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1 year ago

OpenStack Foundation - Certified OpenStack Admin (COA) Passed

Before I go into this review, I want to be as open as possible and have full disclosure. I have been involved in one way or another with OpenStack since 2013. I've written several books on OpenStack and have operated an OpenStack cloud at scale (many years ago). Therefore, my review is based on my experience, YMMV. 

Took the test 08/15/2018 and received my results on the 16th.

Before the test, I mentally prepared myself to go through the whole COA course here on LA. I tried to imagine myself as new to OpenStack but with the requisite 6 months experience. I went through every video and lab and did everything anyone else would have done. 

I found the lessons very thorough and at no time during the exam did I think "this wasn't covered in the LA materials." My overall advice for anyone who wants to take this exam (not to scare you, but it does have a 60% pass record) that you go through the whole course and do the labs multiple times. If you can't do the labs without minor assistance from command help, you're probably going to want to study more. Now, some non-NDA breaching details:

  1. Test equipment - I had no issues preparing my browser for the test, went early into the pre-checks and enabled PSI's plugin (which reminds me, I need to remove that now.) My Macbook was cleared for takeoff and I was all good there.
  2. Test Environment - Preparing for the exam, I took all of the folders off my desk, even took my blank sticky note pads off, and closed the windows behind me (that's right, no bright light or open windows behind you.) I then went to the URL given to me for the test and connected. Again, no problems. The proctor walked me through the rest of the setup.

    Here's where it gets weird. So you can see yourself in the plugin and they can hear you, but they don't talk, they simply "chat" back to you. I don't even remember them giving me a name. So this chat window is telling me to move my laptop around so they can see my environment but being an anal person, I've got all of my cords neatly wrapped and shortened for my desk and I'm connected via physical ethernet. 

    At this point, I have to either snip some zip ties and fish wires from wire looms to get some slack or go wireless. So, I decide to unplug everything, go all battery and wireless and give them the tour of where the magic happens. Somewhere between the history of my family photo wall and the close up of my star trek pen, I remember that I have an exam to take. So I show the proctor the top of my desk, my office when I'm not working at an airport or Marriott. 

    The proctor then tells me to clear my desk. I look at my desk and there's only a cordless phone, two little speakers, a pen holder, an unplugged Amazon echo, some hand sanitizer and tissues left. I ask if this must all go and the proctor indicates that the desk must be clear of everything but the computer and monitor(s).  I comply with his request, stacking everything I can on a chair and letting the rest dangle from the back of my desk. The proctor is now happy, at least until I pulled out my water bottle. 

    Nope, no food or drink. If you want a drink you'll have to ask for a break and the clock keeps ticking. So, into the garbage went the water. Now I'm ready. 

    Since I've been working with screens since, well, screens were a thing, my vision isn't what it used to be and I was glad to hear they would let me use my 26" monitor to take the test and not my MacBook screen. However, they do ask you to share both screens. 

    If you watch any of Amy's presentations at the OpenStack summits you will get an idea of how the test looks. Due to the OpenStack Foundation's NDA, I prefer not to go into detail. However, I will say, on my monitor, with the web interface at full screen, I had zero problems seeing everything I needed. 

  3. The exam itself - Once the exam started there was no real superfluous advertising, self-aggrandizing or otherwise commercial flagellation, the test simply got down to business. It was super clear what they wanted you to perform and your time remaining was front and center. It was up to you to manage your time. I found myself flipping back and forth between the Horizon GUI and the command line but for other test takers, it will be dependent on the task and comfort level of the test taker with the CLI. However, if you think that being a Horizon expert is going to take you to the finish line, it's not. You have to know the CLI commands and the common form of commands that the course teaches you. 

    If you've taken any of the Red Hat exams, especially ones like the RHCE, you'll remember how critical time was and that if you spent too much time trying to figure out a handful of tasks that you will get so far behind it will be almost impossible to finish the exam. It's the same here. While I finished with an hour to spare, that is not typical. I can easily see someone getting lost in the OpenStack documentation site looking for an answer and not making good choices in time management.

    As I said earlier, there were no tasks to perform that were off-the-wall weird and wonderful things that you've never seen. If you take the COA course here, it will give you everything you need and more.
  4. Copy and paste strategery - So, I've seen a lot of comments about cut and paste in the terminal and into Horizon. I had zero problems with this. On my Mac I used CMD-v and CMD-v and was even able to right click in places to get to "copy." YMMV, try these things out before you get started in earnest. Copy and paste will save you if you're like me and tend to rush sometimes. The strings they give you are what they use to test for correct completion so if they tell you create a instance named orange and you input apple, or even orang, you're going to be grumpy cat when you get your results. Cut and paste for profit.
  5. Careless whisper - Don't mouth or whisper the questions as you read them. The proxy doesn't like that. I was told to stop. It's a bad habit, I'm even doing it right now as I read this.
  6. Finish Strong - Since the interface will now let you jump to any question you want, there's no excuse to not skip something that's giving you trouble and come back to it if you have time. If you've answered everything and still have time, go look at what you've done, it's your time, might as well use it.
  7. Shut the front door - When I was done, I was just sitting there, thinking that the proctor would see me motionless. I even waved a few times. I think he thought I was just really friendly. I honestly forgot he could hear me. I asked "okay, I'm done, so I just hit this "End Exam" button? In the chat window, he wrote "yes." I ended the exam, there was some parting information and platitudes and then it was over. I was relieved. At least until I realized I had trashed my own desk to make the proctor happy :) 
Overall I found it a fun exam, in the end, it really did test the ability to be an overall OpenStack administrator. 

In review, here are my suggestions:

  • Test your browser early, you don't want to be late.
  • Make sure your environment is completely sterile and no food or drink. Breaks are granted but time marches on.
  • Don't talk to yourself, the proctor will warn you and probably think you're a psycho.
  • Cut and paste, it's faster, more accurate and builds up your finger dexterity for one-handed Rubix cubing.
  • Read the questions carefully, just as you did in the labs here. If you transpose something, you lose. Keep track of the domain, project, group, and usernames (and what goes into who or what.)
  • Time management. It's not just for project managers. You need it here as much as you need anything else.
  • If you've got extra time (what? are you some sorta OpenStack genius?) Go back and make sure you look over your answers. Don't be an almost-genius.

I'm always around studying something else, if you have other questions that won't get me abducted and beaten by the OpenStack NDA goons, I'll be glad to help. I'll check here and I'm also on LA slack in the #openstack channel. 

Best of luck, I believe in you!


Image of adonist
1 year ago
Thank you for sharing your experience and congratulations!
Image of craiga
1 year ago
Congrats, Ben and thanks for the amazing feedback!
Image of aschae
1 year ago
Well done, Ben!  Thank you for sharing your testing experience.
Image of mmcclaren
1 year ago
Awesome and congrats on the pass! Thank you so much for sharing your test insights!
Image of ellejaclyn
1 year ago
Congratulations, Ben! And thanks for sharing your experience!
Image of seang
1 year ago
Awesome review, thanks very much for sharing! Congrats on the pass!
Image of amy
1 year ago
Ben some really good feedback and congrats on the pass! Yeah, I stress time management but I don't think people truly take it seriously so I'm glad you mentioned it.

The cut and paste have been a big issue, so glad it's back to working as it wasn't for a bit.
Image of mattulasien
1 year ago
Great work Ben!
Image of koufax
1 year ago
Thank you for sharing your experience, Ben. Congratulations on passing the exam! Best of luck on your next journey. :)
Image of ellmarquez
1 year ago
Wow, first of all, congratulations on your success and thank you for taking the time to write this back and give back to the Linux Academy and OpenStack community.
Image of jlowerynyc
1 year ago
Best news of the day! Congratulations, Ben!
Image of wboyd
1 year ago
Great work, Ben!
Image of trilliams
1 year ago
These are some awesome pointers. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thorough recount of your experience taking the COA -- and CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
Image of fernandomc
1 year ago
Whoaaaaa THANK YOU for all the feedback! I'm sure lots of students will benefit from that. And congrats!!
Image of donna1596
1 year ago
Good work!  Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.
Image of linuxjames
1 year ago
Congrats, Ben.   Thank you for the awesome feedback on the exam!
Image of tiaaw
1 year ago
great job! congrats.
Image of sarancurrie
1 year ago
Way to go Ben! Congratulations!
Image of justinmitchell
1 year ago
Congratulations, Ben! Appreciate your review as well, that's good stuff!
Image of oliviawise
1 year ago
Amazing beneficial feedback and amazing work! Congrats!
Image of keiththomps
1 year ago
Image of ehenderson0813
1 year ago
Ben, thanks for the feedback!! Congrats and amazing work!
Image of mspearson
1 year ago
Great job! Congrats!!
Image of bpalmer
1 year ago
great job, thank you so much for this feedback
Image of braun0
1 year ago
Awesome!  Congrats on passing the exam!
Image of anthony
1 year ago

Congratulations Ben!

I’d love to endorse/recommend you on LinkedIn if you want. All you have to do is add me as a connection and add Linux Academy as your school. Once you do that, post a picture of your cert about passing in your feed and reference me within the original post. Once I see this, I’ll be able to recommend you for your hard work on your LinkedIn profile.




Image of mayoung8
1 year ago
Way to go!
Image of tthomsen
1 year ago

Keep it up Ben!

Image of mchristian
1 year ago
Well done Ben, great write up!
Image of chadcrowell
1 year ago
We appreciate your attention to detail in this piece! Great job! Congratulations!
Image of johnnawallace
1 year ago
Wow, Ben, that is so incredibly helpful!  Thank you and Congratulations!
Image of drumpat01
1 year ago
Image of dougriggs
1 year ago
Your advice is invaluable.  Thank you!
Image of ingrid
1 year ago

Congratulations! Amazing! Make sure to celebrate your accomplishment! Thank you for your feedback, it is very valuable.

Image of japolinaris
1 year ago


Image of onxben
1 year ago
Thanks for the congrats, everyone!
Image of kennyarmstrong
1 year ago
Well done, Ben!  Thanks for the feedback as well!