NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer (NCIE) – Passed NetApp Exam NS0-502 Today

I passed the NS0-502 NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer-SAN and Virtualization test today.  I had the good fortune to take some instructor led courses for this from Fastlane – Data ONTAP 8.0 7-Mode Administration (DOT87M) and Accelerated NCDA Boot Camp Data ONTAP 8.0 7-Mode (ANCDABC87).  They were good preparation.  The exam was 62 questions, 90 minutes.  I passed it with a 82% and it took me 40 minutes.


Read more…These NetApp tests are “low volume” – that means that there’s not enough people taking them to justify publishers to write prep books, or test prep publishers to make practice exams.  Therefore there is little official test preparation material available short of instructor led training.  I was fortunate to get ILT, but each of my one week classes cost something like $5000, pretty pricey for those on a budget.

If possible you should get to some instructor led training.  My Fastlane instructor recommended the hands-on SAN Implementation Workshop.

So what did I do?

  • I went to instructor led training.
  • I studied my course books and the NSO-502 study guide.
  • I did the semi-cheesy NetApp practice exam for NS0-502 until I was blue in the face.
  • I did hands on practice with ONTAP 8 simulators (you have to have an active NOW account to download these).
  • I googled around online for other test help, but didn’t find much.

The test is really for NetApp engineers that go to customers and help them with installing a new storage area network.  Pretend you are an engineer at a customer’s site and you’re getting ready to help them.  You need to know the questions to ask them, and what kind of drawings and diagrams they expect you to generate.  Look at the NSO-502 study guide, you will be asked about cabinet diagrams, power requirements, etc.

The test assumes that you have some experience with fibre channel switches.  You should have passing familiarity with common commands on common switches, like Brocade and Cisco.  You should know how to look at zoning, make zoning changes, save zoning changes, look at general switch health, etc.  I use Brocade at work, so I peeked at the Cisco documentation for their switches.  Just simple things like “Cisco switches always preface commands wth show, like ‘show version’.  Brocade switch commands often use one word with show at the end like ‘supportshow’ ” will help you out.  You should also know what management software packages are typically used with these switches.

Know something about how these switches are used in the enterprise.  Know what various topologies (mesh, switched, etc.) look like.  Know how large groups of switches are tied together.  Look at how you use switches in highly available configurations.  Know about the different kinds of zoning (hard, soft, etc.) and why you might use one or the other.

Don’t forget about iSCSI, either.  They will ask you some iSCSI related questions, mainly about ONTAP commands used with iSCSI.  Like the practice exam shows, there’s questions that list some possible ONTAP commands and then ask you to pick the one that correctly does a function.

There’s some virtualization questions, again from a NetApp perspective.  The study guide and practice test give you some idea of the type and scope of these questions. I used the practice test as an exam outline.  For every question on the practice test, I assumed that was a topic, and then did some research into that whole area.  For example, it mentions NPIV, which I’ve never used.  I dug into that and learned all about assigned a virtual WWPN to a VM and then zoning the VM and its virtual HBA to a RDM datastore.

For me, practical hands-on experience was very helpful.  I knew some of the answers, not because I studied for them, but because I had seen the issue in my day to day work.  I doubt that someone that doesn’t have any experience would pass, mainly from the lack of actual study material available.

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