First Industry Cloud Certification: EMC Cloud Architect class and E20-018 EXPOSED!!!

April 25th, 2011
by Christopher Kusek (PKGuild)

If you’ve ever read any of my exposed series, well… Look for a fairly unbiased approach to things.   Oh and hopefully the Education team doesn’t come back screaming at me. ;)   And as always, in the best of my ability I bring you the… Disclaimer!

Disclaimer:  The following information is not under NDA, is not one persons opinion but rather that collected from others through interviews, emails, discussions under which none of us are sharing any proprietary data about the Class or the Exam.    I tread the line closely so read on!

Okay, I normally only Post-Mortem or expose an Exam, or a Class, but not too often do I get the liberty to expose the two together! With that being the case I want to start by educating you a little bit about this designation, certification and beyond so you don’t feel the need to go to multiple sources to learn it!

Cloud Architect (EMCCA) Certification E20-001 and E20-018

Okay this little chart stripped from the Brochure basically tells you:

  • To prepare for the E20-001 exam you should take the Information Storage and Management 5 day course # MR-1CP-STF
  • To prepare for the E20-018 exam you should take the Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure 5 day course: MR-1CP-NPVICE

At this point I’d like to give you a little color on these particular courses and the respective requirements around them, etc.     First of all, unlike the VCP or other similar type exams, these courses are NOT required in order to sit the exam.   I wanted to make sure you understand that you CAN sit the exam cold.

(Yes I did sit the E20-001 Exam cold and passed – Industry experience has its advantages)

There is an AMAZING book which covers the content of the E20-001 course and exam – the ISM Book I’m not sure if I have a copy at all but I’ve heard from those who have used it is an excellent learning and educational aid!  So if you’re a self-studier this is definitely an EXCELLENT tool for you to use.

Because the E20-001 is a pre-requisite to sit/pass the E20-018 exam I wanted to ensure it got a little coverage, which I think is sufficient at this point :)   For what it is worth, if you have been in the industry a fair amount of time working with SANs, NASs, and other Information Storage Management stuff you should do fine, but ensure you are prepared, E20-001 is the cost of ENTRY beyond that comes the BIG GUNS!!!

Tell us about the Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure course

Okay, okay guys I will.   Here it goes, the full in depth analysis of the VDC and Cloud course.    (Education folks, watch out this isn’t all from me either;))

I want to start by telling you very clearly and concisely that there is some GREAT content in the books, material, and other information provided both in the written as well as the lecturer (Your results may vary depending upon instructor)  Though irrespective of who your instructor is, the content in the book will stay the same and will be relevant to the Class, Cloud, VDCs and the Exam.   With that said, I need to differentiate a few things with the course pre-reqs

  • According to the course materials we strongly recommend you have the following Certifications or knowledge/experience:
    • Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) – I bet CCNA would apply as well but I think that’s focused in the other exam/course
    • VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
    • Certified Information Systems Security Practitioner (CISSP)
    • The EMCISM is required for the EMCCA Certification – I mentioned that above, so that’s not a surprise.
    • Oh, and ITIL/PMP is NOT mentioned but those of you who are will find yourself wondering why not ;) (Not for content, but for presentation)

With THIS particular data points expressed I’d like to break you down into two groups:

Generalist/Novice/Acolyte:

If you fall into this area, maybe you have one or more of the certifications above or work in various cross-disciplines.  The courseware will VERY much apply to you.  You will want to pay attention, take rigorous notes; really get the best out of the networking, the instructors, the homework, read, read again, even do some labs to ensure you not only UNDERSTAND it, but you are fully committed to the material you are learning.   For what that is worth, the information is VERY general to the industry, Best Practices with a ‘little’ emphasis on some specific EMC technologies, but otherwise 70%+ of the material on the exam is of a VERY general nature.  The book should be your best friend and will be the answer to your success when it comes time to sit the exam and in life! :)

Guru/Expert/Ninja/Buddha/#IWroteTheExam:

Hey guys, how are you doing.   You know who you are.   You hold all of the certifications above or really have the information down solid.  Heck, you might have taken those exams 10 or more years ago; or even written some of the exam material in those times.   You also happen to be the same kind of folks who have helped write and spec the standards for where we are today; Chances are I know each of you personally. (grin).    Yea…  You won’t last in the class.  I’m sorry.   I’m totally supportive of you, completely in fact (You probably wrote your own internal cloud strategy for your business which is inline with the exam, or for your consultancy)  Definitely not going to survive in the class room.  You’ll say “Err, this is just lecture, I can read the book myself… err, I can write this book while I’m at it!)   I’m not being negative, I see your kind every day…. leave the class because you’re bored, not learning anything and at this point just want to ensure that you have what is REQUIRED to sit and pass the exam.    Good luck guys, you will DEFINITELY want to read the Exam section because that’ll make the difference of success and WTF?!?   

Whoa! Wait a minute! Isn’t that a massive generalization? Either you’re a student or a teacher? … No not really.   Seriously.    If you find yourself arguing with the teacher that they’re wrong and you cite evidence often referring to a presentation you’ve given at a conference? Yea… You’ll do fine :)

Now, I’d like to segue way a moment to some of the directly shared thoughts from an attendee of the course.  We’ll call him B (Not like B from Gossip Girl!)

B’s take on the Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Course

“B” is a Technical Manager in mid-size enterprise.   Experienced in implementing VMware over the years with EMC Storage, HP Servers, Cisco Networking.   Longtime expired member of the CCNA/CCDA club and recent VCP and EMCISM credential holder.   With the stated pre-reqs B felt it might be a stretch from his qualification but not too much of a concern  (If this sounds like you, you’re in good company!)

  • Class started with going over pre-reqs, with CISSP added to the list; was surprised ITIL wasn’t there as discussed earlier
  • Two classes were merged so each section was alternated between two instructors.   As the course is 95% lecture didn’t feel that mattered.
  • The volume of content for the class is 2” thick of slides which unfortunately restricts discussion time available over 5 days.
  • Module 1 leads you into an Introduction to Cloud Computing  – If you instructor reads this module to you verbatim – STOP THEM!!!
  • Module 2 covers the VCP, ISM ad CCDA related material – Very much a review of the Pre-reqs – should be consolidated to focus on goals
  • Module 3 kicked off VDC Design – This is where the meat of the course is, requires proper time to digest and discuss properly
  • Module 4 focused on Governance, Risk and Compliance (Interesting Chapter) but due to time was rushed as was Managing Virtual Environments
  • Module 5 focused on Cloud Services and Summary modules (Had to leave early so missed it)
  • There is nothing earth-shattered in the course but there is a lot of GOOD Material!
  • The labs are too vague leaving you spending more time trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do instead of discussing solutions

B’s Summary of the course

In summary, it’s a good course to show EMC’s "journey to the cloud".  I’d prefer less focus on the pieces (modules 1-2) and more focus on how to put the pieces together (modules 3-6).  The labs need refined to give more guidance so we can spend more time applying the knowledge rather than wondering what the designers of the course had in mind.  Given that this was the first class (I believe), I’d love to see how it changes over the next few sessions.

Well guys, what do you think of B’s take on the course?   I think his assessment was fairly accurately representation of what was going on, and equally what you might expect out of the class in its early stages.   To tell you the truth it can ONLY get better from this point.   I only briefly paraphrased what B had to say to preserve the original message but also not to call him directly unless he wants to be named :)  

Curious what the course looks like on the other side of the fence?   Here is the summary and breakdown from “Jerome” who’s been doing this for awhile!

Jerome’s take on the Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Course

I had the chance to attend the "Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure" course put on by EMC this week.  Below are my thoughts.

Certification Track

This course is part of the EMC Cloud Architect track – EMCCA.  This course specifically is designed to prepare for the E20-018 certification test, which is a Specialist level certification.  The Expert level material and test have not yet been released, and are expected later this year.

Focus

The EMC Cloud Architect Track is designed to help enable customers adopt a cloud maturity model.  This consists of a move from physical data centers to Virtual Data Centers (VDCs), from VDCs to full Operationalization of virtualization, and from there to IT as a Service.  This course was specifically focused on the physical to VDC phase of the transition. 

Material and Presentation

This course is a lecture only course.  There was no hands on material or lab time.  What labs were included in the course were small group discussions only.  EMC has tried to make this a "generic" cloud course that is "open" to all technologies, but it is heavily slanted towards their view of the world.  The course uses the following outline, I have added the EMC translation in parenthesis:

  • Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Introduction (Private Clouds and ITaaS model)
  • VDC Architecture (V+C+E products, convergence)
  • Designing for Virtualized and Cloud Environments (Best Practices for Virtualization – VCP stuff)
  • Governance Risk and Compliance (RSA and Archer)
  • Managing Virtualized Environments (IONIX)
  • Cloud Services (Service Provider models)

Exam

The exam is a 60 question test, with 63% required for passing (38 correct answers).  The practice exam on the EMC Education website is decent, and a good barometer of your chance to pass the exam, though the practice was about 20% easier than the real exam.  I would say that the real exam questions were written fairly poorly, and were often difficult to understand.  They would describe a scenario, but then it seemed they would give up half way through and ask only a tangentially related question.  I think that it was a result of attempting to keep the exam mostly generic, rather than focused on EMC technologies.

Recommendation

In general, I found the course to be very much in alignment with our message and focus, and as a result I felt it was a very easy set of material.  The only new sections to me were a few of the VDC maturity definitions and the GRC models.  Because of that, I felt the instructors moved much too slow.  I also found that the instructors were professional trainers, not SMEs on cloud computing, so they offered little value other than moderating the course.  I ended up leaving mid-way through the second day, and just reviewing the course material on my own, and was able to pass the test on Thursday, even though the course runs through Friday.  If you feel you need a little more preparation, I would recommend the VILT, rather than the full course. 

Okay, no his real name is not Jerome I decided I would use that name as a tribute to Jerome from Flight of the Conchords, especially how Jerome was being so constructive with his feedback So what this is providing you is two assessments of the course; FWIW.. I agree with both, grin :)

CXIs take WTF?!?

Yea, I think I made it fairly clear in the earlier points.    But if I had a few things I want you to do and know; KNOW the material, if you’re confused read it again, understand it, deep.    Focus on your weaknesses in the areas which are defined in the class and be true and honest to yourself, because albeit Rihanna and Eminem may love the way you lie… well the Exam will NOT be so nice.  . . . Speaking of which!

Tell us about E20-018 Virtualized Infrastructure Specialist Exam for Cloud Architects!

Okay, Okay, you begged enough!   Firstly, let me tell you I cannot tell you what is ON the Exam, what is IN the exam or anything ABOUT the exam. We cool? ;)    Yea, but just because I cannot provide you those specifics and by now I think you know a few things about me…. here is what I can tell you.

Remember what I said above about PREPARING.  KNOWING the content from the Class, Books or material LISTED as being on the exam?  Yea, I wasn’t messing around.  Seriously! DO THAT. KNOW THAT. DO IT ALL!   But what would this matter or mean if you didn’t take a few sliding comments from those of us who have taken the exam.    I talked to Jerome after he took the exam to see how he felt about it; his take?

Jerome: The test was very hard, but that was only due to the language of the questions and the structure.

Me: Hated that test.

Whoa Whoa Whoa! Christopher! That isn’t very constructive! What about being constructive with your feedback?!?! Yea, hi, I’m still here.. I’m still WRITING THIS! ;)     I don’t remember if I’m supposed to say this or not but since the exam is already out, published and I’ve taken it… I’ll go out on a limb thinking I can talk about it.   Yea, I’ve seen SOME of the content before the exam came out.  I reviewed the questions for validity, truth, honesty, integrity… The kind of standard I started to see so wonderfully come out of Microsoft (I know the entire Microsoft Learning Team, so I know the commitment they have to Exam Integrity THESE days instead of days gone past where questions were insane)   I’d like to say that this exam took the PAGES upon PAGES of comments I’d have on a few word question to heart when it came time to publish the exam to stand behind as backing for the questions.   Yea, I thought that for OTHER exams I would EXTENSIVELY provide EXTREMELY constructive feedback on. [I’m not shy about telling you what is wrong, why it is wrong, how others will perceive it, and what steps you can take in order to correct….]   Also sometimes there are release schedules… or my voice isn’t LOUD enough, or I didn’t cover enough of a user base of questioning to make an impact outside of my SME area I was initially focused on reviewing.    None the less, to Jerome’s point of the language of the questions and the structure; how things were poorly worded, or to quote me “I hated that test”  

I’m VERY good at taking tests (I teach classes on how to take exams ;)).  I’ve passed more exams than most will in their lives, and respectively I’ve probably failed more exams than most people will take including their entire academic career ;)     I can wholeheartedly say that you better STUDY for this exam.   KNOW your material and know how to cut through the treacle which is going to be offered up as questions.   The answers are right, the questions are a little confusing and the ones which are not can be VERY specific.    I prepared for the exam by using the Practice Test – I was getting 100% consecutively and I felt confident.   Yea, once that exam started up that melted away!    Definitely study, study, study! Prepare! 

Summary on Class and Exam!

For the first Industry Certification focused on Cloud with an Exam AND a course; that is a major undertaking to start with, and honestly to tell you the truth I think EMC did a great job of it.   Obviously you may take some of my comments above as extremely critical (Hey, I’m extremely critical!) but it’s because I care.     They’re definitely taking things to new levels, I’m not even sure what other organization in the industry could assault such an undertaking other than Microsoft (And that would be HEAVILY MS biased, Hey I love you but it’s true) and most “independent” third parties, well we all know that their Exam would come out looking like absolute trash and they wouldn’t really have the vehicle or mechanism to go about delivering and driving it successfully.   No definitely considering all of that and what we expect so heavily from ourselves, and our industry, EMC has done an absolute bang up amazing job!   

Hopefully I haven’t scared you away from taking this course and the exam.   If you know your stuff, you better prep, if you are new to the whole game you’re going to learn A LOT OF MATERIAL.   In a way the course will take you through a compressed CCNA/CCDA/VCP/CISSP/EMCISM courseware all compressed into a few days of time and then you need to assimilate that into your head and go take a test!    If anything you should have an honest reflection of what to expect (I highly encourage your feedback if you agree, disagree or WTF on anything I’ve said)   Together we move mountains, so let’s not make mountains out of molehills, that’s how the Cloud works.   Together. :)   Oh and Good Luck, I don’t say this often on exams, but you will NEED it. *love* :)

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Posted in Apigee, Avamar, Careers, Certification, Cloud, Education, emc, Virtualization, vmware, vSphere | Comments (5)

  • Dusted

    Hi Christopher,

    Disclosure: my employer is an EMC customer with a wide range of products currently implemented or about to: Symmetrix, VPLEX, Clariion, Avamar, Celerra, Centera, Rainfinity, Connectrix, ECC, SPA, SRDF, DPA blah blah blah… Yep its fair to say we have drunk the EMC Kool-Aid. Tastes great to me ;)

    As I took the exam cold it may be of some benefit to relay my experience and thoughts here.

    Experience ?

    I have been working in UK Healthcare IT for 20 years now but have only got round to taking certifications in the last year or so. Call it my mid-life crisis. Other guys buy motorcycles and fast cars, I decide to take certs. Go figure.
    I work in a senior position in a team responsible for the virtualisation/server stack, EMC storage, Cisco UCS, VMware vSphere and Citrix technologies. We currently manage about 200 physical and 600+ virtual servers. We are on the route to full data centre virtualisation with just a few tier one applications left to go (Oracle/Exchange).

    My reasons for taking the exam were threefold:

    1) Validation/Achievement
    I have been working in this industry for a long time and whilst I have achieved a lot professionally I never had that experience validated (for want of a better term). Real world experience alongside recognised certification – whats not to like!

    2) Professional Recognition
    I have been called on to present on a number of occasions and often felt like a bit of a charlatan amongst all those VCP/CCNA/MSCE consultant presenters. I have implemented this stuff in the real world not just talked about it and now I am able to put one of those EMC Specialist logos on my slides. Makes me feel much better and proves I can talk AND walk….

    3) Finally the chance of a free EMCWorld ticket (!)

    In my opinion EMC are to be applauded for building this certification track in an “open” manner. (I say “open” as it mainly is, although being an EMC course it doesn’t hinder you to know a bit about some EMC technologies.) Also it covers all the aspects of “Cloud” as commonly understood; most notable for me is the stuff around Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). Being a techy hardware geek kind of guy those are the things I normally leave to someone else. Having to study this area and focus on those aspects has definitely given me a better perspective. Anyway, bringing all this information into a coherent training program/certification is no mean achievement.

    How did I pass?

    I took the practice exam a few times and worked out which areas I needed to focus on. I am currently studying for VCP4 and felt I was pretty solid around the virtualisation topics. Having already passed the EMC ISA exams was obviously a great primer and working with this stuff does help a bit(!). I asked a few people on Twitter regarding their experience (@mpyeager, THANKS !) and took note of another of your colleagues (@BasRaayman) blog posts:
    http://basraayman.com/2011/04/03/how-about-them-cloud-architects/

    Thoughts?

    As you stated the real exam was a lot harder than the practice. Talk about lulling you into a false sense of security! Once the sinking feeling passed and I read the questions a few times I was able to make sense of things and as expected my virtualisation experience was invaluable. I had to really think on the GRC stuff though.

    Also, as you and Bas both noted, some of the question wordings are WEIRD. No other way to put it. They almost seem designed to cause FUD and make you question your own understanding of the topics.

    Bas makes some very valid points about the US-centric nature of some of the GRC portions particularly for those of us from the UK/Europe. Nonetheless I found the GRC topic very interesting. If I took the course this would be the part I would be most interested in.

    Overall ?

    In my opinion this blog (and Bas’) is a great constructive, honest overview and analysis of the course and exam. I hope that the EMC Education builds on the experience and views of yourself, Bas and all those customers currently preparing for and taking the exam. I also wish your blog was available beforehand as some of the pointers to course/exam content would have been invaluable. In terms of your blog post I consider myself a mixture of B and Jerome! I know I would not be able to take that amount of no-hands on lecturing! VILT would be the way to go for me at my own pace.

    I’d also add that it’s refreshing to see both yourself and Bas making critical analysis of your own employers course/exam in the public eye. Well done.

    I wouldn’t say I enjoyed studying and taking the exam (hey, who does?) however it was extremely worthwhile, particularly opening my eyes around the GRC components, and it helped to solidify the whole “Cloud” concept in my mind.

    Some of my colleagues have just registered EMC passports and I have encouraged them strongly to take the VILT for this track and complete the certification. (I may have a sneaky look at the GRC section myself!)

    (Oh BTW I was one of the first 50 and did get a free pass to EMCWorld ! Working on flight options with my employer at the moment. Hopefully we can meet up if I make it out there.)

    Phil

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  • Frank Terveen

    https://community.emc.com/message/450583#450583

    Great article just one small addition to the certification rules
    It is allowed as stated in the link above to do EMC exams without first obtaining EMC E20-001 (EMCISA) accreditation
    IMHO E20-001 does not really add to knowledge for any other EMC exam that you wont obtain during studying for another exam
    Your Certification will only be valid after you obtained E20-001 and any other exam.

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