Thursday, March 5, 2020

Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)

History of Petr's certification adventure ("journey" is overused these days)

Before focusing on specifics of CKA - there is a little bit of background that needs to be covered.

Since my first certification in 1995 (yes - makes me feel really old) - it has been permanent struggle between proving my credibility and being a certification junkie.

As a generalist - placing my hand on so many different technologies is normal as well as getting pretty technical - and it's an obvious natural move for an IT Professional to take a certification exam to assert your skill.

Also being part of multiple communities (VMware, Networking, Security etc) I've been on another side of the wall and participated in the exam preparation process for VMware Advanced Professional Exams and Nexus Security exams. (I'm almost got on ISC2 panel but they require a very extended distance with other certification preparation work). So it gave me of the internal view of the certification process that not necessary inspires to continue taking the certification exams.

Last few years I started dropping the certifications that require renewal - if someone doesn't believe you're good at networking after being CCNP for 15 years because you're not re-certified - it something that doesn't worth my time investment.

Also recent years was visible infrastructure shift for enterprises of validating the cloud models, building systems with the services oriented architecture (SOA) approach in mind, extensive use of API based solutions, wide adoption of the containers, continious move from "click-click-click" to automation and orchestration management of the complex enterprise systems.

Quoting a private conversation with a very respectful leader in the industry - "Kubernetes it's a technological shift that happens not more often than once a decade". Watching how AWS and Azure both are adopted Kubernetes following GCP - also makes me believe it's something huge and I don't want to miss the ship.

So when my colleague and a friend organized internal Study Group for CKA - it was no doubts that I should join and participate. My current employer also covers access to Linux foundation class LFS458 and CKA Exam - that is extremely helpful.

Preparation summary:

Going through LFS458 wasn't a really walk through the park - so many topics and examples - keeping the focus is almost an impossible task - my external trips were - Project Calico Hard WayKubernetes Hard Way by Kelsey Hightower and also many resources on orchestration to support my lab deployment in GCP via Terraform (that I might do as a series of separate posts).

One thing that everyone agrees with me - for some reasons Kubernetes is not the technology that sticks in your head - it's not like - learn to swim or ride bicycle once and you will never forget. If you don't touch yaml-files or kubectl for a couple of weeks - it requires a complete retraining.

As a last piece of a resource I took a privately offered Advanced Kubernetes class provided by VergeOps - it was shocking discovery that every day something new was learnt - highly recommend to contact them!

Exam logistics and experience:

You can take this exam from your desk (quiet room with no others presented in the room). - the idea of not going to test center was awesome!

The exam requires a camera that the exam proctor uses to monitor you're following their instructions. you run computer pre-check software when register however the process does not include camera checks. I use my external camera daily for multiple Zoom meetings and assumed it was functional.

However it hasn't worked when my exam started inside of the examination browser plugin. The only advice I got was to use a different computer next time.

It actually looks that this test was able to demonstrate to me the exact problem - it turned out to be bios setting of my builtin camera that conflicted with the external one.

After you get all your screen shared and your camera working you need to confirm your ID (place your government document in front of the camera), show the proctor the surroundings and close all applications on your computer and then you're allowed to proceed with the exam.

Important items about the exam itself:
  • no multi-choice - you're given a task and you need to complete it (different environments are provided - commands to connect to the right environment are part of every question) - someone said it's very similar to VMware VCAP Deployment exams - 100% agree - if you ever taken that lab - it will be very similar
  • points you're getting for the question are also specified at the question (helpful i.e. if your strategy to do large items first)
  • there is no order - all questions are independent - complete them in any order you prefer, move back-and-forth as much as needed
  • you are allowed to access to make sure you are able to navigate your way through different sections and easily find a piece of .yaml that needed 
  • Even multiple monitors are allowed (I had 3 monitors and shared all of them - it's a requirement) - when I looked at one of the monitors I was reminded that "the student need to front-face the camera" - so ended up using mostly one monitor that is placed directly under the camera.
  • you do not get your results immediately - a common agreement that it's 36 hours (24 hours to validate your lab + 12 processing time) - mine were sent/received at 10 PM PST sharp the day after the exam (I clicked the submit button at 2-15 PM PST the previous day (maybe there is a batch they are running?)

After all - I've read the statements such as "CKA is toughest exam I ever took" - can't agree here - the exam is very fair and fun as it's not just answering questions but actually doing stuff.

Next steps:

it's obvious to me that I can do well with Kubernetes vanilla deployment however the ecosystem is so wide - different environments, plugins etc - that to become a real kubernetes guru you need to work very hard daily.

I'll try to be on that track and work with native Kubernetes implementations in public clouds and being a network and security guy - Istio is a really big on my radar