Is It Time To Remove the VCP Class Requirement?

While I was at VMware Partner Exchange, I attended a keynote address. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal. However, one of the bullet points that came up in the keynote slide deck gave me a bit of pause. VMware is chaging some of their VSP and VTSP certifications to be more personal and direct. Being a VCP, this didn’t really impact me a whole lot. But I thought it might be time to tweet out one of my oft-requested changes to the certification program:

Oops. I started getting flooding with mentions. Many were behind me. Still others were vehemently opposed to any changes. They said that dropping the class requirement would devalue the certification. I responded as best I could in many of these cases, but the reply list soon outgrew the words I wanted to write down. After speaking with some people, both officially and unofficially, I figured it was due time I wrote a blog post to cover my thoughts on the matter.

When I took the VMware What’s New class for vSphere 5, I mentioned therein that I thought the requirement for taking a $3,000US class for a $225 test was a bit silly. I myself took and passed the test based on my experience well before I sat the class. Because my previous VCP was on VMware ESX 3 and not on ESX 4, I still had to sit in the What’s New course before my passing score would be accepted. To this day I still consider that a silly requirement.

I now think I understand why VMware does this. Much of the What’s New and Install, Configure, and Manage (ICM) classes are hands-on lab work. VMware has gone to great lengths to build out the infrastructure necessary to allow students to spend their time practicing the lab exercises in the courses. These labs rival all but the CCIE practice lab pods that I’ve seen. That makes the course very useful to all levels of students. The introductory people that have never really touched VMware get to experience it for real instead of just looking at screenshots in a slide deck. The more experienced users that are sitting the class for certification or perhaps to refresh knowledge get to play around on a live system and polish skills.

The problem comes that investment in lab equipment is expensive. When the CCIE Data Center lab specs were released, Jeff Fry calculated the list price of all the proposed equipment and it was staggering. Now think about doing that yourself. With VMware, you’re going to need a robust server and some software. Trial versions can be used to some degree, but to truly practice advanced features (like storage vMotion or tiering) you’re going to need a full setup. That’s a bit out of reach for most users. VMware addressed this issue by creating their own labs. The user gets access to the labs for the cost of the ICM or What’s New class.

How is VMware recovering the costs of the labs? By charging for the course. Yes, training classes aren’t cheap. You have to rent a room and pay for expenses for your instructor and even catering and food depending on the training center. But $3,000US is a bit much for ICM and What’s New. VMware is using those classes to recover the costs of the lab development and operation. In order to be sure that the costs are recovered in the most timely manner, the metrics need to make sense for class attendance. Given the chance, many test takers won’t go to the training class. They’d rather study from online material like the PDFs on VMware’s site or use less expensive training options like TrainSignal. Faced with the possiblity that students may elect to forego the expensive labs, VMware did what they had to so to ensure the labs would get used, and therefore the metrics worked out in their favor – they required the course (and labs) in order to be certified.

For those that say that not taking the class devalues the cert, ask yourself one question. Why does VMware only require the class for new VCPs? Why are VCPs in good standing allowed to take the test with no class requirement and get certified on a new version? If all the value is in the class, then all VCPs should be required to take a What’s New class before they can get upgraded. If the value is truly in the class, no one should be exempt from taking it. For most VCPs, this is not a pleasant thought. Many that I talked to said, “But I’ve already paid to go to the class. Why should I pay again?” This just speaks to my point that the value isn’t in the class, it’s in the knowledge. Besides VMware Education, who cares where people acquire the knowledge and experience? Isn’t a home lab just as good as the ones that VMware built.

Thanks to some awesome posts from people like Nick Marus and his guide to building an ESXi cluster on a Mac Mini, we can now acquire a small lab for very little out-of-pocket. It won’t be enough to test everything, but it should be enough to cover a lot of situations. What VMware needs to do is offer an alternate certification requirement that takes a home lab into account. While there may be ways to game the system, you could require a VMware employee or certified instructor or VCP to sign off on the lab equipment before it will be blessed for the alternate requirement. That should keep it above board for those that want to avoid the class and build their own lab for testing.

The other option would be to offer a more “entry level” certification with a less expensive class requirement that would allow people to get their foot in the door without breaking the bank. Most people see the VCP as the first step in getting VMware certified. Many VMware rock stars can’t get employed in larger companies because they aren’t VCPs. But they can’t get their VCP because they either can’t pay for the course or their employer won’t pay for it. Maybe by introducing a VMware Certified Administration (VCA) certification and class with a smaller barrier to entry, like a course in the $800-$1000US range, VMware can get a lot of entry level people on board with VMware. Then, make the VCA an alternate requirement for becoming a VCP. If the student has already shown the dedication to getting their VCA, VMware won’t need to recoup the costs from them.

Tom’s Take

It’s time to end the VCP class requirement in one form or another. I can name five people off the top of my head that are much better at VMware server administration than I am that don’t have a VCP. I have mine, but only because I convinced my boss to pay for the course. Even when I took the What’s New course to upgrade to a VCP5, I had to pull teeth to get into the last course before the deadline. Employers don’t see the return on investment for a $3,000US class, especially if the person that they are going to send already has the knowledge shared in the class. That barrier to entry is causing VMware to lose out on the visbility that having a lot of VCPs can bring. One can only hope that Microsoft and Citrix don’t beat VMware to the punch by offering low-cost training or alternate certification paths. For those just learning or wanting to take a less expensive route, having a Hyper-V certification in a world of commoditized hypervisors would fit the bill nicely. After that, the reasons for sticking with VMware become less and less important.

18 thoughts on “Is It Time To Remove the VCP Class Requirement?

  1. Thank you, Tom! You really nailed both sides of the argument here, but I absolutely agree with you on dropping the requirement. It may help those who don’t have the means to build the lab, but it also screws those of us who have been working with ESX for many years now and had the misfortune of employers who won’t pay for the class.

    For me personally, it’s almost as if I was handed an early adopter penalty. I started with ESX 2.x, GSX 1.x and Workstation, and spent a significant amount of time convincing my peers and management that this virtualization stuff was worth anything. When they finally decided to bite the bullet, everyone else went to training but I was skipped on account of “already knowing it”. Since then I just haven’t had the opportunity to go to the class without paying out of pocket and taking a week off of work.

    Perhaps another option would be to do something along the lines of Cisco Networking Academy. Granted, the ICM class over 8-10 weeks or whatever would be a pretty slow pace for me, but I’d do it in a heartbeat if it meant evening classes at the tech college and a reasonable course fee.

      • I had no idea they had this option. But hey, that’s what I get for opening my mouth without doing any research first. 🙂

      • Not just colleges and universities now, all high schools in WA state have access and can churn out grads with certs now.

      • Hi,
        Thanks for the information,
        I agree with you completely on attending class requirement and do not want to spend money on that.. I have completed my VCA-DCV throuhg vmware learn portal and also completed VTSP 2015 recently through partner login.
        I tried to search for VMware IT academy .. not able to find properly about college/university…I am looking to do VCP as my employer might not pay for training.. Can you please help from where should I find college in my area (San Diego, CA) and do the VCP

  2. Great post! Although my job only requires me to work with networking equipment, I have a genuine interest in virtualization and VMware in general. I’d also like to become more familiar with the platform especially to help understand our systems team’s needs, however I refuse to pay $3000 for a class to get certified. And I definitely don’t see my employer paying for me to go to the class when it isn’t in my job responsibilities. So I plan on standing up a free ESXi host at home but I won’t have the advanced features that you spoke of like vMotion but hopefully it will allow me to learn enough to be dangerous. The VCA sounds like a great idea, I hope VMware is paying attention.

  3. Totally with you, here. There are so many other ways to make up the costs…. Rather than having “Rack Rentals”, you would have “Pod Rentals”. I mean, it’s VMWare… slice out the servers. If anyone can………

    That’s how most of us get the “hands-on” experience. Either by grabbing the trial versions and build the lab ourselves, or by renting time with a provider that HAS the equipment.

    Don’t get me wrong, it would be a hard transition, and could take up to 12 months depending on getting the hosting partners started…. but it could be done, I think.

    Great post!

  4. Hey Tom,

    A nice post, well thought out. I do disagree that the course requirement should be dropped. Why? Because as you mentioned you’re getting your hands on the tools in the course – lending a certain credence to having VCP after your name. There is a window when the new version is released in which you can sit the exam without doing any training, and assuming that you have worked with the product then you will pass and be recertified.

    If you look at the courses which you can sit to allow you to sit the exam, Optimize and Scale is also a valid choice. This means that for people with a decent level of knowledge and experience, they can build on this rather than covering off labs that they already have real world experience with.

    To step back a little further, I struggle to understand why people choose not to invest in their own education. I don’t hear people complaining about forking out cash to complete a Master’s degree to try and increase their earning potential, so why do IT Professionals have a problem with paying for focused learning opportunities, with a chance to compare notes with their peers and build out their network? I have put aside (bearing in mind course charges are different in AUS) $4000 each year for personal development for the last 4 years. I have been able to claim that investment as a tax deduction, which reduces the cost further. I also now have a job with VMware, so I’d suggest that my investment was a sound one.

    • Grant, you are taking a 1st world view at the problem. I’ve sat the class because I could afford to sit the class and believe in investment. But my $5,000 investment might as well be $100,000 to someone who doesn’t have the means. There isn’t anything special about the class and experience that can’t be done with a $1,200 computer and trail software.

      I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the labs in the course. The instructor was excellent as should be for a $5K course but not anything I couldn’t pickup with my own lab and proper training material.

    • I agree if you pay for Master degree to increase your potential BUT not for IT. May be in Electronic & Communication / Mechanical field,…

      Working in IT and managing VMware you dont need Masters degree – anyone willing to work hard and ready to learn visualization will do.

      After seeing the VCP course materials from my colleague – I was really disappointment and same time happy that I havent wasted my money.

  5. I just wrote a similar piece. However, I don’t agree with the premise VMware’s primary reason for forcing to take the class is to give access to real world labs. Just like with CCIE studies there are 3rd parties that give you access to VMware labs.

    I believe the intent is to gate the number of VCP’s in the channel. I think ultimately VMware is creating an even greater divide between those who have the knowledge to attain the VCP but no available resource to pay for the course and those who already have means.

  6. Pingback: Is It Time To Remove the VCP Class Requirement – Rebuttal | Patrick Kremer

  7. Personally I think paying high sum for training is not going to make you expert in vmware just by attending 5days training with vmware. You can get get VoD from different online vendors and practice everything using vmware workstation (if you have enough resources in your laptop) and it would still not cost high compared to vmware training cost. I see this is one way vmware making money 😉

    I have two esxi host with all vcenter, cisco nexus 1000v switch and whole lab running from my laptop all using vmware workstation

    I see many people who are vcp certified but not able to resolve issues…like any course / certification – you need loads of real life working experience.

    I see getting certified either vmware, cisco or microsoft is only help you stand out from crowd when you apply for jobs but when comes to who can troubleshoot and resolve issues only comes from experience. No training including vmware will teach you that.

    I hope everyone will agree to this – then why we should pay for high cost vmware training ? i dont see any value for it.

    employers are not going to hire you because you have big VCP title next to your name – I got vmware job without any VCP certification – I answered all the vmware questions and able to troubleshoot and resolve labs part of job selection process

    i love vmware and now studying the vcloud all on my own self study and also part of job but I will not pay high cost to vmware only to have title next to my name showing in email and vcard signatures use.

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  9. Many VMWare IT academies offer classes at a huge discount like $1,200 only which is still alot to many, but at least employers will consider sending their employees to those classes instead of courses in the $3,000 range.

  10. I don’t think so VMWARE will revoke this training idea…As in any OEM(MS,ORCL,Cisco,vmware,SAP etc) trainings are 3rd revenue maker after product & service. If vmware revoke class funda then it will become mcp….

  11. Pingback: VMware’s classroom requirement for certification is still horrible.  | VirtualizedGeek

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