Get Ready for your VMware Cloud Native Master Specialist exam: Share Experiences

VMware Certified Master Specialist badge - Cloud Native 2021
Kristof Van Sever, senior DevOps evangelist at Galagio, shares in this blog his experiences in preparing for his CKA exam.

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VMware Cloud Native Master Specialist experiences

As a technology vendor that’s very active in the Kubernetes world, VMware offers an exam that enables you to earn a Cloud Native Master Specialist badge. In this blog post I share my experiences taking this exam.

This badge proves that as a candidate you are not only able to administer Kubernetes clusters, but that you have sufficient knowledge and skills necessary to architect a Kubernetes-based platform supported by complimentary technologies from the Cloud Native ecosystem. This makes it a very interesting addition to the Certified Kubernetes Administrator certification.

Preparing your exam, and what to know

The main requirement for this exam is to have earned a non-expired CKA certification in the past, so make sure to obtain that first. The certification document then has to be submitted as proof to VMware. Do keep in mind this might take 48-72 hours.

For the exam’s content you can base yourself on the supplied exam guide. This will give you an overview of different resources and the domains that are part of the exam.

There is quite a bit of overlap in the Kubernetes knowledge required for the CKA exam and the Cloud Native Master Specialist exam. There are however some things that weren’t part of the CKAD’s nor CKA’s curriculum when I took those exams. A bit odd, as concepts like Pod Security Policies and Audit Policies are very powerful mechanisms. So be sure to double-check the exam guide on things that you may have missed.

As already mentioned, the badge you can earn is proof your knowledge in complementary technologies from the Cloud Native ecosystem. This means you are expected to be at least familiar with a number of different projects. Fortunately these are all technologies that offer a lot of added value to a Kubernetes projects, and should be looked into whether you are interested in taking this exam or not.

  • Docker Build file best practices are important to know about, also make sure to look into Docker multistage builds and their peculiarities. 
  • As a tool Helm is used by most Kubernetes administrators so it’s clear why Helm best practices are also part of this exam.
  • Sonobuoy is a tool to do conformance testing of your Kubernetes platform. Be familiar with how to use it
  • OpenPolicyAgent can be installed on your Kubernetes clusters to enforce policies on things like which tags should be on Pods, which image registries can be used, etc. Basically anything you can think of. For the exam, know what you can do it.
  • Velero is a tool that can be used to make backups of your cluster’s etcd and PersistentVolumes. For the exam know about how to use it, when to use it and when not to use it
  • Also make sure to familiarise yourself with FluentD and Prometheus and how you can integrate them with your Kubernetes clusters and Pods.
  • Some AWS and general cloud knowledge will be required as well, but the basics will suffice

Despite the fact that the VMware page of the exam lists it under Enterprise PKS, no PKS – nowadays rebranded to TKG – has to be known for the exam. A bit unfortunate, as it’s a very powerful tool to run hybrid cloud Kubernetes platform and enables great integration with VSphere to run Kubernetes within your private cloud. 

Planning your exam

When I took the exam, this was online through Pearson’s platform. You book a timeslot a couple of days beforehand and their tool enables you to already do some preliminary checks on the machine you want to take the test on. Make sure to log in about half an hour before the exam starts on the day you’re taking it, as you’ll need to do some checks and take pictures beforehand and that can take a while.

When taking the exam – whether that’s at home or in the office, there’s a couple of important things to keep in mind. FIrst of all, make sure that you have a stable internet connection. You of course don’t want your WiFI to drop away in the middle of the exam and risk an automatic failure that way, so try to get a wired connection. You also require to have a desk with nothing on it. No paper, external screens, or mobile phones are allowed, evidently. Make sure you don’t get disturbed during the exam either, because this might lead to an automatic failure.

Before the exam starts, you have to take a couple of pictures of your surrounding environment and share them with the tool. Some additional validations by the proctor might occur, such as panning around the webcam or pulling out the power cable of a screen on the wall in front of you. 

Taking your exam, and what to expect

To pass the exam, you are required to answer 67 exams within 100 minutes and get at least 300 out of 500 points. How these 500 points map exactly on these 67 questions is a bit of an enigma, but just make sure to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

The questions are in a multiple-choice format. You can expect two different kinds of questions, the typical knowledge questions which are rather short, but also more challenging scenario questions. These are interesting problems  that make it clear that the people who made  them are well experienced in Kubernetes platform design. One thing to keep in mind it is that these scenario questions can be rather long and the exam will take some reading. Keep an eye on your time as well, 100 minutes should be sufficient for even non-native English speakers but in case you’re not sure about the answer just flag the question and return to it later.

I hope this blog post has given you a good view on what this exam is about, and wish you best of luck in case you decide to take it yourself.

Galagio :

Kristof is a senior DevOps evangelist at Galagio. GALAGIO empowers business & IT in creating great customer based software from idea to production by helping you bridge the gap between Dev & Ops. Giving developers the power so they can create/provision software fast and with confidence while allowing your Ops to manage both your on-prem and/or public Cloud environments in a uniform way, enforcing standards & security company wide. 


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