While it’s fresh in my head, I thought I might get a short post up reviewing the Optimize and Scale Course I just completed this week. Overall I was impressed with the course content and in summary it has plugged a few knowledge gaps and reinforced key technology fundamentals.

Course Description:

This training course, for experienced VMware vSphere personnel, teaches advanced skills for configuring and maintaining a highly available and scalable virtual infrastructure. The course is based on VMware vSphere ESXi™ 5.0 and VMware vCenter Server 5.1. This course prepares the student for the VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Datacenter Administration [V5] certification (VCAP5-DCA). Completion of this course also satisfies the prerequisite for taking the VMware Certified Professional 5 exam.

The main driver for me choosing this course was to satisfy the requirement to be able to sit the VCP. Without any previous certification in VMware, but having worked daily in and around vSphere for the last 4 years it was suggested to bypass the introductory Install, Configure Manage course and jump straight to Optimize and Scale.


As you can see above, all areas of vSphere are covered in depth and in addition to the 10 Modules there are 20 corresponding lab exercises. The Lab environment is hosted out of a VMware Lab Manager Platform out of Palo Alto, so RDP performance is sometimes laggy, but in general you have a very workable connection the lab environment. This iteration of the course in Perth had only 4 participants and because of that we where able to have a whole lab each…the exercises are generally split across two people. The lab is fully virutalized, which, has only been the case for the last couple year…prior to that each lab was a single blade.

The labs are pre-built and are available for a week before being destroyed. You have unlimited access for the week, so it was possible to work on the lab from home…but the course is structured such that all material and labs are done in over the course of the five days. If you are feeling desperate you can actually lease out a version of the lab for US$500…but unless you have money to burn, a home setup should suffice to get you through further exam prep.

Key Take Away:

VMware really really really want you to start with minimal spec VMs to avoid CPU Ready Time issue and RAM wastage. I’ve heard it said before, and read some good articles online…none better than @Josh_Odgers Post here: One of the main issues I have with this rule of thumb, (coming from the Service Provider world) is that we make money based on clients using and consuming CPU (and RAM)…So while the course hammered in the fact that starting with 1vCPU and then scaling upwards based on performance is optimal and there is no doubt ESXi handles CPU Scheduling extremely well…does the overall performance gain in proper machine sizing win over oversizing revenue?

Getting your VMs up to date with the latest Machine Hardware Version is the only way you can pass on modern chip technologies like NUMA up through the hardware, into the Hypervisor Management stack and into the Guest…which in turn increases operation efficiency and can significantly improve performance. VMTools is also critical in making use of technologies like Memory Ballooning which can prevent swapping of memory in situation where physical RAM becomes scarce.


The Network Modules…without a doubt some of the hardest concepts to grasp in virtualization is at the network level and having this broken down and explained in detail was of major benefit to me…with NSX on the horizon and working in and around vCloud, network fundamentals are key. I also enjoyed being introduced officially to the vSphere Management Assistant or vMA…I know that I need to make even better friends with this if I am to pass the VCAP-DCA exam.


Shaun Mackolisky is an excellent trainer and one of the best I have experienced in being able to break down, sometimes difficult concepts to their bare bones and work from the ground up to help in understanding them. He generally started each module with a whiteboard session where he literally broke down vSphere components and built them back up one extracted layer at a time. For the first time I heard someone comparing Windows to ESX as an analogy to help understand the basic building blocks of ESX. The realisation is, that if you can understand basic Kernel/OS/Application functions, applying those to ESX gives you a greater chance of understanding virutalization fundamentals.


Having avoided doing any certification study for the last three or four years, it was great to kickstart my #getlegit campaign towards VMware Certification with Optimize and Scale for vSphere 5.1. The course is certainly challenging and intense enough for anyone who is just starting to go down a more advanced career path in vSphere and ESX. As mentioned above, it serves well to fill the gaps that on the job hands on learning inadvertently creates…The course material also makes you think about how best to squeeze the most efficiency from your vCenter and ESXi platforms and certainly leads you towards a more scaled and optimized environment…funny that!