VMware VCA – Hit or Miss?

VCA-DCV Logo

9/16/13 Update – VMware is now offering these exams for *free* using the discount code VCA501 until September 30th.

On August 26th, VMware announced their new Associate level certifications. These consist of:

  • VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization
  • VMware Certified Associate – Cloud
  • VMware Certified Associate – Workforce Mobility
  • VMware Certified Associate – Network Virtualization*

To date, VMware’s primary certification has been the VMware Certified Professional – or VCP. A longstanding contention with the VCP has been the requirement to attend an approved and official VMware training course.

There are several options available to meet the course requirement:

The least expensive of these courses is $3845 USD. As Tom Hollingsworth (@Networkingnerd) has pointed out, this is almost the same cost as two CCIE lab attempts. For those working for a VMware partner or an organization with a robust training budget, this might not be a burden. For those (like myself) who bear the majority of the cost associated with certification and training, this is a requirement that makes pursuing the VCP near impossible.

These new VCA certifications on the other hand do not have any required class. In fact, the recommended training is available completely free through the VMware training portal in the form of e-learning videos that run about 3 hours in length. Combined with some hands-on experience with vSphere, these new certifications are readily attainable.

Heck, why not?

My studies are primarily focused on networking, as are the contents of this blog, however I do have some interest and experience with virtualization. It’s practically a requirement if you want to delve deep into networking because of the current trend towards virtualization and Stuff-As-A-Service™ (StaaS). If you want to stay relevant as a network administrator, designer, or engineer, you need to know and understand VMware and virtualization technologies in general.

I’d love to have my VCP certification, but I simply don’t have the funds to attend the requisite class. VMware appears to have been listening to those vocal about the cost of the class and the requirements for the VCP. Perhaps the VCA might be a step in the right direction.

VMware is also offering a 50% discount on the VCA exams as a launch promotion, and $60 is a reasonable price for an exam. I quickly decided to give one of the VCA certifications a test run and added the VCA – Data Center Virtualization to my VMware training enrollments and proceeded to watch the video.

The e-learning video was fairly well done, paced evenly and concise. That being said it was fairly short – only one 3 hour video. It covered features and fundamentals of vSphere, but didn’t go into a lot of detail technically. It seemed to have more of a marketing spin, and generally came across as very basic, touching only the surface of many of the key features of vSphere. I wondered if I might need some additional self-study to take the exam.

The “What’s Next” section of the training video explained all that would be needed after the video was some hands-on experience with VMware – which I already had both at my day job and at home in my lab.

The exam itself is available through Pearson and is a web-based exam. No traveling to the nearest exam center required.

The exam consists of 50 questions and timed at 75 minutes. It is scored on a scale of 200-500 with a passing score of 300. Unlike Cisco exams, you can go back to prior questions.

I completed the exam in about 35 minutes, having gone back to the beginning to review the entire exam from question 1, and was rewarded with a passing score of 420.

Disappointed

I can’t speak for the entirety of the VCA line of certifications, but the Data Center Virtualization track at least seemed to me a high-level, and very basic view of VMware and vSphere in particular. It has very little technical content to be honest, and the simple fact that I was able to pass it with only a 3 hour video, along with a minor amount of hands-on experience with VMware, says a lot about the simplicity of this certification.

I don’t see these certifications gaining much traction, nor do I see them becoming viable options for those who cannot afford the VCP training. They may become a quick and inexpensive way to pad your resume with some certification logos to at least show potential employers that you have a basic understanding of VMware, but I wouldn’t suggest that someone with a VCA would even be proficient at installing ESXi on bare-metal hardware, let alone actually implementing some of the more detailed options that vSphere offers.

Ultimately at first glance, these certs do nothing to resolve the issue of the overpriced training required by VMware, nor do they truly represent a technical certification in the virtualization arena. They aren’t even prerequisites for the VCP, so they truly stand alone as Associate level certifications. Contrast this to most of the certifications with Cisco, Microsoft, HP and Juniper, where Associate level certifications are step one towards higher offerings.

I don’t truly understand what purpose they serve.

VMware Certification – Still Broken

While the new line of VCA certifications will allow candidates to demonstrate some fundamental understanding of virtualization and VMware products, VMware has not addressed the core issue with their primary certification program, the VCP. The cost for the requisite training course remains prohibitive for potential candidates who are not fortunate enough to have an employer who is willing to pay for the training.

VMware needs to address this or continue to lose out on a large potential crop of VMware proponents and evangelists.

40 thoughts on “VMware VCA – Hit or Miss?

  1. Hi NetworkCanuck,
    Thanks very much for this article. It helps me now to finally comprehend what VCA-DCV, VCA-Cloud and even VCA-WM have to offer.
    As a matter of fact, i just got off a phone call with a VMware Sales Rep about these new certifications and he told me not to bother with these VCA tracks as VMware’s targetting those in Sales or Marketing or Entry level Helpdesk who don’t work with vSpheres or ESX1 and who just want to have an entry level understanding of vSphere.

    P.S.
    I am currently preparing for the VCP5 exam and am researching for the ‘best’ way to set up a thorough home VMware lab.
    So may i ask what hardware specifications do you have for your VMware Home Lab ?
    how many desktop boxes+RAM+Processors do you have and how do you set them up ?

    I also have a lenovo X1 Carbon with i7 3rd Gen Processor with 8 Gb RAM and 128Gb SSD.
    Do you think this is sufficient for VCP 5 home lab ?

    Thanks NetworkCanuck.

    • Thanks for your comments Jason. It’s really sad VMware has not truly listened to the community and instead offered up some garbage certifications meant for Salespeople. This simply means the VCP remains out of reach for many of us.

      As far as your lab goes, there are some great articles out there about building your own VMware home lab. I highly recommend this one: Comparing VMware Home Lab Solutions.

      I myself have an Intel NUC DC3217IYE but don’t currently need clustering or any of the other bells and whistles in a fully licensed version of vSphere. It’s a great little box.

      With the 16GB restriction removed from vSphere 5.5 I’d definitely recommend getting as much RAM as you can into your VMware box(es).

  2. I do think the VCA was a weak attempt to appease the community over the cost of VCP. But unfortunately I see no real change to VCP anytime in the future. To me it is simple as one little multiplication problem.
    How many VCPs are there? I’ve heard anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000. So let’s stick with the low number, 50,000 for this example. And above you said a course was $3845, for ease of math let’s round down to $3500. Oh, and let’s not forget the $175 testing fee. So that gives us $3675 (so much for ease of math).
    $3675 x 50,000 = $183,750,000
    And there is your answer why VCP will not change. $185 million dollars is a significant chunk of change for any company.

    • That’s a great point Herb. I suppose my question would be, where does that revenue actually go? All the VMware training partners charge the same fees, so it seems obvious that the price is regulated by VMware, but what percentage of the fees actually end up with VMware vs. compensating the training company? VCP trainers, facilities, materials etc. all have a cost associated.

      VMware Authorized Training Centers (VATC) have to hire and pay the trainers, who are all VMware Certified Instructors, which require passing the instructor version of the VCP exam, attending the vSphere Install, Configure, Manage course, and attending a VMware Certified Instructor workshop (also, not free). It’s expensive to become a VCI, even more so than a VCP.

      http://mylearn.vmware.com/portals/vci/mL.cfm?menu=public&ui=www_vci

      I’d guess that VMware isn’t actually making a lot of money off the VCP program after the VATC and their training staff are paid.

  3. You are correct VMware does not get it all.
    I supposed I was looking at it from an “ecosystem” point of view I guess.
    To me your points of VCI cost just put more money into the revenue stream. And even if VMware only gets 10%, that is around $20M just for VCP alone.
    Is it too obvious I want to take VCP but cannot afford the classes either? And don’t get me started on having to do it all over again each year when they bring out a new release.
    And no, I do not hate VMware. I love VMware. I am probably going to end up betting my career on VMware (he says sitting at his desk wearing his Bay Networks polo). I am just frustrated on the direction their training has taken.

    • But keep in mind that’s not a constant stream of revenue, most of that is a one-time payment. Current VCP’s only have to take the “What’s New” course (which is free) and write the new exam to stay current, so it’s not that expensive to maintain. No more expensive than any other Professional level certification, I’d say.

  4. Thanks NetworkCanuck for an explanation of the VCA. I’m actually studying for the VCP5 exam, and came across this new cert at VMware’s website and was looking for more information (especially the price, which they didn’t mention but you thankfully did). I also appreciate the 50% off link! The VCP5 exam is going to take me quite a bit of studying before I’m ready to attempt, so I think I’ll go for the VCA just for fun. At $60, it’s cheap enough to obtain.

    I did want to point out something to help you and your readers. I agree that the VMware required ‘class’ for the VCP is rediculously expensive, however I came across a way to fulfill that requirement for less than $200. Similar to Cisco’s college offerings, VMware has an “academy” class that, when completed, meets the VCP training requirement and allows you to sit for the exam and obtain the VCP5 certification. Most schools charge a hefty fee for this class (~$2000), but I came across one that offers it for $180.

    If you go to: http://stanly.edu/continuing-education/computer-courses/vmware-vsphere.html
    you can find out more information about the class and register. Please note that due to a very, very, very high demand (naturally), the wait time is getting longer and longer. I signed up about 6 months ago and just started the August class, but I heard people signing up now are getting wait-listed until April of next year.

    To be honest, the class itself kind of sucks. They do offer a somewhat-neat simulator to do labs in, but it often has problems. The training videos are poorly done (dogs barking in the background, unenthusiastic teacher). There is also very little sense of ‘teaching’, as everything is self-paced (which is good in a way). It’s easy to pass all the exams, and I don’t think anyone could actually fail the class unless they tried. I wouldn’t recommend it for a sole training approach, but I would highly recommend it for someone who simply wants to meet the class requirement.

    So now you can get your VCP5 without having to pay thousands of dollars for the honor.

  5. I am a seasoned systems admin with lots of experience on VMware and while reading this immediately thought of posting about the Stanly course I took this Spring. I totally concur with James’ assessment of the course. The quality of the training is extremely low with all the defects he mentioned. At one point I got tired of the “ummm, ahemmm, lets’ see…”. Very unprofessional. However, for someone like me looking to fulfill the training requirement, the course is perfect. If you take the course with zero or little knowledge, don’t expect to learn too much.

    The course is definitely worth the less than $200 bucks in the sense that it fulfills the requirements, gets you the voucher, and a few 1 year licenses for Workstation, vSphere, and other products.

    Note: Do not buy the book they sell. Not needed at all.

    • Yeah, I heard numerous people mention that the book is useless (just a bunch of power point slides in PDF format) and unnecessary. I’m about half way through the program and while I can’t comment on the book (didn’t buy it), I can agree that it isn’t needed at all.

      As mentioned, the video lessons that come with the course are horrible, but they do seem to follow the standard VMware course outline. I wasn’t able to make it past the first one due to the poor quality. What I have been doing is using the CBT Nuggets VMware video set instead. They seem to match up very well with the content being covered in the class and fit in perfectly as a replacement. The production quality on them is excellent as well.

  6. Just wanted to mention that when I got home tonight I decided to take the VCA-DCV exam. Kind of a spur of the moment thing.
    While I have been studying fairly regularly for the VCP exam, and am about half way through the course I mentioned earlier, I didn’t actually take any time to study specifically for the VCA. I was going to go through the 3-hour training program they offer (and still will) first, but decided to just give it a try based on what I already know.

    Honestly, I didn’t care too much about passing – though I certainly tried – because I figured it would be a good opportunity to get familiar with taking a VMware exam in preparation for the VCP (e.g. what they test for, how they ask questions, etc.). Since it was only $60 with the coupon, I figured it was worth just winging it.

    I’m happy to say that I did in fact pass with a 380! Completed it in about 35 minutes. So I am now a VCA!

    Not sure exactly what that means. Our company contacted our VMware rep to see if has any implication to the company status requirements (it doesn’t) or if it had any impact as a partner (nope). That might change over time, as this is a fairly new certification, but as of right now, I think it’s mainly just another acronym to add to an email signature.

    Overall, the exam was a bit more technical than what I originally anticipated. Not so much in application, as it was mostly just general theory. They focus on the products they sell, what they are used for, best practices, etc. I guess it would fit well for a sales engineer role, where that person needs to know what to do, but not necessarily how to do it.

    In my experience, the hardest part of the exam was actually getting approved to take it. I registered for it on Saturday, but their system was having issues and I didn’t get approved until yesterday morning. However, Pearson still wasn’t accepting my candidate ID. I called last night and spoke to some extremely rude foreign CSR who told me to just wait until today. I called again tonight, since my code still wasn’t working, and another equally obnoxious CSR finally found out that I was assigned a different Pearson login ID/password than the one I had from my Cisco account. Since the website gave me the option to ‘add’ VMware to my existing profile, I’m not sure why this happened. In any case, once he sent me the login credentials, I was able to register and take the exam.

    • That’s great James, congrats on the pass! These definitely seem to be targeted at a Sales Engineer role, but until you are ready for that VCP it’s a quick and inexpensive way to but a VMware logo on your resume.

      You do need a different Pearson ID with each vendor. For example I have one for Cisco, one for HP, and one for VMware. It’s rather silly, but a necessary evil I suppose.

  7. FYI – Just received this email from VMware. Looks like everyone can take the VCA for free until the end of the month:

    Whether you simply want to become more conversant in virtualization technologies or ultimately want to be recognized as a virtualization expert, VMware certification is now an essential step for your career.

    To thank you for your interest in the VCA certification program, we invite you to take the VCA certification exam of your choice at no charge.

    1) Request your exam authorization

    VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization (VCA-DCV)
    VMware Certified Associate – Cloud (VCA-Cloud)
    VMware Certified Associate – Workforce Mobility (VCA-WM)

    2) Enter discount code: VCA501 when you schedule your exam at http://www.pearsonvue.com/vmware to take it for free.

    But act fast! This free VCA exam offer ends September 30, 2013.

    • Thanks James,

      I had a colleague forward me the same email. Can you confirm the discount at all? You can go through the process and apply the code prior to having your CC charged.

      I attempted to use it and it only applied 50% off the price of the exam. I’m interred to know if this was sent to a select group of people or is a code anyone can use.

      If it’s a general purpose code it appears PearsonVue has not updated their records.

      NetworkCanuck

      • I already took and passed the VCA-DCV which is the only one I’m registered for. I just checked and Pearson Vue doesn’t let you re-take an exam you already passed (per VMware’s rules). So I can’t test it myself to see if the code works. What I can say is that I received that email to both my personal and work email addresses within a few minutes of eachother, so I believe it is a general use code that doesn’t tie into a certain account. Odds are, Pearson Vue just hasn’t been updated yet.

      • I registered for the VCA-Cloud as I too had already passed the VCA-DCV – again no cost here to get approved for it through VMware. That code is still showing as a 50% discount however. I sent VMware Education a tweet about it, we’ll see what happens. 🙂

      • I registered for VCA-Cloud and tried out the discount and it worked:

        Order Total
        Subtotal: 120.00
        Tax: 0.00
        Promotion Code: -60.00 Encourage people to take VCA exam during 2013
        Discount: -60.00 Encourage people to take VCA exam during 2013
        TOTAL DUE: USD 0.00

        Keep in mind that the standard -$60 promotional credit was already applied. I tried removing both discounts (making the total $120) and then just adding the VCA501 code and it only discounted it to $60. So it appears that the “free” test requires both the standard discount plus the additional VCA501 code in order to be free. So if you tried removing the first discount, that might explain why it didn’t work for you. Or it could be linked to VMware accounts, but I don’t think so.

  8. Just passed with the free training, and free discount coupon. Yes, had to try couple of times to get the discount code working (it was getting unknown error after entering coupon and going to next step), did it couple of times, still continue to get error. But, went back to “Home”, and viola – the exam is now listed as “Registered” and ready to begin !

    Finished the test in about 25-30 minutes, but I happen to have decent experience on VMware suite of products and also went thru the posted Learning module – in full (was afraid if vSphere 5.5 new features may get me off balance, hence finished training module in-full; but not much specific to 5.5 release were asked)

    I sure recommend this course for everybody though – just quickly recaps overview and recent updates to VMware world — nothing wrong with staying up with latest

    Thanks
    Sc

    • Thanks for the comment Sc.

      Congrats on the pass. I’m presently looking through the Cloud course, it’s a fair bit longer than the DCV module and covers a lot of products I haven’t personally had access to. I’m actually learning something!

      NetworkCanuck

  9. I know I’m late to the conversation – but as for the cost of the class… I have to disagree with you to a point. When I got my first VCP (3) in 2008, I had to pay for the class my self (with a credit card). THEN, to take the class, I had to take vacation from my job as they wouldn’t pay for the class or let me go on their dime. In 2011 – roughly 30 months after I passed my first VCP, I started a job making over 300% higher (gross) salary over my 2008 (gross) salary (I’ve been at my current position since). Now – that’s me, and there are a few other factors involved – but nothing someone else couldn’t do. I have my VCP3, 4 & 5 as well as my VCAP-DCD for 4 & 5. (my VCAP5-DCA is scheduled for next month), and then hopefully on to VCDX. My current salary is allowing me to start my own consulting company, while being mentored from another.
    Part of the matter of “high” class costs are that no current VCP wants the VCP cert to become the Microsoft MCP where any ‘joe’ off the street can read a book, pass a test and think their equal to the people who’ve busted their a$$ to get where they are. The VCP cert takes HUNGER, and effort to get there. I love Information Technology because it LETS people read a book, take a test and instantly improve their situation (WITHOUT the class) by getting their foot in the door. However, the VCP is NOT a starting point in IT. “Paper tigers” reduce how MY certs and how MY hard work looks to others. So – to that I say NO PAPER TIGERS! Stop demanding people GIVE you stuff. Stop DEMANDING big, bad, mean, evil companies GIVE you something. No matter what “it” is, if you WANT it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it. Anyone who says otherwise is settling for a lesser life and looking for neighbors.

    • Thanks for your comments Sketch!

      You definitely took your own path to the VCP and that is admirable and shows great dedication to your craft. It certainly is an option for people to pay out of pocket for the requisite course. That being said my point in the article is simply that the cost does restrict who can afford the class – some people simply aren’t able to drop $5K even on a credit card.

      In addition to this, the VCP class adds nothing that a potential candidate can’t learn on their own. So it simply fulfills a check-box requirement to sit the exam. While this may serve to prevent some ‘paper tigers’ as you call them (and I agree with you wholeheartedly on that subject) it also prevents some valuable, knowledgeable, professionals from completing the VCP.

      As for me? I have a wife, kid, mortgage, 2 car payments, student loans from my wife’s masters degree, etc. and simply don’t have the 5K to put down on a ‘check box’. It boils down to paying 5K for permission to write the exam.

      • It ALL comes down to ROI. That $5k “permission slip” usually means a $10-20k boost in salary (depending on where you are in the country/continent). Would you invest $5 to get back $10? why not $5k to get back $10k or $20k?
        btw – I have everything you have (wife, 2 kids, 2 car payments, an under-water mortgage, etc…) with the exception of the student loans – I have 6 (six) college credits. My wife does not work outside the home. I couldn’t afford the class at the time, but I couldn’t afford NOT to take the class, and THAT is what drove me. Which is worse? taking the chance or not? I don’t want my kids to see me making excuses about where I am in life. I want them to see me making decisions and working towards my goal(s).

        I know a lot of people who are just insanely smart (WAY smarter than I am) and pick things up quickly. But they self limit because they don’t want to leave a “stable” job (what is THAT exactly?), or drive a few extra miles or move to a new town or some other excuse. If you want something bad enough – you’ll do what it takes. I just don’t buy into that “I can’t afford XYZ”. That’s why there are pizza delivery jobs. You will get out of something EXACTLY what you put into it. It’s all about ROI. (I’ll step off the soap box now. Thanks for the forum. Take Care).

      • All of those points are great, and valid, however it doesn’t change the fact that the requirement for the class is still nothing more than a 5K fee to write the exam. It adds little to nothing of value for someone who already works with VMware and who has done enough reading and lab work on their own towards VCP certification. As far as ‘paper tigers’ go, as a hiring manager I would prefer someone with direct hands-on experience with VMware in a production environment and isn’t VCP certified than someone who took the course and passed the VCP but has no real-world experience with VMware. I’ve been there with the rash of paper MCSEs in the early 2000’s.

        Let’s contrast this with the CCIE. There is no course requirement for this, yet there are less than half the number of CCIEs in the world than there are VCPs, and it remains one of the most respected and sought after certifications in the IT industry. It’s a proven model that doesn’t require attendance of any classroom course, let alone one that costs as much as the VMware classes.

        Granted, there are other costs associated with Cisco certification – lab equipment isn’t cheap, and the Lab portion of the exam requires you to travel unless you live in San Jose or one of the other testing locations. But, the CCIE lab doesn’t even cost as much as the VCP!

        I’m not saying achieving something like the VCP shouldn’t require a significant investment in time and money, and it definitely shouldn’t be free, but until the class requirement actually holds some value and/or meaning, it’s nothing more than an overpriced exam fee.

        Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Has anyone had success using the VCA501 promo code in the last day or two? I’ve been able to apply it this morning but as soon as I click Next I get a website error telling me to close my browser and try again.

    • Hi William,

      I had the same issue. I called Pearson support and they were able to schedule the exam for me. I spoke to VMware Education via Twitter and they said they were aware of the issue with the Pearson site, but contacting them should resolve the issue.

      HTH
      NetworkCanuck

  11. NetworkCanuck:

    Thanks for keep the thread rolling, hopefully it helps many aspirants who are stuck with unable to take the VCP required training (course cost + self training setup + time off from current pizza delivery job – just teasing Sketch 🙂

    Got all three exams done successfully, with the coupon of course. Used Internet Explorer (chrome did not work) and after a couple of retries, on Home-screen, the exam got registered (for free).

    Keep the good stuff coming, and help others who would like to pursue these baby certs from VMware 🙂 Most if not all answers can be easily found from the provided free virtual-course. Do repeat the course twice and make notes along the way – this will help immensely with the exam (or you could put to good use of your Photographic memory !)

    Guys, need to get excited – hasn’t been much free/cheap coming from VMware since good old VCP days, and afraid in near-future they may impose course requirements (non-free, that is) on these baby certs too !

    Thanks
    sc

    • Thanks for the comments SC,

      I too have now completed all three of the VCA certs, taking advantage of the free offer. If anything it’s nice to put on a resume, but as I’ve said earlier I don’t see a lot of value for these at this time.

      Good luck with the rest of your VMware and other studies!

      NetworkCanuck

  12. Is there any other materials other than vmware elearning to pass the exam?
    Which exam i will take first i.e.VCA-CLOUD OR VCA-DCV ?
    pls reply me?

      • You might be able to pass but not with a healthy score if you just watch the video. There were many questions on my test which were not at all covered in the free video. I took the test and passed with 420 but I’ve been using VMware since 3.0. I do not have my VCP and have taken the ICM for 4 and FastTrack for 5 classes.

        There is a current code which expires on 10/30/2013 which gives you the free exams as well VCA13ICS.

  13. I wanted to add that I also took the VCA-DCV earlier today and couldn’t believe how easy it was. I really don’t see how this will have any value in the market place seeing that you can take it in the comfort of your own home? I already have my VCP5 and am scheduled to sit for my VCAP exam in a couple of weeks, but since I had a free code I figured I would take this and see what it was about.

  14. For the VCP look at your local technical/com college, i am in a VMware approved (Install, Configure, Manage v5.1) program at Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake, VA, which satisfies the course requirement and we get a voucher to make the vcp exam around 50 bucks. total cost for the course with books is less than 500 bucks. So for $550 i can get my VCP (if i’m smart enough).

  15. Thank you very much 480/500 still valid and I used slito voucher for 25%
    Please here is vouchers for students, so you can take the VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exam for no cost yes for free 🙂
    When you sign-up for the exam online you should be able to enter this voucher and it will FREE the exam price:

    VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exam voucher Number:
    VMRT7B819936

  16. I was glad when VMware introduced the new VCA certifications especially when i saw the price tags, thinking they would be worth it just like any other Associate level certification from different vendors, but after watching the VCA-DCV Fundamentals training and reading loads of reviews online i am beginning to think other wise. 😦

    Also i cannot use the Promo code to avail the discount in my country.. it says “The discount cannot be used for appointments scheduled in Pakistan” 😦

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