Technology / System Admin

Is the VCAP-NV Deploy Worth It?

by Josh Burnett
Is the VCAP-NV Deploy Worth It? picture: A
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Published on January 20, 2021

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. Virtualization is perpetually an area of all IT specialties, 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. Still, the continual availability of jobs makes this a lucrative specialty to target if you're looking for a stable career.

VMware is at the top of the pack in virtualization technologies. 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 its certifications to create the VMware Certified Associate—Digital Business Transformation (VCA-DBT). This cert isn't required for any tracks, but the material it covers touches areas of each pathway.

The exam to earn this cert isn't difficult if you're familiar with VMware products. Because it gives you such 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 VMware doesn't officially license the class you take, 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 your chosen track. This test covers the essential elements that all 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 must 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 certification; it isn't required but is highly recommended. You'll also want to access the VCAP-NV-Deploy Exam Guide and the VCAP-NV-Design Exam Guide.

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 your previous experience.

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." The official Exam Guide is 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 compare apples to apples 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 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 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 multiple combinations can often be used to arrive at a given solution. The trick is to be very analytical: if you have an ideal solution but are missing just one of the necessary steps in the sequence, VMware likely wants you to look at another approach.

When deciding which VCAP exam you should take first, it's better to knock out the Design VCAP before moving on to the Deploy exam. The reason is simple: deployment experience can be validated relatively quickly by looking at a vSphere environment.

A potential employer can easily set up a simulation if he wants to ascertain your qualifications. 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 will shell out $125. Overall, it's not a bad price.

Running total: $125

Taking the VCP-NV exam will cost $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 VMware identifies a few roles 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, you should be asking yourself more about 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 plan to fill in your career. The best thing to do here is to develop your career avatar, look at the job ads, and 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 fundamentally different if it weren't for the extremely high price tag. VMware certifications are generally valuable, typically increasing your career prospects and salary expectations.

Virtualization is a perpetual hot spot in the IT economy, and earning the VCAP-NV cert will significantly boost your employability. If you work with VMware technology and your employer is willing to pay for it, you should pursue the VCAP-NV badge. If your employer isn't ready to fund this excursion, you must start conducting 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 potential and current clients."

That's undoubtedly 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 shelling 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, 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 ascertain how recently someone earned a particular certification quickly.

Besides 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 ask candidates about recent developments to gauge how up-to-date they stay in the VMware world.

Use 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 when 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 to proceed from wherever your starting point is.

Use VCAP-NV to Validate Skills

If any certifications validate skills, VMware accreditation fits the bill. Earning a VCAP-NV is so grueling that having it on your resume proves you know what you're talking about.


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