Why I’m Pleased I Failed The VCDX

Before I start this blog post, I want to mention that I am of sound mind and that all my faculties are functioning.  With that cleared up, I want to start with some context.

Throughout my IT career, I have always built my knowledge based on what I believe is credible within the market place.  This hasn’t ever been from a technical perspective, rather a business point of view.  Don’t get me wrong technology can be cool, but being cool without a use case means you won’t have a very long shelf life.

The pace of change within IT is significant, to stay up to date and relevant requires dedication, discipline and perhaps most important of all time.  Time away from family and friends locked away in a quite room reading, watching online courses and spending hours building environments in your home lab.  With this in mind, when I focus on studying technology, I want to use my time efficiently on what I believe will yield the highest reward for the least investment.

It was back in 2014 when I defended the VCDX-DCV unsuccessfully,  you can read about the effort to prepare in ‘VCDX Submission – By The Numbers‘ and what went wrong in the post ‘VCDX – What Went Wrong?‘  This may sound counter intuitive, but the path to defending the VCDX is a journey that I would recommend anyone to take as it pushes you to the next level in terms of understanding business requirements and translating those into a technical solution. It sharpens your technical knowledge and hones your written and presentation skills, enabling you to quickly dissect and disseminate relevant information from customer meetings/workshops into proposals, high level and low level designs.

So why am I pleased that I failed the VCDX, if I enjoyed and would recommend the journey?  A number of reasons which I have highlighted below.

Market Demand

The requirement for traditional virtualisation skills are shrinking, customers are upgrading and expanding their clusters without needing to engage third party companies.  They are used to maintaining interopability matrix’s between vSphere components and have performed numerous inplace upgrades on their existing hardware.

At the point of infrastructure lifecycle refreshes, customers are often looking to consolidate and to achieve a greater return on investment.  The advent of hyper converged technologies to simplify the ‘hardware stack’ along with ongoing maintenance is something which makes sense both operationally and financially.

A customer might require some assistance to migrate to the target platform, but when they are consuming it, where does the next the next requirement come from?

Pigeon Hole

If I had passed the VCDX, I believe that I would have been labelled ‘the virtualisation guy’.  From your employers perspective, they may have invested in your VCDX journey then they want to use your skillset and will want to ‘tout’ your expertise in RFP responses, proposals and in front of customers to gain an ROI from their investment.

For some, I’m sure this makes perfect sense and they would relish being the ‘virtualisation guy’.  However I prefer being the ‘guy’ who makes things happen and can lead a project across every technology area rather than being an SME.

I believe that being ‘pigeon holed’ would have reduced my career opportunities and earning potential and I wouldn’t have been in the position I am today.


When you have invested time and effort in obtaining an elite certification it is natural to want to keep it up to date.  This then leads to the treadmill effect, renewing your certification by passing the ‘Advanced’ level exam every two years to maintain your ‘VCDX’ certificate.

I would have felt obliged to stay on this treadmill which would have meant continuing to focus on traditional virtualisation to maintain top percentile skill levels.

Perhaps this is unique to me, but after spending such a large amount of time learning the intricacies of ESXi, vCenter, SRM and vROPS, I had become an SME but if I was completely unenthused by vSphere.  I wasn’t able to summon the excitement or passion to continue learning, I needed something fresh to focus on.


Over the past three years since I failed the VCDX, the customer landscape has changed.  Clients want to leverage the public cloud to enable them to expand their datacentre footprint around the globe without the cost of standing up their own environments.  They want to utilise IaaS, PaaS and SaaS technologies such as Office 365 to reduce the burden of maintaining hardware and infrastructure related items which bring little to no value to the business.  Customers are seeking alternatives to costly areas such as DR where they can leverage the public cloud to reduce their on-premises DR footprint whilst maintaining the same service levels.

The opportunities that I see from customers no longer have traditional virtualisation as the main piece of their requirements, it is now a small subsection of a transformation programme.


I used to believe in VMware as a business, the technology and innovation they used to drive was second to none.  However, I feel that they are struggling to stay relevant and have lost their way.  In the core virtualisation space, the feedback from customers is that ESXi is expensive and on the next infrastructure lifestyle refresh they will be investigating reducing their ESXi estate or replacing it entirely.

VMware tried hard with vCloud Air but basic offerings such as DRaaS fell short see blog post vCloud Air DRaaS – The Good, Bad & Ugly leading to customers seeking alternatives.  It was without great surprise that VMware decided they couldn’t compete with the likes of AWS and Azure so have partnered with AWS in a bid to maintain relevance and market share.  This small statement alone speaks volumes,  I believe this also links into vRA as well, how long until these businesses decide they no longer want to manage and maintain their bespoke workflows and seek to leverage SaaS or PaaS offerings?

I do however believe that VMware got Horizon View correct and is a viable alternative to Citrix in the VDI and application publishing market.  Again though I’m not sure for how long as recent customer demand has leaned towards leveraging the public cloud to create global ‘VDI’ pods (which I have designed and delivered using Citrix on Microsoft Azure).  Unless VMware have a suitable answer to this I can see Horizon View sales dwindling.

The announcement of VMware on AWS did spark my interest, I’m not entirely convinced this will be a game changer.  I will put together some thoughts on this on another blog post, as I’m really struggling to see the benefits apart from ‘legacy systems’ which could be the market share that VMware is after.  Again though, I’m sure that Storage Spaces Direct will soon become a PaaS offering on Microsoft Azure giving you the ability to run ‘legacy systems’ on public cloud.

Final Thought

For me, the journey to VCDX and also failing has been enlightening.  I was a fairly new starter with my employer when I embarked on the elite certification, this provided early visibility of my capabilities which enabled me to work on some great customer engagements.  Perhaps more importantly was the failure of the VCDX which meant that I wasn’t ‘pigeon holed’ but was seen as a person who makes things happen.  Which lead to the opportunity to work with customers across multiple technologies transforming them to utilise both on-premises and public cloud.

This may sound like it comes from a place of unicorns and rainbows, but I get out of bed everyday and look forward to work, this isn’t only due to my awesome colleagues but the sheer breadth and depth of the customer solutions I’m trusted to lead.  I thank my VCDX failure as the pivotal point in being able to achieve this.

No Singapore/Frimley VCDX Workshops – Vote to Change

White Clouds SmallVMware released the VCDX 2015 defence dates on 7th January 2015 see my blog post here.  VMware have decided to organise three defence locations at Palo Alto (USA), Frimley (UK) and Singapore (Asia).

It would seem logical then to have VCDX Workshops in these three locations as they are chosen for the defences.  However this is not the case and Chris Colitti @ccolotti and Karl Childs @karlchilds has released the 2015 VCDX Workshop Dates and out of the thirteen dates announced, only two are outside the US which are

  • Toronto
  • Netherlands

I understand that the VCDX Workshops are take time, effort and expense to run.  However, I would like to use this blog post as a conduit to raise awareness to Chris Colitti and Karl Childs understand the demand for these types of workshops in the UK and Singapore.

So if you are interested in a VCDX workshop in one of these locations, please vote below so we can track the data and share with VMware.

**Update 1**

Thank you to Chris Colotti for the responses below and for his blog post VCDX Workshops & VCDX Prep Class that provides details on the extra resources available to VCDX candidates.

**Update 2**

Chris Colotti has since announced the first VCDX Workshop which will take place on Friday 13th March 2015 at 14:00 UK time.  To register for the event follow the link here.

VCDX Defense Schedule 2015

A quick post to mention that the VCDX  defense schedule has been released for 2015.

Defenses will be held simultaneously at Palo Alto (USA), Frimley (UK) and Singapore (Asia)

For more details of how to register for the defense or to see if more dates become available, I suggest you book mark this VMware Community page and follow Karl Childs @karlchilds on Twitter.

VCDX Conceptual Diagrams

For those people who follow me, they know that I failed the VCDX.  Reasons are covered in this blog post for those that are interested.

Part of the VCDX design is the movement from Conceptual to Logical to Physical models.

I’m a firm believer in giving back to the VMware Community, so when Byron Schaller @byronshcaller put out this tweet, I was happy to help out

Looking for a couple solid examples of conceptual designs #VCDX

So with this in mind, I thought it would benefit the wider community to share the same Conceptual Diagrams on a blog post.

Site Recovery Manager

SRM Conceptual Diagram

vSphere Metro Storage Cluster

vMSC Conceptual Overview

VCDX – What Went Wrong?

It’s now two weeks since I received my results from Mark Brunstad’s team that I had failed to pass the VCDX on my first attempt, something which I completely expected as I failed to perform on the day.


Feelings, what is Craig going on about, isn’t this meant to be a technical blog?  After I had finished the defence, design and troubleshooting scenario, I had a multitude of feelings with one being a sense of relief that it was all over, but the overwhelming one was disappointment in the sense that I felt I had let everyone down who had supported me, my wife and children whom had spent endless hours away from me and also my employer who had sponsored me throughout the process.


Anyone who has embarked on the journey to VCDX understands that you make a massive investment not only in personal time, but you forsake your life for a number of months.

I was lucky enough to be involved with the EMEA VCDX Study Group, which was originally formed by @GreggRobertson5.  We met every night from the day we received confirmation that we had been accepted to defend.  The group was formed of:

  • Sunny Dua @Sunny_Dua
  • Safouh @safouh75 #VCDX136
  • Magus Edh @vTeraherz #VCDX140

We then had regular guest appearances from Frank Buechsel @fbuechsel who provided some excellent troubleshooting scenarios for the group to digest.

Each night we went over certain aspects of vSphere such as networking, storage, virtual machine design, troubleshooting, design and presentations.  This was excellent as it allowed me to home my skills and I’m sure the other guys would agree that I lead most of the areas explaining how various components worked.

I knew that from a technical perspective I was fairly strong across all areas and their was an expectation within the EMEA Study Group that it was a given that I would pass!


I had an un-official mentor which was Rene Van Den Bedem @vcdx133 whom spent his own personal time to help me throughout the process investing a massive amount of his personal time in helping me tune my skillset.

The same should also be mentioned of Steve Wenab @stevewenban7 who was constantly challenging me and asking the most random of questions!

Even though I failed without the help of these two individuals I would have failed on an approach/technical perspective rather than what I mention in the section below.

What Went Wrong?

From a preparation perspective I had spent five months (February to July) aiming towards the VCDX, I had performed mock defences both with the EMEA VCDX Study Group and with work colleagues and I was in a good place.

So what went wrong then? Have you ever been writing a document and you can’t remember how to spell a word such as ‘went’? That was me on the day, basic things that I can normally knock out of the park without even thinking about it, I just couldn’t do!

If I had of passed, it would have made a mockery of the VCDX process as I knew, that if I had seen me on the day then I wouldn’t have thought this person is VCDX calibre.

What’s Next?

The plan is to go for the VCDX again early next year, I did consider October in Frimley (UK), however with family commitments and with VMware launching numerous new products that I need to get my head around (Horizon 6, vSphere 6, NSX, VSAN) it wouldn’t have been sensible to go for this time frame.

What I take from the whole process is that (without sounding arrogant), I know that I’m at VCDX level, something which I’m sure my EMEA VCDX Study Group members will confirm.  I just need to perform on the day, I’m not sure if that’s easier than having to enhance your technical knowledge or not!

Watch this space…