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!


Do IT certifications even matter to customers anymore?


I’ve been in this business for almost 20 years now. Those of you who are IT professionals that have been around just as long will know what the term “paper certifications” mean. In the late 90s and early 2000’s Microsoft’s server business had taken off and so had demand for their certification program. It seems everybody wanted to hop on the bandwagon of Microsoft certifications, but the problem was not everybody had the necessary skill set to pass the certification exams. Many individuals went online to exam cheat sites and bought the exam answers. This allowed them to go take the exam and get a piece of paper that said they were certified; even if they had done nothing more than memorized the test questions. This is where the term “paper certification” came from – they had a piece of paper that said they were certified but in reality they had no idea what they were doing. Unfortunately this devalued the certification for the rest of us that actually knew what we were doing and who valued our achievements.  Most vendors police their certifications nowadays to catch cheaters, so while some paper certification individuals still exist today, they are not nearly as rampant as they were in the early 2000’s.

Fast forward 10 to 15 years and you arrive at today where customers and employers appear to have totally forgotten about asking for certifications from those who do work for them.  To be honest I’m not sure why customers stopped asking for certified individuals to work their accounts. I guess it could be a couple different things. Maybe they just think everybody has a certification on everything since back then everybody and their dog had a certification for Microsoft products. Or it could be they got burned by some of these individuals with paper certifications and they decided it no longer matters whether they ask for certified individuals – they think they are still going to get burned in the end (a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario).

Regardless of the reasons that customers and employers have stopped asking about certification, I’m here to tell you that both customers and employers are still being burned today – but for not asking. We see all the time when we meet perspective new customers and have to evaluate their current environment to get a baseline of where they are at. So what do I mean when I say burned? I am referring to the fact that it costs them time, money, and potentially data loss. I think these three items are probably self-explanatory but if not here’s what I believe.


This one should be pretty simple. If you are a customer buying a solution that hasn’t been checked or approved by an individual who is certified on the solution, then who’s to say the solution that you’re getting is going to work?  If it doesn’t work, it is going to cost you money to either replace it, upgrade it, or hire someone who is certified and knows what they are doing to install / fix it.


Time goes hand-in-hand with money. First, if the solution is not suited for what you actually require, then the whole process has been a waste of time because you just end up starting over to replace it. This in turn is going to cost you more money due to lost productivity. And if the individuals that are installing the solution are not certified on the product, then is going to take them more time to deploy the solution – assuming they can even get it working. And the more time they spend trying to deploy the solution, the more money they are going to charge you.  Unless they are like one national reseller’s deployment team I have heard of who just gets up and walks out the door when the allotted installation hours and budget are gone, whether or not the solution is working – it didn’t matter.  Incidentally, I later learned that neither the sales team nor the installation team were properly certified on the solution they sold customer.  Whoops – but case in point.

Data loss

This is probably the scariest one of the three. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen solutions designed and deployed by uninformed individuals (who never took a single course or exam on the product they are trying to sell or install) with multiple potential single points of failure. It’s been my experience that poorly designed solutions tend to have a higher rate of data loss events, or situations of very poor performance from normally high performance components. It’s funny because most of the time when I talk to these clients afterwards they tell me they would’ve spent extra money to have a properly designed and deployed solution had they known the disaster awaiting them that were going to have with their current solution.

Certified Confidence

On a very regular basis, I am asked to speak to CEOs and the board of directors that they report to on various IT subjects – from explaining what a SAN is to demoing how dangerous a drive-by-download can be. Thanks to my training, certifications and knowledge, I have the confidence to stand at the front of the boardroom table and establish my credibility as an expert or specialist in the day’s subject in front of the CEO and board of directors. This better positions my employer to succeed and win more business as it builds the customer’s confidence that I know what I’m talking about and that whatever I am proposing is correct for them.

Know your vendors

Vendors (such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware, Veeam, and Citrix) usually provide special treatment to those of us who are certified on their products. This special treatment can be anything from sneak peaks of upcoming products and plans for the next generation, to a high level of technical support. This additional knowledge and treatment allows us to better service our customers – whether by allowing us to plan your environment out to take advantage of new technologies we know are coming 12, 18, or 24 months down the road, or by bypassing the level one support queue and getting right to the vendor’s support guys who have seen and know it all. And usually the special treatment affords us the ability to interact with and give direct feedback to the engineers that design the technology we are certified on. I’ve personally been in a feedback session with a design engineer where he took my feedback and literally (right in front of the rest of the audience in attendance) implemented my change request in the source code for the next release (if you use HPE ILO and it’s Advance License – you are welcome that you can cut and paste all 25 characters now at once to activate it instead of 5 x 5 like an old Windows product key!).

As a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Gold Partner, we are mandated to obtain and maintain certain certifications as part of our partner status to not only sell certain products, but deliver services on those same products.  Unfortunately for all of us, “Joe’s Taxidermy and Computer Repairs” in the basement of that house down on the corner of your street has a basic reseller status that also allows him to sell you that 3Par you’ve always dreamed about.  But what are the odds that Joe has had time in between stuffing deer heads and mount antlers on rabbits to go and get the training and certifications to provide you that level of service that you really need? Is he going to know the minimum number of drives per controller, per enclosure, or per node pair?  Is he going to know that the node interconnects in a 7400 are directional and as such can only be installed one way?  Is he going to know how to setup that new StoreOnce you just ordered?  What about best practices for replication with Veeam?  Or Golden Master image optimization for XenDesktop?  Likely not.

And not all vendor partners are equal.  Yes, that large international web-based e-tailor your love is likely certified on what you are looking for – but demand they have someone in your local region that is certified to look after your needs, instead of someone from the other side of the country, or even the other side of the world in some cases!

Your call to action!

If you are an end-user or customer reading this – then you need to demand those partners and resellers you are working with prove they have the proper certifications for the projects they are working on for you.  Do not just casually ask them about it – but rather demand they prove their certifications before they get one more penny (err – nickel for my fellow Canadians) from you.  The ITCC (Information Technology Certification Council) make it quite simple via the TechCertRegistry (https://techcertregistry.org) for certified individuals to share their validated certifications with potential employers and customers. Check it out – utilize it, demand it!

If you are reseller or other partner reading this – and you don’t have or believe in certifications, then please keep on doing exactly what you are doing now.  It will make your customers easier picking for the rest of us that do, and for that – we thank you!