Technology / System Admin

Is the VCAP-DCV Design Worth It?

by Ross Heintzkill
Is the VCAP-DCV Design Worth It? picture: A
Published on February 9, 2022

In the right hands, data center virtualization can mean faster and more powerful networks that are a lot cheaper to run and much easier to troubleshoot and maintain. In the wrong hands, data center virtualization can be a true nightmare – costing companies tons of money and people their jobs. It's understandable that companies who rely on their data centers would be nervous to make the leap into virtualization.

But it's possible to get trained in how to design great virtualized data centers. Not only that, it's possible to take a test that proves your skill and experience with developing a virtual environment that takes customer needs and requirements into account. The VCAP-DCV Design is a certification issued by VMware that proves you know how to design and develop great virtual data center that can be relied on to save money, not waste it. Whether or not the VCAP-DCV Design is worth it for you and your career is up to you – read on and learn more about it.

What Is the VCAP-DCV Design?

The VCAP-DCV Design is a certification published and maintained by VMware, one of the world's leading providers of virtualization technology. VCAP-DCV Design stands for VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Data Center Virtualization Design.

Like most vendors, VMware's certifications are arranged by tier – students progress upward like a ladder. VMware certifications are also arranged by category, so students can specialize in the part of the job that they need. The "advanced professional" (VCAP) tier comes after the "certified professional" (VCP) level but it's followed by the "certified expert" (VCDX) tier. In the Data Center Virtualization category, there are two VCAPs, one for designing and one for deploying virtual data centers.

The VCAP-DCV Design proves that the person who earns it is comfortable and competent with planning each part of a virtual data center using VMware's vSphere technology. Someone with their VCAP-DCV Design knows how to apply design principles while developing a vSphere 7.x conceptual design that addresses all customer requirements. The VCAP-DCV Design also addresses determining the functional and non-functional requirements that are needed to create a logical design, then architecting a physical design that incorporates them.

What Does the VCAP-DCV Design Exam Test?

Technically speaking, VMware formats all its certification exams around the same seven sections. But sometimes one of those sections don't have testable objectives. In the case of the VCAP-DCV Design, only two of the seven sections have testable objectives. The two top-level objectives of the VCAP-DCV Design exam are:

  • Section 1 – Architectures and Technologies

  • Section 3 – Planning and Designing

Between those two sections, Section 3 – understandably – has the huge majority of content. For the VCAP-DCV Design, the exam objectives focus most on gathering and analyzing functional and non-functional requirements and risks, constraints and assumptions. The majority of the testable material lies in creating logical and physical designs for vCenter and vSphere implementations in storage, network, server, and cluster.

How Much Does the VCAP-DCV Design Exam Cost?

The name of the VCAP-DCV Design exam is 3V0-21.21 and it costs $450 to attempt it. The 3V0-21.21 is the only exam you need to pass in order to earn the VCAP-DCV, but depending on whether you hold previous certifications, you may be required to take an online course before you can attempt the exam.

On top of that, the 3V0-21.21 is a challenging exam that you should go into well-prepared. You might want to take training to prepare you for the exam, and you should include that cost in the overall price of earning the VCAP-DCV Design.

What Experience Do You Need for the VCAP-DCV Design?

The VCAP-DCV Design does have a hard prerequisite of the VCP-DCV 2021 as well as at least one preparatory online course. Apart from that, passing the 3V0-21.21 and earning the VCAP-DCV Design depends on your ability to develop a conceptual design for a virtual data center that incorporates customer requirements – requirements that you've gathered and analyzed for yourself. If you want to attempt the VCAP-DCV Design exam, you should have experience determining what functional requirements a logical design will have and then architecting a physical design that uses those elements.

Data center virtualization is an umbrella term that includes many specialties like compute, storage, networking and security, but also capacity planning, disaster recovery, scalability, and sizing and compatibility. Earning the VCAP-DCV Design requires experience with each of those sub-specializations of designing a virtual data center. And don't forget that the test will focus specifically on using vSphere to accomplish those things.

VMware estimates that roughly 12 months of experience in designing and deploying vSphere environments is a good baseline for preparing for the VCAP-DCV Design. Unfortunately, having a lot of experience in one section won't make up for experience in other areas. The solution to that can often be a course designed to help you pass the exam. During one of those courses, you can jump around and skip the sections you're very familiar with and get experience with some of the elements you might weaker with.

Who Should Take the VCAP-DCV Design?

The VCAP-DCV Design is not only highly advanced and challenging, it's also specialized. Junior administrators and engineers may not benefit much by leaping ahead and attempting any VCAP, and IT professionals who don't work in data center design might not either. On the other hand, solutions architects, network engineers, and virtualization engineers should seriously consider taking the VCAP-DCV Design.

VCAP-DCV for Network Engineers

Designing a data center isn't necessarily a part of every network engineer's job. With that in mind, the VCAP-DCV Design probably isn't worth it for a network engineer whose job doesn't include data center design or virtualization planning. However, if your daily responsibilities do require an understanding of vSphere and manipulating logical designs, the VCAP-DCV could be worth it.

In addition to that, for network engineers who regularly interact with users of their data center and whose responsibilities include understanding the needs and requirements of those users, the VCAP-DCV Design is worth it.

VCAP-DCV Design for Solutions Architects

Yes, the VCAP-DCV Design is worth it for solutions architects. In fact, VMware had solutions architects in mind when they created the exam and certification. At the advanced professional (VCAP) level, VMware splits data center virtualization into two specializations: design and deploy. That suggests that more technically minded IT professionals should gravitate toward the VCAP-DCV Deploy, while the Design cert is better for those who have to convert requirements into design principles.

A solutions architect will find the VCAP-DCV Design very worthwhile as they further their skills in identifying the right methods for planning out a virtual data center that meets everyone's needs while also staying on-budget.

VCAP-DCV Design for a Network Administrator

The VCAP-DCV Design is probably too advanced and too specialized to be worth it for most network administrators. Even if your job includes highly advanced virtual data center administration, the VCAP-DCV is probably too narrow to be worthwhile. There is one way in which the VCAP-DCV Design could be worth it for a network administrator, and that's if you already know that you want to eventually land a job as a solutions architect and you're willing to put in the work necessary to get qualified.

The VCAP-DCV Design is a great certification for solutions architects, and if you're working as a network administrator but you already know that's where you want your career to go, it's worth it to justify a promotion or transfer.

Is the VCAP-DCV Design Worth It?

If you deal with understanding customer requirements and converting them into virtual data center capabilities, there's no better cert than the VCAP-DCV Design. However, the VCAP-DCV Design is a challenging and expensive certification. Preparing and knowing for certain that you're ready for the exam can take months. With all that in mind, the VCAP-DCV Design is worth it for IT professionals who know their jobs will call for it. If that doesn't describe your job responsibilities well, there are probably other certifications that you'll find more worth it.

Using VCAP-DCV Design to Learn Skills

One of the nice things about advanced certifications like the VCAP-DCV Design is that the test itself can act like a roadmap for all the skills a solutions architect should have. If you work with virtualized data centers or you want to, the exam objectives for the VCAP-DCV Design can show you the skills you should aim to earn over time.

Using VCAP-DCV Design to Validate Skills

If you've already been working for several years with virtual data centers, you can use the VCAP-DCV Design to validate your skills. In other words, by passing the VCP-DCV 2021 and earning the VCAP-DCV, you're assigning hard value to the time you've spent learning how to design virtual data centers. Employers and managers understand that a certification as advanced as the VCAP-DCV Design means serious commitment and deep knowledge, and job offers and salaries often reflect that.


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