How the path to VCDX will change you

The VCDX path has changed how I see technology design. I just wanted  to share my experience, specifically for those who are considering the going after the VCDX.

It’s About The Journey

First let me say this, it’s not my saying. It’s about the journey, not the destination. What does that mean?

  • It means you must be committed to bettering yourself at all costs
  • It means that this will likely take you hundreds of hours, most of which personal
  • It means it will cost you financially for lab gear, travel, application and defense fees
  • It means there is a high probability that you will need to defend the VCDX more than once
  • It means your family MUST buy into this, or VCDX will become Voldemort (that which must not be named) in your household
  • Getting the certification does not make you more qualified, smarter, etc. It means you already are qualified and others agree.

I was successful on the first attempt, but I was fully prepared to have bad news after even several attempts. Don’t let it get you down. Listen to the feedback.

Design Methodology

It will change the way you see everything. I was (am) a pretty good delivery consultant at virtualization. Delivery consultant actually means I get my hands dirty and go on virtualization engagements to do the upgrades, maintenance, greenfield installs, rack and stack, fight and identify firmware and driver bugs, do P2V projects, performance troubleshooting, etc. Before the VCDX, I had a good idea of the process for building clusters that would function for the target workloads with enough servers for redundancy. But before the VCDX, I looked at it much differently, all I saw was vSphere.  The beauty of abstraction is that it’s not really about servers, your hardware vendor, networks and storage. Sure, these are critical components, but in the end it’s really all about business requirements in terms of availability, manageability, performance, recoverability  and security. Much like Neo when he was enlightened, so was I as a part of the VCDX preparation process. You must see it all.


What do you get out of the process?

  • If you do things right and form a study group, you will definitely make some new acquaintances, maybe even friends. I know I did. : )
    • As a VCDX, you are responsible for all decisions in your design, and you have to document them. You will learn about them for sure.
    • You understand why you chose particular components and configurations, and how they met the business requirements.
    • Mock defenses will show you your weaknesses from a technology and verbal defense standpoint.
      • Embrace these weaknesses, your peers are HELPING you by pointing out flaws and weaknesses.
  • Industry Recognition on a peer vetted certification
  • A unique number
  • Listed in the VCDX Catalog

What are my recommendations?

  • Get buy-in from your family, especially if you have kids. Explain the costs and time involved. The VCDX is a team sport on the home front.
  • Understand up front that an expert will have dealt with a variety of hardware, storage and network products. It’s just the way it is.
  • Don’t do a fictitious design; it will be much much harder. This is about business requirements.
  • Read the blueprint. Then read it again. Re-read it later. Then again later. Print it out and put it under your pillow. Only half serious.
  • Form a study group and start meeting before and after you submit. Plan on meeting together the week before the defense.
    • In person mock defenses are WAY more valuable than over Webex.
    • If you do a Webex, make sure to use a whiteboard and video camera. Will definitely help add simulated pressure.
  • Get someone that doesn’t know technology to proof read your submission. They will find all sorts of goofs you’ve completely overlooked.
  • Write some kick butt documentation. Let’s be honest, this is kind of like a thesis, it should be the best thing you’ve ever written.
  • Your design doesn’t have to be 100% sweet-ness factor awesome with latest greatest state of the art gear. It needs to meet the requirements.
  • As it gets closer to defense time, think about all the different ways you could have done your design, know why you didn’t go the alternative routes.
  • Greybox test/Fuzz your design. Look at it objectively and find the holes. Ask reasonable questions, then make quizlet flashcards about each question.
  • Go read Rene Van Den Bedem’s series on the VCDX. Awesome blog series that needs no duplication.
  • When preparing for the Design and Troubleshooting scenarios, you absolutely MUST understand the big picture.

To sum it all up in two words: DO IT.

VCDX-Desktop #138

I achieved the VMware Certified Design Expert certification today!

I seriously can’t start to thank my wife, study group, peers and management enough.

What a rush. Well, now that I may actually have time to do blogging again, I have several blog series that I want to kick off:

  • Preparing for the VCDX-Desktop
  • Navigating the Upgrade to Horizon 6
  • Mirage and View: So Happy Together


Horizon 6 GA Release Notes for the TL;DR Crowd

Yes, everyone and their dog has a post on this. Here is a post which cuts straight to the chase for those TL;DR people.

  • RDS will deliver individual applications installed on Windows servers to users over PCoIP sans thinprint and persona
  • Connect to hosted applications or desktops with the same client
  • All View server  components now support Windows Server 2012 R2
  • View supports AD functional levels of 2012 and 2012 R2 for you bleeding edge and greenfield people
  • Integration with Virtual SAN (technically was in 5.3.1)
  • Pool entitlements get easier for those already doing GSLB multi-pod deployments
  • Video conferencing in View gets better with a new kernel mode webcam driver
  • Feature Pack from 5.2 and 5.3 are rolled into the install EXEs
  • Security/Connection servers can now service 800 HTML connections up from 256
  • Local mode that maybe .001% of customers used is gone and is officially replaced by Mirage
  • Buy Mirage? Get Fusion for free! Yay for Mac people
  • Heartbleed Fix

For the full shabang, check the release notes. Happy Friday!

How to delete the vsanDatastore for VMware Virtual SAN

There are a lot of blog posts on how to set up the cool new Virtual SAN, but not a lot on how to destroy the Virtual SAN object. Probably because it’s really simple. Never fear! In a shameless effort to drive hits from google, here is your step by step on how to delete the vsanDatastore.

Deleting the vsanDatastore means that all the data on the underlying disk groups will be nuked. Gone. Vamoosed. This means you must either migrate the VMs to separate available local storate or to another storage solution. You can delete a disk group from one of the nodes, then reformat the disks into VMFS volumes, but you will obviously lose fault tolerance when you move to that. But hey, you’re the one deleting the virtual SAN object, not me. You should know why you’re doing it and what you’re moving to. I had to do this because I needed to nuke and refresh my cluster on 5.5. U1 from the beta refresh.

1. Migrate all the VMs and templates elsewhere. Where that is, well that is your problem. You can verify if there are any objects remaining by examining the related datastore object here.
Step12. Turn off HA on the Virtual SAN enabled cluster. You’ll need this to be off to turn off the Virtual SAN feature.
3. Delete all the disk groups individually. We will get warned that we should put it in maintenance mode first if we’re performing maintenance, but since we’re nuking the sucker we don’t want to do that.
3. We can see the local disks become available in the add storage wizard for each host as we delete the disk groups.


4. Repeat the process until all the disk groups have been deleted.
5. We are now ready to turn off the VSAN Feature on the cluster object.


6. Click OK on the warning.


7. Re-enable HA on the cluster. All done!



Optimizing Audio Traffic and Quality for PCoIP

Hey guys, just wanted to give a shout out to a single GPO parameter that can be configured to reduce a TON of audio network traffic in your Horizon View deployment. All of the GPO parameters to tune the PCoIP session statistics are located here:


The following image shows the PCoIP session audio bandwidth limit:


In the below video we demonstrate the impact of changing the default behavior to 400Kbps and the impact on traffic. The audio quality changed from using around 40Kbps of audio TX to about 2Mbps, which is definitely a sizable difference just for audio quality. In the video you can hear the difference in quality. For my own use case, since I actually use the VM as my primary workstation and I use spotify, I had to tune this to 2400 because I didn’t want to listen to shoddy quality audio at my desk. Your  mileage may vary, but 400 is a great starting point for all non-audio intensive use cases. Disabling the default sound schemes is also a good idea to prevent spikes of audio.


Also of note, I experienced some weird audio stuttering of the sound and some bizarre sounding weirdness. CPU was fine, so was the network. I followed this KB titled Audio issues with the VMware Virtual Audio (DevTap) driver running on a Horizon View desktop (2045764) and installed the Teradici Audio driver in the VM. No issues for me since that time and no other configuration changes were made. See below for version and build information.

The configuration utilized for this demonstration:

View VM: Windows 8 Enterprise, 2 vCPU 3GB Memory, View Agent, Teradici Audio Drivers Installed in guest

View: VMware Horizon View 5.3.0, Servers and Agent with Experience Feature Pack 1

Endpoint: Wyse P25 Zero Client with HD Audio Enabled, Klipsch THX Speakers

PCoIP Audio Traffic Optimization and Audio Quality Demonstrated from Joe Clarke on Vimeo.