First up a bit of a back story – as a Veeam Vanguard I was lucky enough to have received the required training last June in order to qualify for my VMCE exam, which I wrote and passed in August of 2016! A nice little perk of the program if you ask me! Anyways, earlier this month a handful of us were again lucky to participate in the next level of training, the VMCE-A Design & Optimization course in an online pilot, thus, qualifying us to write the VMCE-A exam. Under normal circumstances I would take a lot of time to study up and possibly create guides on this blog for the certifications I write – however, with VeeamON right around the corner and the ability to take advantage of a “Free Second Chance” offer for writing certifications on site my normal study strategies didn’t apply. I couldn’t pass up the chance of at the very least getting a look at the exam, even if it meant failing – hey, a free second chance!
So with the course fresh on my memory I studied where I could between it and my exam appointment at the conference, be it on the car ride to the airport, at 30,000 feet in the air and during a few meals at the conference. Anyways, the tl;dr version is I passed the exam….barely – getting only 4% over the pass mark of 70%. Not a mark I’d certainly be super proud of, but in the end a pass is a pass and I’ll take it!
On to the exam!
The VMCE-A D&O exam is 40 randomized questions, all multiple choice. Some questions have only one answer, while some are in the “Select 2, Select3” format. As mentioned earlier a passing score is 70% or higher. As far as the content goes I can’t say a lot as NDA’s are in effect, however what I can say is that all questions I received are fully covered within the VMCE-A D&O course material – and in fact, at the end you get a nice little detailed breakdown on how you scored in the different sections covered in the course (Design & Sizing, Infrastructure, Security, Optimization, Automation & Compliance, and Troubleshooting). This certainly helps you to nail down where you might want to freshen up in order to improve your skill-sets.
One big thing I will say is that this exam is tough! For as easy as Veeam can be to simply get up and running there is a lot to know about their complete suite of products – and a lot to cover in order to test on all of the features and benefits of just Veeam Backup & Replication. Now being a customer I’m not designing these Veeam solutions day in and day out, so I focused a lot of my attention on the design section, as well as other parts of VBR that I don’t use that often. But just as with the VMCE it’s not enough to solely focus on just VBR – Veeam ONE, Cloud Connect, etc – these are all free game for testing on this exam – so if you don’t use them I would certainly recommend brushing up on them. I can’t stress enough that all of the content I was tested on in the exam is covered within the course materials (textbook/slides) – so pay attention during the course! I can say, that if you see something labeled as a best practice or a formula you should remember these – Remember, this is an architect exam based on designing Veeam environments! Just keep that in the back of your mind while studying!
As far as timing goes you have 1 hour (add another 30 minutes if English isn’t your first language) to complete the 40 questions. I found this to be more than enough time. Just like VMware’s VCP exams you can flag certain questions for review, and go back and forth between questions on the exam at your leisure. The strategy I took, since I had no idea how much of a time crunch their might be, was to simply go through the questions answering the ones I knew I was right and flagging any that I was unsure of for review after. This process took me roughly 30 minutes, which allowed me another 30 minutes to go back and review those questions I didn’t quite have a grasp of. My review took roughly 10 minutes – after that I went through every question again, double-checking and tallying in my head how many I knew I had right, hoping to come up with a score high enough to make me feel comfortable enough to click that dreadful ‘End Exam’ button. In the end I knew I was I close, but ended it anyways!
You will get your score immediately after completing the exam – so you know whether it was a pass or fail right away – no painful time spent wondering Also, as mentioned earlier, upon exiting the facility you will get a print out showing how you scored in each category. I’m certainly happy I passed and know that I can for sure improve in some areas – maybe another study guide is in the cards for me!
The Veeam Certification Paths
For those that don’t know Veeam currently has 2 different certifications. The VMCE, which documents proof that the engineer has the necessary level of knowledge to correctly deploy, configure and administrator Veeam Availability Suite. Then, the VMCE-A D&O which adds on the knowledge from the VMCE, bringing in more of a design and optimize feel to the test, all the while following the Veeam best practices. Once you have achieved both the VMCE and the VMCE-A, Veeam accredits you with the title of the Veeam Certified Architect, or VMCA. The VMCA is not a separate certification and does not require a separate step – it’s simply a designation handed to those whom have completed the requirements for both the VMCE and VMCE-A, along with passed both exams.
A little about the course
Honestly, even if you don’t go through with the exam the VMCE-A Design and Optimization course is an awesome course to take. I guarantee you will get something out of it even if you design on a daily basis. For me, being a customer and administrator of these products it was an awesome opportunity to walk through the Veeam design methodologies, and deep diving into each step one by one to come out with the full solution. The course has a couple of design scenarios inside of it, of which there is really no right or wrong answer. We broke into a couple of different groups to do these and it was amazing to see just how different the end designs were. The instructors take the opportunity to pick away at these designs, trying to understand your though process and figure out how you think – asking a lot of questions in regards to why you set it up the way you did! This to me was the biggest advantage of the course – having that interaction and learning other ways to accomplish similar results – and seeing where you might be going astray in your though process.
So with that I hope this helps anyone else who might be on the fence about taking either the course or the exam. I can proudly say that I am a VMCA now and that feels great (and I’m glad I don’t have to cash in that second chance as it’s a very tough exam – or at least it was to me).