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VCP-NV Preparation

Two days ago, VMware announced the availability of the VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization  track. An hour or two later, my buddy Chris Wahl dared me to take it. And fifteen minutes ago, I walked out of the exam center at Moscone South with a > 300 score report. Longtime readers of the blog may recall me mentioning that I knew next to nothing about NSX going into VMworld, and are probably just as surprised as I am that I eked out a pass in such a short time.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Figure out what you don’t know. This was easy—everything.
  2. Get a sense of what you need to know. VMware makes this easy—everything they’re going to test on is in the blueprint.
  3. Figure out what resources you have available. The NSX documentation is readily available, and VMware was kind enough to link to specific docs in the blueprint. There are Hands-on-Labs, to get stick time. And there’s a practice test, to give you a sense of what you’re in for.
  4. Read the docs. Yes, all of them. Any random footnote is a potential test question. Start with the overview and design docs to get the concepts, then move into Installation and Admin guides. Take notes.
  5. Do the labs. Yes, all of them. I did HOL-SDC-1403 – VMware NSX Introduction, HOL-SDC-1425 – VMware NSX Advanced, and HOL-SDC-1462 – Palo Alto Something or Other.  After that, I launched and re-lauched HOL-SDC-1403 just to play around with different things, stepping through most of the tasks in the Installation and Admin guides, and exploring the UI. VMware loves to ask silly questions about which submenu under what sub tab of what configuration option a task is found in. You’ll have to poke around a little to prepare for that.
  6. Take the practice test. Consider it open book. Look up the answers as you go, and re-read the surrounding sections to make sure you understand each answer.
  7. Repeat 4-6. Stop just before you get here: 
  8. Take the test before you forget everything.

Total prep time here was maybe eight hours of reading and annotating, and ten hours of lab time, over not-quite-three days. Not something I’d recommend, but if you’re at a conference and free from the usual distractions, it can be done.

Ooh, also–if you can, it helps to read or write a general VMware Networking book beforehand, too. It’s VCP-NV, not VCP-NSX. There’s a good bit of traditional vSphere networking covered. If you need a good resource there, you could do worse than the one in the right sidebar.



Obligatory Pre-VMworld Post

So VMworld 2014 kicks off next week. I’m thrilled to be attending, for what must be the fifth or sixth time. There’s no better opportunity to brine yourself in geekery and soak up everything VMware and its partners have to offer. Sure, most of the content will be available later—and the general sessions will be available live—but there’s just no substitute for the energy of the room. Something about bringing all of these smart people together, everybody feeding off of each other’s curiosity and interest, it just recharges my Give-a-Shit battery like nothing else. And by this time of year, I’m pretty much running on fumes.

Empty battery small

Just try not to picture it full.



Here’s a selection of the sessions on my schedule, because that’s a thing people do:

NET1214 – NSX Certification – the Next Step in Your Networking Career.

NET2747 – VMware NSX: Software Defined Networking in the Real World

NET1743 – VMware NSX – A Technical Deep Dive

NET1589 – Reference Design for SDDC with NSX & vSphere

NET1974 – Multi-Site Data Center Solutions with VMware NSX

NET1674 – Advanced Topics & Future Directions in Network Virtualization with NSX

NET1581 – Reference Design for SDDC with NSX for Multi-Hypervisions

NSX overkill, maybe? I haven’t had time to do much more than scratch the surface of NSX, so I’m trying to make up for it here.

SDDC1600 – Art of IT Infrastructure Design: The Way of the VCDX – Panel

I’m still on the fence over whether or not VCDX is realistic given homelife constraints—kids are a gigantic time sink—but eventually I’m going to get sick of Wahl lording it over me.

SDDC1767 – SDDC at Scale with VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: Deeper Dive

This session is strangely subtitled “Deeper Dive,” which leads me to believe we might get introduced to something called “VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure” during the General Session. I’m hoping this is the rumored MARVIN project, which The Register has speculated will involve a scale-out, node-based architecture built on VSAN with NSX on top.

INF2311 – vCenter Server Architecture and Deployment Deep Dive

This purports to be a futures discussion around how vCenter is evolving going into the next major release. As vCenter Server Heartbeat was recently shot in the head, I’m expecting some news on improved availability options. 

Book Signing

On a related note, Chris Wahl and I will be signing copies of our book, Networking for VMware Administrators, at 1:00pm Wednesday in the VMworld Bookstore (Moscone South). Please do come out, say hi to Chris, and give me an awkward “And you are?” look. Chris has announced that all of his proceeds from book sales will be donated to Alzheimer’s Association. I, too, would like to announce that all of Chris Wahl’s proceeds from book sales will be donated to Alzheimer’s Association.


UCS Fabric Interconnect Port-to-ASIC Mappings

I’ve done something like three million Cisco UCS installations. I treat them as something like performance art these days, going through a polished routine of technical facts and banter. One could say I’ve done too many. One could say that often, and loudly.

Anyway, every now and then I’ll have a customer interrupt the flow with a Good Question. I love when that happens, as it usually means I’m about to learn something new. Recently, a network guy—the network guys always start trouble—asked me about the port-to-ASIC mapping in a 6200-series Fabric Interconnect. And I realized I really didn’t know. Cursory Googling didn’t turn up a concrete answer. I reasoned aloud that since the Fabric Interconnects share the same hardware guts as the Nexus 5K switchest the internal plumbing was likely the same, and was able to turn up an answer for 5596 port mappings. The customer wasn’t terribly satisfied with this answer, as his 6296s differed in product number and, in fact, color from their Nexus switch cousins.

Some digging turned up an NX-OS command that would display these mappings on a 5500, and it turns out the same command works on the Fabric Interconnects. For a 6200-series FI, connect to the CLI of your FI, enter NX-OS configuration mode (connect nxos), and enter the command “show hardware internal carmel all-ports.” You’ll see something like the following:

6200 carmel

The first column indicates the FI port, and the third indicates the internal ASIC (or Unified Port Controller) number. So, on a 6200-series FI, each group of eight contiguous ports is backed by an individual ASIC.

A similar command works on the older 6100-series FIs—“show hardware internal gatos all-ports.” The difference reflects the different ASIC codenames between platforms. Output should be similar to the following:

6120xp Gatos

Again, first column is port number, third is ASIC number. On a 6100-series FI, each block of four ports is backed by an individual ASIC.

The more you know banner

Now, why did the network guy want this information? He was interested in potentially spreading port assignments across ASICs, as they had recently been bitten by an issue where an ASIC failed. This concern was alleviated after talking through FI failure scenarios, as ultimately the OCD-appeal of having neat, contiguous blocks of uplinks won out over protecting against the profoundly unlikely event of the same ASIC failing on two FIs.