks down the flow to engage your customers or stakeholders to draw the content for design creation. For an enterprise infra design would follow a 3-steps approach: 'Create a conceptual design', 'Create a logical design' and 'Create a physical design'.


1. Conceptual Design

  • Captures the assessment finds to ensure the solution meets goals and requirements while staying within the constraints.

  • Includes analyzing the Current state, Requirements, Constraints, Assumptions, Risk, High-level conceptual diagrams, etc.

  • Categories of design areas include: 'Netwokring', 'Management'. 'Storage', Infrastructure' etc.

  • Questions to ask:

a. What are the business objectives?

b. What are the functional business requirements?

c. What are the non-functional business requirements?

d. Have availability, manageability, performance, recoverability, and security (AMPRS) been considered?

e. What are the assumptions?

f. What are the risks?

g. What are the constraints?

2. Logical Design

  • Includes design decisions on how to arrange all major infra components to satisfy service dependencies and requirements that are specified in the conceptual design

  • Includes Design decisions, Justifications, Implications, Logical diagrams

  • The principles behind design decisions include 'Scalability', 'Availability', 'Manageability', 'Performance', 'Security', Recoverabiliity', and 'Cost'

  • Points to consider:

Core Management Infrastructure

a. Determine the number of vCenter Server and Platform Services Controller instances to include in a design

b. Choose the appropriate platforms for vCenter Server components

c. Choose the appropriate single sign-on identity source

d. Choose the time synchronization method

e. Choose methods to collect log files and ESXi core dumps

f. Design a vCenter Server deployment topology that is appropriate for the size and requirements of the data center

g. To ensure that the design meets scalability requirements, always check configuration maximums before deciding on a design.

h. Ensure that the vCenter Server system runs in a highly available configuration.

i. Whenever possible, use virtual machines for the vCenter Server and database systems.

j. Choose a vCenter Server deployment topology based on the number of linked vCenter Server instances and redundancy requirements for high availability.

k. Specify the most common domain for the vCenter Single Sign-On identity source so that users do not have to qualify their login with a domain.


Virtual DC Infrastructure

a. Calculate total capacity requirements for a design

b. Create a virtual data center cluster design that meets business and workload requirements

c. Evaluate the use of several management services, such as vSphere HA and vSphere DRS, in the virtual data center

d. Evaluate the use of resource pools in the virtual data center design


Compute Infrastructure

a. Create a compute infrastructure design that includes the appropriate ESXi boot, installation, and configuration options.

b. Choose the ESXi host hardware for the compute infrastructure


Storage Infrastructure

a. Calculate storage capacity and performance requirements for a design

b. Evaluate the use of different storage platform solutions

c. Evaluate the use of storage management solutions

d. Design a storage platform architecture that meets the needs of the vSphere environment


Network Infrastructure a. Evaluate the use of different network component solutions

b. Evaluate the use of different network management solutions

c. Design a network component architecture that includes information about network segmentation and virtual switch types

d. Separate different types of network traffic to reduce contention and latency, and to enhance security.

e. Use distributed switches if possible because they centralize network management and offer features that are not available on standard switches.

f. NIC teaming reduces single points of failure and is recommended in most situations.

g. Use Network I/O Control to prioritize critical traffic that flows through a single, high-bandwidth adapter.


Virtual Machine Design

a. Make virtual machine design decisions, including decisions for resources

b. Design virtual machines that meet the needs of the applications in the vSphere environment, and follow VMware best practices

c. The key to optimal performance of an application is to ensure that the correct decisions are made when configuring a virtual machine’s resources.

d. Use tools such as vRealize Operations Manager to rightsize your VMs.

e. Use only supported guest operating systems that include VMware Tools.

f. Default to one vCPU unless a clear need for more vCPUs exists.

g. Maximize memory performance by keeping a virtual machine’s active memory in physical RAM.

h. Keep the system and data disks together on a single datastore if they require the same I/O characteristics.

i. Use VMXNET3 adapters for its enhanced performance and feature set.


Infra Security:

a. Make security design decisions for various layers in the vSphere environment.

b. Design a security strategy that meets the needs of the vSphere environment, and follow VMware best practices.

c. Consult the vSphere Security Configuration Guide and determine what risk profile to apply to your vSphere environment.

d. Apply the principle of least privilege to all vCenter Server users. e. If you do not currently replace VMware certificates, then VMware CA can handle all certificate management for you.

f. Use a VLAN, or dedicated storage-only switches, to isolate different types of network traffic.

g. Secure virtual machines as you would secure physical machines.

h. Use VM encryption if you want to secure confidential data on a VMDK so that the data is unreadable without a digital key.

Infra Manageability

a. Make infrastructure manageability design decisions that adhere to business requirements

b. Design an infrastructure manageability strategy that meets the needs of the vSphere environment, and follows VMware best practices

c. vSphere Update Manager is bundled with vCenter Server Appliance as an optional service.

d. A management cluster provides resource isolation, which allows management services to operate at the best possible performance level.

e. Content library allows you to distribute content to multiple sites, which allows you to keep all sites up-to-date and synchronized across all sites.

f. Consider using vRealize Operations Manager to provide visibility and insights into the performance, capacity, and health of the vSphere environment.

Infra Recoverability

a. Make infrastructure recoverability design decisions that adhere to business requirements

b. Design an infrastructure recoverability strategy that meets the needs of the vSphere environment, and follows VMware best practices

c. Use RTOs and RPOs to determine the data protection tools and technologies to use.

d. Back up vCenter Server Appliance with backup and recovery tool.

e. Back up virtual machines according to business policies and SLAs.

f. vSphere Storage API – Data Protection allows backup solutions to perform full virtual machine image backups, individual disk backups, image-level restores, and file-level recoveries.

g. vSphere Replication and Site Recovery Manager can be used as disaster recovery solutions.



3. Physical Design

  • Provides the detailed specifications for purchasing hardware and ultimately deploying the solution

  • Includes Physical Hardware specs, software configuration setting



My thoughts

Although it is not a pre-requisite to attend the course in order to take the VCAP exam, I felt it's extremely beneficial to attend the class as it helps you towards improving your knowledge, especially if you need to do vSphere design workshops at work. I read some sample exam questions and they are really technical. It will take some time to prepare for the exam, but I definitely hope to attempt it within the next few months.


"What do you think?"

Let me know if you think there are any important/useful details I have missed in the above write up.

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