Is the VCAP-NV Deploy Worth It?
VMware certifications are rare animals, indeed. Fewer than 300 people hold the highest level of certification, VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX). While lower-level certs are a bit more common, they're still among the least commonly seen IT accreditations. Of all IT specialties, virtualization is perpetually an area with one of the largest gaps between open jobs and qualified experts to fill them. The raw numbers might not compare to more common roles like systems administrators, but the continual availability of jobs makes this a lucrative specialty to target if you're looking for a stable career.
Of virtualization technologies, VMware is at the top of the pack. It's popular among top-tier enterprise companies and requires a highly developed, very specific skill set. Let's explore what it takes to earn the VCAP-NV and evaluate whether it's worth it to you.
What is the VCAP-NV?
VCAP-NV stands for VMware Certified Advanced Professional in Network Virtualization. If you've spent any time researching VMware certs, you know that they easily have the most confusing structure around, so let's spend a few minutes digging into this, so you know where VCAP-NV falls.
VMware has four certification paths:
- Cloud Management and Automation (CMA)
- Data Center Virtualization (DCV)
- Desktop and Mobility (DT)
- Network Virtualization (NV)
Four different levels of certification exist within each of these paths:
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP)
- VMware Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX)
- VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)
To add an extra layer of complexity, each track has two separate VCAP certifications: Design and Deploy. To earn the VCAP-NV, you'll need to pass both of the following exams:
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional — Network Virtualization Design 2020
- VMware Certified Advanced Professional — Network Virtualization Deployment 2020
Let's add another tier. VMware recently revamped one of their certifications to create the VMware Certified Associate—Digital Business Transformation (VCA-DBT). This cert isn't required for any of the tracks, but the material it covers touches areas of each different pathway. The exam to earn this cert isn't difficult if you're at all familiar with VMware products. Because it gives you such a broad exposure to the different specialties, it might help narrow down which certification pathway you want to pursue if you're not fully decided yet.
What Experience Do You Need for the VCAP-NV?
Unlike most certifications, VMware requires that you take an Authorized Training Class for your desired certification track. If you don't do this, or the class you take isn't officially licensed by VMware, you won't get credit for this prerequisite and won't be granted a certification. It's important to note that the VCA-DBT certification mentioned earlier in this article is the only one you can earn without taking this class.
Next, you must pass the VMware vSphere Foundations exam regardless of which track you choose. This test covers the essential elements that all of the certification tracks have in common, focusing specifically on each virtualization aspect. With all of the complexities involved with earning VMware certifications, one simplifying element that all of their exams have in common is an official Exam Guide that breaks down precisely what you need to know to pass the test. The current version (2019 — they haven't released a new one this year) of the Foundations Exam Guide can be found here.
Once you've passed that exam and taken your Authorized Training Class, you'll need to earn the VCP level before moving on to the VCAP cert. VCP is considered a gateway certification and is strictly knowledge-based: it is the only certification track exam that is exclusively multiple choice. The Exam Guide and other information regarding the VCP-NV can be found here.
After you've completed all of these prerequisites, you're ready to begin pursuing the VCAP-NV. VMware offers an exam prep course for each of their certifications; it isn't required but is highly recommended. You'll also want to access the VCAP-NV-Deploy Exam Guide here and the VCAP-NV-Design Exam Guide here.
All of that laid out the foundations of VMware certifications. If you're already in the VMware universe and hold some level of certification, you won't have to repeat everything from scratch to jump to a different certification track. What you'll need in your particular situation can vary widely. For example, here's a screenshot from VMware's education services site for the VCP-NV: the dropdown menu changes your required certification pathway based on the experience you've already had.
What Does the VCAP-NV Test?
The VCA-DBT exam is 135 minutes long and has 50 multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, and matching questions. It primarily tests "a candidate's awareness of the VMware portfolio and their ability to identify and recommend technical solutions." You can find the official Exam Guide here. This test is not proctored.
It's important to note that all VMware tests are converted into a 100-to-500-point scale with a passing score of 300. This makes it easy to make an apples-to-apples comparison across exams and years to determine how well a particular candidate stacks up against their peers.
The VCP-NV test evaluates someone's ability to "transform the economics of network and security operations for your company" via "your ability to install, configure, and administer NSX virtual networking implementations, regardless of the underlying physical architecture." It lasts for 135 minutes and has 70 single- and multiple-choice questions.
The actual VCAP-NV-Deploy test (VCAP-Deploy, in VMware's shorthand) is entirely lab-based, lasts 205 minutes, and has 23 questions. Once you arrive at the test center, you'll remotely connect to the VMware testing environment, where you'll see a vSphere environment in several different states of configuration completion and functioning ability. VMware will provide you with a set of tasks to complete within the lab; how well you do on these determines your score. The only knowledge element of this test is grounded in application. There are no strictly knowledge-based items. To pass this, you'll need substantial experience with VMware vSphere.
The VCAP-Design exam is substantially different. Rather than a hands-on, open-ended, lab-based approach, the Design exam is primarily knowledge-based; it also takes less time than the Deploy test at 105 minutes for 57 questions. You'll see multiple-choice, matching, and drag-and-drop items. This last one is a bit tricky: it's used to test your knowledge of how events should be sequenced, which is conceptually simple. However, the more you know about VMware, the more you realize that there are often multiple combinations that can be used to arrive at a given solution. The trick with these is to be very analytical: if you have an ideal solution in your mind but are missing just one of the necessary steps in the sequence, VMware likely wants you to look at another approach.
When it comes to deciding which VCAP exam you should take first, it's better to knock out the Design VCAP before moving onto the Deploy exam. The reason is simple: deployment experience can be validated relatively quickly by looking at a vSphere environment. If a potential employer wants to ascertain how qualified you are, he can easily set up a simulation. On the other hand, design experience is more of the artistic side of VMware application; as a result, it isn't as easy to demonstrate. Given two candidates with equal credentials, one with a VCAP-Deploy and the other with a VCAP-Design under their belts, the latter will likely have a slight edge.
How Much Does the VCAP-NV Cost?
Let's start at the very beginning. If you take the Foundations exam to earn your VCA-DBT, you're going to shell out $125 for it. Overall, not a bad price.
Running total: $125
Taking the VCP-NV exam will set you back $250. This isn't a bad exam price, and the VCP cert is very marketable.
Running total: $375
To earn the VCAP-NV, you'll have to take both the Deploy ($450) and Design ($450) exams, so now we're running into some serious financial investment.
Running total: $1,275
Assuming you don't need any additional paid instruction and don't have to retake any of the exams, you're looking at a hefty price tag.
Who Should Take the VCAP-NV?
Obviously, the VCAP-NV isn't for everyone, but there are a few roles VMware identifies where the impact of a VCAP cert will provide a higher value than others.
VCAP-NV for Systems Administrators
The VCAP is likely overkill for this role. Sysadmins will more likely profit from a VCP than a VCAP, primarily because the lower-level cert is more focused on deployment and implementation. The VCAP has a substantial design element beyond the scope of what systems admins are typically expected to do. However, if you're planning on moving into an architect or engineer role down the line, earning a VCAP is something to consider seriously.
VCAP-NV for Architects
If you're an architect who works with VMware technology, the VCAP-NV is perfectly suited for you. Even with the hefty price tag, the question you should be asking yourself is more a matter of when you should earn the VCAP than if.
VCAP-NV for Engineers
A VCAP is likely a good fit for an engineer, although it does depend on what kind of engineering you're involved in and what your current role is focused on. Certainly earn a VCP, but whether you advance to a VCAP will likely depend on how much of a design role you fill or are planning to fill down the line in your career. The best thing to do here is to develop your career avatar, look at the job ads, then check in with your peers to see how prevalent a VCAP is for your current or desired specialty.
Is the VCAP-NV Worth It?
This question would be a fundamentally different one if it weren't for the extremely high price tag. VMware certifications are valuable in general, typically increasing both your career prospects and salary expectations. Virtualization is a perpetual hot spot in the IT economy, and earning the VCAP-NV cert will provide a noticeable boost to your employability. If you work with VMware technology and your employer is willing to pay for it, you should undoubtedly pursue the VCAP-NV badge. If your employer isn't ready to fund this excursion, you have to start engaging in cost-benefit analyses.
On the pro side, Business News Daily recently ranked the VCP cert as one of the top five virtualization certs available. Additionally, TechTarget interviewed a Connecticut-based human resources firm; when asked, "how marketable is a VCP?" the rep responded: "Right now, it's a blank check. If you have it, you can walk into almost any mid-size or large consultancy and say, "Pay Me," simply because the VCP is so hot to market to both potential and current clients." That's certainly a resounding endorsement, and it's even more impressive when you consider the employers: 100 percent of Fortune 100 companies are running VMware for their virtualization needs.
In his perpetual classic 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey advised readers to "begin with the end in mind." If you're going to shell out $5,000 to $8,000 for a certification track, you want it to lead somewhere. Spend some time outlining the path you want your career to take, then research jobs that fit those criteria. Review their requirements, salary, location, and other standards that are important to you and build a job avatar. If the job ads that approximate that avatar require a VCAP-NV, then start working on it. If not, this might not be something you need.
All of this complexity does have a silver lining. Unlike the majority of other IT certifications, VMware accreditations do not expire. VMware adopted a naming convention in 2018 that adds the year onto the end of each cert, allowing you to quickly ascertain how recently someone earned a particular certification. Other than trivial knowledge, this is useful for hiring teams to bookmark any major developments VMware publishes. If a cert was acquired before that point, you could specifically ask candidates about the more recent development to gauge how up-to-date they stay in the VMware world.
Using VCAP-NV to learn skills
From the Foundations exam to the Authorized Training Class to the three tests you'll need to earn VCP and then VCAP, you will thoroughly explore the VMware universe by the time you receive this coveted certification. Use the Exam Guides to map out the skills you need to develop, then engage with a community of peers to obtain further direction on how you should proceed from wherever your starting point is.
Using VCAP-NV to validate skills
If any certifications validate skills, VMware accreditation fits the bill. The process of earning a VCAP-NV is so grueling that having it on your resume is proof-positive you know what you're talking about.