VMware VCAP7-DTM 2021 Study guide and exam experience…

There’s not much information online to assist if you’re studying the VMware DTM track – last year I wrote a guide for studying VCP-DTM and having recently passed the VCAP-DTM Deploy I am sharing my experience below to help you prepare. You’ve probably already discovered Patrick Messenger’s VCAP-DTM Deploy Study Guide which is full of useful information, read on for my thoughts.

What is the VCAP Deploy exam like vs VCP?

VCAP Deploy is 100% hands on technical lab based exam. Unlike VCP, there are no theory or multiple choice questions. You are presented with a VMware HOL virtual lab which is very, very close reflection of this: HOL-2151-01-DWS – VMware Horizon – Getting Started with App and Desktop Virtualization and contains numerous mis-configurations within the Horizon stack (think connection servers, master images, AD/GPMC, pools, farms etc). You have 205 mins (3:25hr) to answer 28 questions. This may seem like a lot of time, and if you’re at VCAP level you’re probably a proficient engineer who can type fast and work quickly in vSphere but don’t be fooled! I have around 7 years experience with Horizon and ran out of time on the first attempt. The main ‘lag’ is getting used to the lab interface. Each question has a number of advisory comments which tell you what service or appliance you’ll need to log into in order to fix the issue (which I felt was generous!) as well as the required credentials – so in this respect there is some guidance as to where your focus will need to be. In most cases there are a list of requirements (which helps a lot) and limitations around what actions you should or shouldn’t do in order to complete the question – for example ‘Do not enable provisioning’ or ‘Use the default options unless specified’ and this helps provide scope. As you’d expect there’s a handful of easy softball questions ~25% at the beginning and towards the end of the exam, and the remaining ~75% are more involved and will require multiple troubleshooting steps to fix. I would strongly recommend you spend the first 20-30 mins of the exam skipping all the lengthy questions and cover the single-task questions. However, some questions are subjective and will require that you really think about what the ‘best practice’ is e.g. tune an instant clone image for a given use-case.

How to Prepare: My approach…

vMug, HOL, home labs and first attempts…

Unless your employer is covering your exam fees or training ,you’ll be forking out the best part of £400 to sit the exam – the VAT bites at checkout. I suggest buying a vMug advantage membership for $200 (sit on the vMug website for 10 mins and you’ll get a 10% discount popup appearing) – then use the 2x VCAP vouchers @ 20% discount. I think I’ve only ever passed 1 technical exam (no, not ITIL v3 Foundation) on the first take (CCNA Part Deux!) and if you’re half smart ‘you know how much you don’t know…’ or something like that – anyway, with this in mind I sat the VCAP (no revision) to dip my toes and test the water. I spend 8 hours a day doing work in Horizon/ESXi so I felt fairly confident I would achieve an acceptable score for a first try – I failed with a score of 220 – but the experience was hugely valuable and I didn’t really expect to pass first time as I know some of the topics covered features I’ve not touched for a few years (and thus, got rusty with) and in particular vIDM – I’ve never used Workspace ONE.

Prior to the first attempt I had considered forking out £1k on buying server equipment to build a nested home lab environment to study for this – I would recommend doing this if you’ve only got a few years experience with Horizon and perhaps haven’t ever setup an environment from scratch – it’s hugely valuable and will prove useful if you’re working on a VCP (DTM or DVC). However, for VCAP I don’t think this is really necessary – the money is better spent sitting the exam, particularly because the aforementioned HOL provides just about all of the functionality you need to get up to speed on the blueprint. All of the tech tested in the exam is available in the HOL and thankfully you’ll be using all the latest Horizon 8 features in the HOL, but be aware – the exam tests Horizon 7.X so you’re dealing with 7.10-7.13.

Another benefit to forking out for a first attempt is to steer your learning so you understand what depth to study the blueprint at – I tend to over think how much I need to know for technical certifications, and frankly, it can be detrimental to your life energy if you’re wasting time boring yourself digesting KB’s about edge-case configuration problems that appear as frequently as Prince Andrew – it’s highly unlikely these issues (inc Prince Andrew) will be covered on the test. I generally resign myself to the mentality VMware are going to shaft me for exam fee’s but ultimately having the cert will land me good roles as noble and honest recruiters look through the VMware certified professionals on LinkedIn. With this in mind, I started working toward the second and final attempt…

Exam blueprint

The blueprint is nice to look at – why? Because there’s f*** loads of topics that are not included in the Deploy exam 🙂 It is quite encouraging to see (what I consider) a short list of topics to study. I would suggest overlaying each of the bullet points with your real world experience, and then revisit the Horizon 7 documentation – for example: ‘Troubleshooting agent connectivity issues’ – how do you approach fixing a desktop stuck in ‘Customizing’ state, or ‘Agent unavailable’, or ‘Error’ state – checking the network adapter, horizon agent components, post-sync script, hostname issues etc – this is how I might approach the problem, but if I then revisit the VMware KB’s to look at their best practice steps – there’s additional actions you may not consider e.g. using telnet and nslookup to check DNS resolution to the connection servers – approaching revision in this way will be beneficial as it forces you to consider what you already know and build on it by providing more ideas you can apply in real world situations – which is really what an exam should be about (and it’s refreshing to invest time on a cert that isn’t based on multiple choice…).

The exam problems are formulated around the Horizon 7 documentation as a framework, so refresh yourself on the core features available in horizon and how to configure them – I’m mirroring parts of the blueprint below but this is the backbone of what you should know:

  • Kiosks: preparing the connection servers and creating kiosk clients
  • RDS and Instant Clone Pools/Hosts: setting up application pools, entitlement, instant clone, VM-hosted apps – what settings are available when you setup these features, and how would you test they work?
  • Instant clone pools: pool settings, pool operations, enabling 3D features, HTML access, entitlements, master image creation and preparing an image for deployment including optimizing the hardware and software.
  • Connection Server configuration: backups, storage, authentication options, using vdmadmin, services, troubleshooting replication/ADAM issues.
  • Log files: know how to collect log files from horizon client, agent and appliances (VIDM, UAG, Connection server etc) in the horizon stack.
  • Global entitlements: configuring and exporting.
  • Horizon Administrator: understand the admin console and how you can configure global settings.
  • Horizon Helpdesk: what features are available and how do you use them?
  • Troubleshooting issues with instant clones/agent availability: unable to connect to a VM, installing the horizon agent, dealing with VMware Tools issues.
  • Desktop performance: a bit of a subjective topic – but you should be aware of how to assess desktop performance on a windows machine (what native tool are available to do this…p.s. but you probably never EVER use!)
  • Identity Manager / vIDM: enabling SAML and authentication protocols, adding Horizon resources and syncing objects, entitlement of resources to users and groups.
  • AppVolumes: Appstacks and writeable volumes, managing and using these.
  • Group Policy/AD: A few questions require some AD and group policy administration.
  • ESXi – consider best practices for maintaining uptime for a horizon environment – what features might you configure in vSphere to provide some redundancy?

Second (and third) attempt…

I spent a couple of hours each night for a couple of weeks going over the steps above and at my resit, felt confident in what to expect. On the second attempt I invoked-wisdom and took the below approach. This concludes the post and I hope you get some use from this, I highly recommend studying the VCAP as it’s actually like being at work for a few hours and, because it’s hands-on you’re not wasting time learning acronyms and theory that you’ll never use again.

1/ Immediately fire up Chrome and open tabs for all core appliances, setup RDP sessions to connection servers and open GPMC and AD.

2/ Skip through all the troubleshooting/configuration questions and finish the quick (2 requirements or less) questions.

3/Copy/paste all the vdmadmin -help output into a text file and save it on the desktop of connection server – this prepared me for crafting the answers to several questions and have the UNC path to the vdmadmin dir at hand. The keyboards were crap at the testing centre and you can’t use ctrl+c to copy so get in the habit of right click > copy.

4/Look out for gotcha’s or silly requests in the phrasing of test questions – anticipate ‘typical’ mis-configurations in whatever issue you’re looking at.

5/ I flagged a couple of questions with VMware because I felt the wording was very poor/confusing – obviously there is an expectation of competence with a VCAP, but there are also multiple ways to answer a couple of the questions and I feel I fixed a particular group policy issue with a perfectly acceptable solution that I would implement in the real world, but it was not the answer VMware were expecting. My advice here is to try and consider what is the path of least resistance with a given fix i.e. what can you do to minimize the amount of configuration changes whilst still addressing the problem?

Pass!

I passed on the third attempt with a score of 300/350 – I had hoped to do better but a pass is a pass..! Onto the Design exam and further posts to follow.

Good luck and thanks for reading.

Cheers

Dave

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