What you need to know about the new HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE Certification exam

As I am sure those of you who are heavily involved in architecting Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s infrastructure solutions consisting of servers, storage and networking already know, there was a new HPE Master level certification announced earlier this year.  This new certification is the HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE, and it is going to be the pinnacle of all HPE certifications.  Many of us that hold Master ASEs in Servers, Storage, and Networking will naturally be looking to obtain this Master ASE certification as well.  In some cases, Partner Ready requirements will drive your need to obtain this certification, but I also know that for many of my peers, it’s a matter of pride and desire to achieve this certification.  However, it really doesn’t matter the reason that drives you to achieve it, I am writing this article to tell you that achieving this new certification isn’t going to be a walk in the park.  HPE opted to take a different path to certification and the traditional testing methods we all know, have tested with before, and are comfortable with have been changed up some for this certification.

By now you are asking yourself how does Dean know about this?  Myself, along with several of my peers from around the globe (many of whom you would likely know too) were honored to be invited join the design team for this certification (and some of related electives for the certification).  When this certification goes live, it will have been a 15+ month journey for some of us, beginning in August 2018.  That journey took us from the initial blueprint of how we wanted to test, to the content of the beta courseware (which was just finished last month), to the certification launch on November 1, 2019.  There are hundreds and hundreds of hours involved amongst us in the design of this certification, the courseware, and of course creating the certification exam its self.  Along the way, there were many phone calls, Skype meetings, face to face meetings at various HPE facilities, and countless hours of reading (and then revising) the alpha and beta courseware material that makes up both the Hybrid IT ASE and HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE courses and exams.  In mid-July (2019) many of us from around the globe gathered in a meeting room at HPE’s campus in Roseville, California to work on the exam creation.

The first thing you’ll notice different is the exam number.  Today, we normally all take proctored HPE0-### exams for our certifications.  The HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE certification will be an HPE1-### series exam, and will not be delivered by Pearson VUE but rather it will be delivered by PSI.  While PSI does have some testing centers, the HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE exam will be an online proctored exam that you will be expected to take at home or at your office – similar to the online proctored HPE0-### exams that are already offered by Pearson VUE.

The second difference you will notice is the length of the exam – you will be given 4 hours to complete it, not the typical 90 or 120 minutes you are used to with the HPE0-### exams (yes – washroom breaks will be allowed).

The third thing you will notice different is both the exam price and the retake policy.  The price of the exam will be between $695 and $895 USD depending on your country of residence, which is more than double the price of today’s HPE0-### exams.  The retake policy is also different.   With HPE0-### exams, you can immediately retake the exam once if you fail it (as long as you have not failed twice in 14 days).  With the new HPE1 exam, there will be an automatic 14-day waiting period after each failure before you can rebook for another attempt.

The fourth thing you will notice is the composition of the HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE exam – it will be broken into 3 distinct sections.  Questions and answers (similar to today’s exams), a research portion, and a hands on portion (more details on all three of these sections is below).  However, for every single item, once you click submit on the answer to the item, there is no going backwards to review or change your answer.

Part one of the exam will consist of a series of Discrete Option Multiple Choice (DOMC) questions.  For those of you that have not seen a DOMC exam before, basically you get asked a question, and are presented with a single answer on the screen at a time – to which you either select YES or NO if the answer is correct for the question.  Each question may have one or more answers that get presented to the test taker (but still only one answer at a time will appear on the screen).  I’ll admit I was very skeptical and concerned when the decision was made to utilize DOMC, but having worked with it for a while now as part of this process, I’m very comfortable with it and I am no longer concerned it will affect your chances of passing or failing.

Part two of the exam will probably start to take some of you out of your comfort zone.  You’ll be given a series of scenarios that you will need to answer questions about.  Some scenarios may build on previous scenarios you were given as well.  You’ll RDP a remote environment, and be required to observe many items in that environment to answer questions about accurately building a solution that properly integrates with that existing environment.  Nothing is off the table here from Synergy frames to storage systems and network switches.  Almost all the Hybrid IT portfolio and their respective management GUIs or CLIs are present here – you’ll need to know where to look to determine if the answer presented to you (via DOMC) is correct.  This is no different from what you’d need to do if you were designing an upgrade for one of your customers.  A simple example is “Your customer wants to do this with their existing environment, do you need to add this particular item to your solution to accomplish this? YES or NO”.

If part two got you out of your comfort zone, then part three is going to really take you far out of your comfort zone…  In part two, you are simply reviewing the exam’s hardware infrastructure and environment, but in part three, you are actually modifying the environment – with very real hardware that you are connected to.  Think of it as having to perform a demo of a feature or something to one of your customers using their existing equipment.

You know all those hands on labs offered at various HPE conferences that you may have attended in the past, but you’ve skipped to spend extra time at the bar in the evenings?  Well those HOL experiences will be very handy here, as it’s very much hands on with the management tools (both GUI and CLI).  Everything from configuring, upgrading, or fixing connectivity issues with Synergy, 3Par, Windows, vCenter, and switches (of all types) is covered here – and you may need to use multiple tools from across the portfolio to accomplish your tasks.  You may use either the GUI or CLI to accomplish your task (or maybe both), but the task must be 100% correct and completed when you hit the submit button.

You will be provided all the appropriate manuals, CLI guides, and documentation you require to complete the tasks – they will available on the server you will be RDPing into.  So it’s opened book so to speak – you’ll have these resources, but only these resources (you won’t be able to search the internet for walkthroughs!).  However, if you have to utilize the provided material to look up how to complete every single little step, you’ll quickly run out of time – the documentation is there to provide you a guide, not tell you how to perform (i.e. for the first time in your life) whatever action it is you need to do.

A word of warning though – as this is real hardware, running in a real datacenter, it is possible for you to completely break the testing environment, which will prevent you from completing your assigned task, possibly resulting a score of zero for the task.  In the real world, if you mess up and accidently destroy or delete something in your customer’s running environment, you’ll have failed in the customer’s eyes.  This is no different – if you break the testing environment here (i.e. maybe you accidentally deleted a volume instead of extending a volume) and are unable to complete the assigned task because of it, then you’ll fail the question.

HPE says this is the first time anyone in the IT certification industry has used real hardware and an automated scoring system in real-time to verify that what you have done is correct.  Spelling counts.  Exactly correct numbers count (i.e. 100MB vs. 1000MB).  If you are asked in a scenario to name something “bigwheel” and you name it “big wheel” with a space (or you typo it as “bigwhel”), then that answer will be marked wrong (although we are told the scoring won’t look at the case sensitivity of the answer, just the spelling, spacing, etc.).  So just like in real life – spelling errors and wrong numbers will result in broken configs, or in this case a wrong answer.  This is completely automated scoring (don’t worry – it’s been fully vetted by your peers already) – so when you hit that final submit button (and I do believe if memory serves me correctly that you’ll be warned that your answer / task is about to be scored if you hit submit), the testing software instantly runs a series of scripts that interrogates everything that makes up the exam’s hardware environment and looks at the relevant output to determine if you’ve correctly accomplished your assigned tasks.  So you’ll know in just a few seconds after hitting that very final submit button if you are the world’s newest HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE or not!

The HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE certification exam is not going to be for the faint of heart.  This certification is going to require you to have several years of real world experience and knowledge in HPE compute, storage, and networking.  And if you think you are going to be able to rely on a brain dump to pass, think again – DOMC, the scenarios on real hardware, the exam cost, and the retake policy (along with some other things I can’t discuss) are going to put a serious crimp on both the quality and quantity of brain dumps that will be available.

So what are my tips to you for achieving this certification?

  • Do take the course.  Yes it is expensive and time consuming, but it will cover (including hands on labs) the concepts and knowledge you must have (aside from the real world experience you should already have) to pass the certification exam.
  • Do not wait to take the exam once you have taken the course – take the exam while the course and hands on labs are fresh in your mind.
  • Be prepared to wait for an exam slot. I think initially it will be hard to schedule an exam due to demand and the limited number of testing slots available per day (given that the exam requires a complete set of real hardware that must be flattened and reset after each exam).
  • Do not wake up one morning and decide to take this exam in the afternoon “cold” without properly preparing.  Many of us do this today at various events we attend (i.e. Aspire, TSS, Discover), and it’s not going to result in an exam pass here.  I know of maybe a handful of my peers in the world that maybe could do that without any preparation and have a reasonable chance of passing.
  • Do read, re-read, and then re-read every single word of every single question on the exam – some of the questions and scenarios are very long with lots of information, and it’s easy to skip over key details, words, or numbers that you will need to accurately answer the question or complete the scenario assignments.
  • Do not be intimidated by the DOMC format – it’s really not as bad as you may initially fear.
  • Do take the practice DOMC exam so you have an idea of what to expect on the real exam. You can find a HPE DOMC practice exam (with examples of ASE level server/storage/networking items) at the following link:  https://sei.caveon.com/launchpad?exam=try-domc-for-hpe

For those of you planning to try to obtain this certification, before you register for the course, I’d suggest you chat with your regional Partner Enablement Manager to see if there are any promotions running for the course and exam (wink, wink, you may find a pleasant surprise).

I would like to wrap up by offering you the best of luck in obtaining the HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE certification and to remind you:

You will truly need to be a Master of HPE Hybrid IT to become a HPE Hybrid IT Master ASE!

 

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