VMware or Microsoft? Let’s Talk Certifications!


imageLet’s start this post off with this:

I am a VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP5-DCV)!

Yup, you read that correctly I am certified in a product set that is a competitor to my company.  This may surprise you a bit, and the obvious question is why get VMware certified?  Go ahead and ask me….

So, Matt why did you get the VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP5-DCV) certification?

Excellent question, so glad you asked.  There are actually quite a few reasons:

  • My boss told me to  Smile
  • My teammates and writers of this series are VCP certified.
  • I am a technologist and a fan of all technologies.
  • For the IT Pro’s that I serve, folks like you..

With the last reason being the most important to me.   Even though I have been with Microsoft for over 12 years and a huge advocate of our technologies.  I like to learn about other technologies.  So for me getting VMware certified was really a no brainer.  Whenever I am in front of audiences I ask the question, who here runs VMware, 99% of the crowd raises their hand.  It is a fact that a majority of our customers run VMware in their datacenters.  While I have seen an uptick in Hyper-V, I found myself becoming a technology language translator between VMware and Hyper-V.    For example:

  • Vmotion = Live Migration
  • PowerCLI = PowerShell
  • vCenter = System Center Virtual Machine Manager
  • etc….

Many of these “translations” will be covered throughout this series.  Especially since from a technical perspective Microsoft Hyper-V and System Center 2012 SP1 has caught up (and in some cases leapfrogged VMware) with VMware vSphere Hypervisor, vCloud Suite & vCenter.  So really it was so I could understand the questions that I was going to get from all of you.

The Process

Now that I have taken a look at why, let me talk a bit about the process.  When I started to look at the requirements to get the VCP certification I was surprised that I was required to take a 5 day ~$3000 class before I could event sit through the exam.  You can see the full list of requirements here: VMware VCP5 Certification   While I was surprised, I was happy that I was going to get to sit down in a class and work with VMware.  What surprised even more is how much I knew conceptually about the product just based on my knowledge of Hyper-V.  It actually made the class fairly straight forward, and I truly enjoyed working with the product.

When I download the blueprint for the exam, I was surprised the amount of gaps between the class and the actual exam.  I knew I had a lot of work and studying ahead of me to pass the exam.  I read a lot of great resources and this book by Brian Atkinson was really good VCP5 VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 5 Study Guide: Exam VCP-510.  While the book did help pass the exam, the true benefit is that I will be able to use it as a reference guide.  Speaking of the exam…

The Exam

After all my prepping, I was ready for the exam.  The registration process was interesting, before I could go to  Person Vue to register for the exam I had to get authorization from VMware (only took about 15 minutes).  Now the exam did present a challenge, as do all exams.  IMHO, this exam was one of the easier exams I have taken in my career, with the hardest being a series of Exchange 5.5 – 2003 exams that absolutely buried me.  The exam was a lot of memorization style questions, and I found the prepping I did really helped.  It only took me about 40 minutes to take and pass the exam.  While I cannot provide details (I signed agreement), if you want to see the style of questions that are on the exam I would recommend taking a look at VMware’s sample questions: Practice Exam 

In Comparison

imageWow this is probably the toughest part of the post I had to write.  In short I could not really find a 1 to 1 comparison with the VCP certification to a Microsoft Certification.  Before I go any further I have a confession to make, my MCSE is not current.  I am still in pursuit of updating my MCSE, I let it expire some years ago.

I thought I would try to compare to the MCSA or even the MCSE, but in reality there is no comparison.  You can see the list here: Find the right Microsoft IT certification   I think fundamentally it comes from how we approach certifications at Microsoft.  Our Microsoft certifications have shifted to more solution focused based exams, and the newer exams are harder than previously.  While, from my experience, VMware’s exams are still product focused. 

In a sense the VCP  exam did remind me of the old NT 4.0 exams that I took way back when I first started down my certification path.  So what changed with our certifications other than the exams got harder and more solution focused. In talking with my teammate Keith Mayer, I learned that Microsoft Learning actively reached out to IT Pros, IT Hiring managers and Industry experts worldwide to gain insight into the skills that companies were looking for.  This is reflected in the holistic approach we have to our certification process.  To make the certifications more valuable you have to move from a product focused to implementation and solution focused.   This is what companies are looking for, while it is important to know what port you need for xyz technology, it is more valuable the underlying solution that needs that port opened.

I think this comparison also highlights the difference between the companies and their approach to private cloud technologies.  At Microsoft we see private cloud more of as a how and not a what.  It is about the automation and process and not just about virtualization.  In a sense knowing about the hyper visor and virtualization technologies is really just table stakes. 

This is not to say that there is not value in the VCP certification, it is just to say that the certification approach of both companies is very different.

Certifications at any level are a good thing.

I know early on in my career my certifications from NT 3.5 and up were a differentiation for me.  The certifications were not only lucrative for me but also the training centers I worked for.  Back in those days certifications were life, and being an MCT certifications were a requirement for my job.

Fast forwarding to today’s day and age, certifications still provide a way for all of us to showcase our technical credibility.  If you are currently a just a MCSE or a VCP today, I would highly recommend that you also look at getting the other certifications to help balance out your knowledge and technical portfolio.  This will provide not only more value for you but also for your employers

I hope you enjoyed this post, and please comment.  If you missed any parts of the series take a look here:

VMware or Microsoft? – The Complete Series

Comments (5)

  1. Rafael DelCastillo says:

    Hi Matt,

    I have met you at our WMNTUG meeting as you have been a presenter more than once.  I am the VP of the group.  Matt, I am a VCP on version 5.x of VMWARE … I have also held many MS certs in the past, and still have some Non-expiring others in my list.

    I have been using VMWARE since almost its inception, or close there after, and I am a real fan of their product and of virtualization as a whole.  I have also used others… Virtualbox, Xen, etc…  In my book : VMware is still king; but admit that MS has made some strides forward.

    You have a good post here, although, I still sense a little bit of a bend toward MS, and I guess I would expect that because you work for them.  So I don't know if the article was – hey go get certs, or hey, MS Hyper-V is better than VM …

    Staying on Certs.  VM VCP 5 was hard I thought.  And, to your point of comparing to Win NT Which I was certified in, and in 2000 also, I would agree to the point:  That taking the exam, studying the material is just not enough.  Like Windows Certs (carbon copy).  I also bought the same book by Mr. Atkinson, and like you find it a great resource just to use.  If certifications are still viable, then why is not one single IT job I ever had, has ever required me to be certified?  Oh, I put them on my resume, I put them on my LinkedIn Profile, but in real life – not so much.  I wish.   To get certified, you have to put a lot of time (A LOT OF TIME), into it.  You have to put a lot (A LOT OF MONEY) into it, and sadly in the real world, all the time and money come out of our own personal life and wallet.  So if the companies are not going to honor, pay more, and pay for these Certs, then we need to be real selective of which ones we get.  And as Forest Gump would say "…and that is all I have to say about that!"

  2. Andrewa Mauro says:

    Nice post. Agree that Certifications at any level are a good thing. But they must also valuable.

    Note that there are also different levels of certifications (both for VMware and Microsoft).

    I think that VCAP level (that it's something acrosso MCSA and MCSA) is actually little better, at least because the Admin related exam is a 100% practical exam (Microsoft has try this way but unfortunately has not push too much on it).

  3. Aleksandar Totovic says:

    Great story

  4. rolf-walter.wolff@live.de says:

    Hello Matt,

    very nice post and interesting to read. Personal I like Hyper-V, but at work we have VMWare since ESX 2.0. Today I would say, that all we need at work we can have with both products, but cheaper with Hyper-V. But the most Users are hard to convince. But the time will come.

    Back to the topic exams, in my opinion Microsoft leads, because it could made by self study. To book (private) a course and pay $3000 is not friendly and realistic for people like me. (Training is rarely at work)

    Kind regards,

    Rolf

  5. Fred Smith says:

    I can agree that the MS exams for the current line of products have become much harder. I would even go so far as to say that they are now unreasonably diffiicult. It's possible to attend a course, read a book, work on labs, have real-world experience
    and still fail the exam. Why? Because MS has 'reached out' to industry experts and IT pros but not to the people taking the exams. Instead of discouraging brain dumps, this has actually resulted in the opposite. You now HAVE to look at braindumps because the
    exam no longer asks for things that can actually be configured but instead focuses on scenarios. I have not encountered any of the scenarios that I've seen in the exams. They are not real-world scenarios and they make no sense.