Summary: These are my thoughts on the Mirantis OpenStack OS110 bootcamp that also includes the practical hands-on exam MCA200.
Last week I sat the Mirantis OpenStack bootcamp OS110, which is a three-day training that includes the MCA200 (Mirantis Certified Administrator for OpenStack) exam on the fourth day and I thought it would be worth writing about my experience and thoughts regarding this training – also from the perspective of being a long-time instructor myself (among other things, I teach the whole VMware training curriculum, with a focus on VMware’s SDN and security platform NSX and their cloud management suite – vRealize Automation, vCloud Director, and VMware Integrated OpenStack – VIO).
The course agenda itself can be found in the official course description (along with prices and the schedule of upcoming classes etc.).
I attended the three-day training in a live online format from Tuesday to Thursday, which was great and convenient for me, since I was travelling the last three weeks teaching VMware classes and was quite happy to be able to work from home for a change.
Mirantis training is using the Zoom platform to connect the instructor and the students, which is very similar to the Webex or GoToMeeting platforms. In the invite email for the training, Mirantis asked all students to join the live training with their webcam enabled to improve interactivity between the instructor and the students.
What does the training cover?
The training content is – as is quite the norm in most deep-dive technical trainings – split between approximately 50% instructor-led lectures and 50% lab time and covers the following topics:
- a detailed overview of OpenStack, its history, use cases and architecture
- core OpenStack components like Nova, Glance, and Cinder
- OpenStack networking (Neutron)
- implementing object-based cloud storage using Swift
- monitoring and metering with Ceilometer
- orchestration using Heat templates
- and a look-ahead to the OpenStack roadmap
It does not cover the installation of OpenStack, however. This is covered in Mirantis course OpenStack Bootcamp II (OS200).
Grzegorz, the instructor, did an excellent job in explaining OpenStack and its quite non-trivial architecture and was deep-diving in basically every chapter, using whiteboard drawings extensively and appropriately. He was also using the slides to provide the basic structure of the training, but was adding a lot of additional explanations and drawings to the contents on the slides.
What about the labs?
Apart from the lecture with a wealth of knowledge presented by the instructor, I particularly liked and enjoyed doing the labs. The labs provide hands-on experience in a pre-prepared all-in-one OpenStack environment. The course features a total of 14 lab exercises that cover all the areas that were discussed in the lectures and provide ample opportunity for learning to use and administer OpenStack both using the horizon dashboard and the command line. The last lab is a comprehensive review in which the student is given typical OpenStack administrative tasks, but detailed explanations have been left out on purpose to challenge the student and improve overall learning. The labs require some basic Linux administration skills (like using the vi editor), everything else is basically explained in the extremely well-written lab guides. The labs provided context and were scenario-based, so much better than many of the typical ‘click here, click there’ labs you find so often in technical trainings. Here, you were encouraged to think about what you were achieving and why, which I think contributes a lot to the overall usefulness of this training.
During the labs, I did not have to reach out to the instructor once for help thanks to the quality of the lab guide – everything was clear and typical issues were also pointed out. Overall I extremely enjoyed the labs and felt they were very useful – which was proven on the next day, when I did the exam.
The MCA200 exam
On Friday morning we met again via the Zoom platform for the exam. Another Mirantis instructor served as the exam proctor. Students are required to turn on their Webcams so they can be monitored during the exam, in addition the proctor also needs Teamviewer access to the students’ desktops in order to protect the integrity of the exam.
The MCA200 certification exam tests the contents delivered both in the lectures and the labs.
It has a duration of three hours and test candidates are required to perform basically everything they have learnt during the three days of training. Internet access and looking up information on the Web is not permitted and also completely unnecessary in my opinion. With the practice acquired during the labs and the understanding of OpenStack and its architecture through the lectures, the exam is quite doable. Mirantis requires exam candidates to do several tasks of the exam on the command line – this is what has been taught extensively during the labs of the training. In addition, it is perfectely permissible to use manual pages or just the help of the OpenStack commands like nova, cinder, or neutron.
I was wondering how long it would take Mirantis to score the exams. On the next morning, I’ve already received an email that notified me that I had passed the exam together with a certificate of achievement in PDF format:
Summary of the OS110 bootcamp
The learning experience provided by the OS110 bootcamp and the challenge involved with preparing for and doing the MCA200 exam was quite a valuable one. The training is well worth its price and the learning experience provided by the virtual class via the Zoom platform was excellent. Of course, in a virtual class, there is a little more discipline required to pay attention to the instructor, but then Mirantis is also offering traditional instructor-led classes around the world.
I can fully recommend this class and also taking the exam!