NSX Ninja

In the later-half of 2015 I was lucky enough to be invited to the NSX Ninja partner course at VMware in Staines.  This is a course specifically to drive the knowledge-base of partner consultants and architect-types to enable them to seek out and position NSX oppertunities.  With two weeks of training on the agenda and the assumption you’ve already spent some time on either a training course (ICM or Fast Track) and earned the VCP-NV; this course focuses first on low-level troubleshooting components and packet flows, then on the design side with the intention of preparing students for the VCIX-NV.

Week One – Troubleshooting

With the entire course, the requirement is; you’re already invested in NSX training and self-development and you should have earnt or be close-to earning the VCP-NV.  And you really do need to be close – the first week is a heavy and extremely low-level look at the inner workings of NSX and it’s components.  From NSX manager, controllers, dFW and VXLAN switching modules and all the API/messaging between, this part of the course walks you through what happens when a new host is provisioned, as well as how VXLAN works and how the controllers contribute to the inter-VM communication process (ARP vs VTEP etc).  This is a partly a brain-dump week and partly a hands-on-lab week, with much of the labs based around packet-walk troubleshooting.

Week Two – Design

Now this is where the course gets interesting.. even more so when the teachers are non-other than Paul Mancuso (@pmancuso) and Chris McCain (@hcmccain) – the two formost technical educational experts on NSX from VMware.

Design week was probably the best technical training week I’ve ever experienced, bar-none.  Aside from putting a clear outline and set of objectives down for passing the VCIX-NV exam, it focuses heavily on the thought processes for the VCDX-NV.  With plenty of discussion around the requirements of each component in NSX, how they fit together and the caveats you have to cater for in each (ie, things like affinity rules and Edge/Controller placement) – the best part of the week, by far, is the mock-defence…

The aim of the VCDX is to create a full NSX design (Design Document, operations document and implementation guide), submit it for assessment and, upon acceptance, defend said design in front of a panel of VMware’s own NSX  experts. The expert panel will ask questions and probe each of your design decisions – where you haven’t included a technology, they’ll ask why to ensure you understand it (they’re essentially working through a crib-sheet of points which, if not covered in your design, they’re going to ask about!).

Working in pairs, we were given from midday on the Wednesday until Thursday morning to put together a rough design based on provided requirements as well as some curve-balls modifications thrown in by the instructors.  This was both thrilling to do and also a little nerve-wracking at the same time.  Each pair would have to present the design back to the class on the Thursday while being ‘grilled’ by not only the instructors but fellow students too!  The instructors didn’t just grill, thankfully, they also tutored on how to respond to questions, and how deep you need to know or go  (start going down a certain hole, and the panel experts will drag you further and further into Wonderland!).

All-in-all, this has been the most valuable technical training I’ve had for some years, and if anyone else were invited, don’t hesitate making the decision!