How a NetApp exam is created in times of Covid-19

By | 2. May 2020

Things change in times of Corona. In the past, when Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) were flown into the United States to spend a week creating a new NetApp certification exam in an Item Development Workshop (IDW), we now have to do this work remotely and virtually.

This time the focus was on the new exam questions for the NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer – Data Protection Specialist (NCIE-DP Specialist for short).

As with every IDW, we must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure that the entire process and also the developed examination questions are legally compliant. Therefore we had to have all our webcams turned on, and there had to be at least six SMEs present at all times.

Our group, this time, consisted of eight SMEs. If three of them had gone to the toilet at the same time, we would have had to interrupt the review process of the questions 😉

A unique feature (besides the virtual IDW) was undoubtedly the fact that we were spread over four different time zones. So for the colleagues from the U.S.A., the IDW started at 9 o’clock, for some at 8 o’clock, for the British at 2 o’clock and for me as the only German at 3 o’clock. I don’t need to tell you how exhausting it is to concentrate until 10 pm after a typical working day.

For the children of the other SMEs, it was a highlight that we had SANta Claus on the team. There may have been an early wishlist given. 😉

What can you expect now in the new NCIE-DP Specialist?

ONTAP replication technology

  • Describe how ONTAP replication technology works in NetApp Data Fabric, including Snapshot copies and SnapMirror replication
  • Describe how high availability configurations work in an ONTAP cluster
  • Describe how a MetroCluster configuration can ensure business continuity
  • Name the difference between synchronous and asynchronous replication for applications and VM

Planning ONTAP data protection implementations

  • Name ONTAP data protection solutions in traditional local configurations, private clouds, hybrid cloud and storage tiering environments
  • Demonstrate use of ONTAP policies and tools: Sizing Guidelines, Interoperability Matrix Tool, RPO Calculator, Savings Calculator, Hardware Universe
  • Describe implementation steps for application and virtualization-specific workloads, including snapshot retention policies
  • Distinguish between a consistent file system and an application-consistent backup
  • Design a plan to recover ONTAP customer data after an outage
  • Implement security with regard to ONTAP data protection: NetApp Volume Encryption, NetApp Security Encryption, SnapLock, encryption management
  • Describe how to plan ONTAP data protection in the data fabric architecture

Configuring the backup software

  • Describe configuration of ONTAP Snapshots, SnapMirror policies, SnapMirror for SVMs, and MetroCluster using the command line interface and System Manager
  • Name a tool for setting ONTAP-based storage and planning policies

Performan data protection implementations

  • Demonstrate backup and recovery of NAS, SAN, VM, object and application data with ONTAP
  • Demonstrate identification and backup of unprotected ONTAP volumes with Active IQ Unified Manager
  • Describe how to use WorkFlow Automator (WFA) products for failover and failback orchestration for application servers
  • Describe using SnapCenter as an external backup application
  • Describe how to check that jobs for backup and replication are up-to-date
  • Demonstrate validation of the successful recovery of an ONTAP backup

Best Practices

  • Describe strategies for implementing ONTAP data protection products in the data fabric architecture using SnapMirror, MetroCluster, Unified Data Replication (UDP), network compression, and cloud backup
  • Describe how to calculate transfer time based on the customer’s available bandwidth and latency distance for ONTAP data protection products
  • Describe storage efficiency for ONTAP data protection
  • Describe automation guidelines for managing volume capacity
  • Describe monitoring or reporting techniques for ONTAP data protection solutions

From my point of view, we have managed to create a realistic examination with an appropriate degree of difficulty. We have referred to the most current ONTAP versions and included many things from the daily life of an NCIE-DP Specialist.

As with every IDW, I have learned a lot more.

I can only encourage you to take the new NCIE-DP Specialist exam (NS0-526). Not only will you show that you know your craft, but it will also give you more confidence in your daily job. (And perhaps a promotion?)

You should have been working with NetApp technology for between 6 and 12 months and be familiar with the data protection features. Furthermore, the NCDA is a prerequisite for the NCIE-DP.

I look forward to your feedback when the exam goes live in a few weeks, and the first of you have passed.

Thanks to Alun Griffiths, Ruairi McBride, Chris Maki, Mike Palic, Pedro Couto, TMAC, SANta Claus aka Steve Botkin, and of course the goddess of certification Brandi Einhorn who made this great IDW possible.

Best regards and stay healthy


DISCLAIMER: This post represents my personal observations and is not officially authorized by NetApp or others. Subject to misinterpretation or misunderstanding.

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