Dissecting the EMC Technology Foundations Exam
Relevant to certification in any of EMC’s Proven Professional tracks, EMC’s Technology Foundations exam covers a breadth of product essentials and serves as a fundamental stepping-stone to enter the program. In fact, EMC believes that taking and passing this exam qualifies those who manage this feat to meet foundation requirements for all four of its certification tracks: Customer Engineer, Implementation Engineer, Technology Architect and Storage Administrator. That’s why so many of EMC’s own employees tackle this exam as their first step into the EMC Proven Professional Program.
Because the exam covers a lot of ground, EMC offers multiple methods for preparation, including Web-based training, a five-day instructor-led course and EMC Virtual Classroom, which is EMC’s version of Internet-based training that involves interaction with a real instructor. EMC’s 12 Web-based self-study modules provide an excellent preparation toolset, with a user-friendly, content-rich interface that candidates can download and use to prepare on their own time, at their own pace. This kind of training is particularly useful for entry-level staffers, who may not be free or have the funds to travel for classroom training.
From a 10,000-foot view, the Technology Foundations exam covers basic principles and practices related to information and data storage terminology, concepts, tools and technologies (where applicable, that’s the vendor-neutral “background coverage” built into this exam). From the same great height, it’s also safe to say that the exam deals with all basic building blocks involved in installing, configuring, using and troubleshooting EMC solutions—including Symmetrix, CLARiiON, PowerPath, ControlCenter, Centera and more. To better meet the needs of those customers and authorized partners who may only be involved with a particular area of specialization, like the CLARiiON Solutions for example, EMC offers stripped-down versions, or “boutique” versions, of the Technology Foundations exam, tailored to each specialty. For details, refer to the Overview section on page sg4. This article will further explore the entire EMC Technology Foundations exam, #E20-040.
In finding one’s way into this exam, both the Technology Foundations exam description (#E20-040) and the corresponding course description (#MR-1CP-ETF) shed important light on this subject and are important guides to help candidates prepare.
Exploring the Exam Description
In general, the exam description lays out the exam topics for #E20-040, primarily along product and topic lines. The 90-minute exam consists of 60 to 70 multiple-choice questions (some single-answer, others multiple-answer) drawn from a large pool of possible questions, distributed across 12 topic areas. EMC requires that successful candidates be able to address questions about “the architecture, theory of operations, features and technical value of EMC’s offerings.” Furthermore, candidates should understand storage area networks (SANs), network attached storage (NAS) and content-addressed-storage (CAS) definitions, features and benefits, be able to identify relevant configuration issues (and likewise for related equipment issues, as with network switches and SAN) and understand how EMC systems and hardware map into this topic area. Finally, candidates must also understand “open storage management and business continuity software” with a primary emphasis on EMC’s offerings in these areas. (Quotations come from EMC’s official description of this exam.)
Examined in a bit more detail, the Technology Foundations exam’s topic areas can be described further as follows:
- Symmetrix Architecture: Starting with a basic description of a Symmetrix Integrated Cached Disk Array (ICDA), candidates should be able to explain the organization and operation of such systems. This includes explaining how host I/O requests are handled, how Symmetrix physical disk drives relate to Symmetrix logical volumes and what media protection options Symmetrix offers. It also includes thorough understanding of Symmetrix high-availability options and the tradeoffs they impose, as well as Front-End, Back-End, Cache and Physical Drive configurations for various Symmetrix models.
- Symmetrix Host Connectivity: Deals with host access and views of Symmetrix systems, including differences between block-level and file-level access, how logical Symmetrix volumes are presented to a host and host views of such volumes.
- CLARiiON Architecture: Deals with CLARiiON disk arrays, including basic architecture and organization, how host I/O requests are handled and understanding how CLARiiON high availability features work, and their impacts on data access and availability.
- PowerPath and ControlCenter: Addresses key functions related to both software products, including PowerPath’s transparent recover abilities, load balancing issues and functions, plus ControlCenter architecture, functions and the benefits it delivers.
- Storage Area Network (SAN): Requires working knowledge of SAN definitions, features and benefits, as well as SAN configuration and switch management issues. Furthermore, candidates must understand the benefits, features and functions of EMC’s Connectrix switches and directors.
- Network Attached Storage (NAS): Requires working knowledge of NAS definitions, features and benefits, as well as understanding of NAS configuration issues. Candidates must be able to describe EMC Celerra NAS products, and understand the workings of Celerra management software.
- Content-Addressed Storage (CAS) and Centera: Requires working knowledge of CAS concepts, features and functions, plus component-level organization and functions in EMC Centera solutions. Likewise, candidates must be able to create and explain block-level diagrams to describe information flow inside a Centera solution.
- Symmetrix Local Replication (TimeFinder) and Remote Replication (SRDF): Requires a thorough understanding of local replication terms, concepts, functions and benefits, as well as of the differences among various EMC Symmetrix local replication solutions. The same requirements also apply to remote replication.
- CLARiiON Local Replication (SnapView) and Remote Replication (MirrorView and SAN Copy): Understand operation and benefits of local and remote CLARiiON replication technologies, as well as the differences among various CLARiiON local and remote replication solutions.
Though there is considerable emphasis on basic storage tools, concepts and technologies, there’s also considerable coverage of numerous EMC software and hardware elements. If anything, it’s a typical vendor-specific look at a broad industry niche where EMC owns a substantial share of the market.
Examining the Course Description
Most of what’s covered in the course description mirrors the exam objectives pretty closely—as you’d expect. Some of the differences help shed light on important basics and product specifics, however, so here’s a list:
- A call for prior knowledge of storage technologies, with particular emphasis on RAID, is worth noting.
- Additional emphasis on data flow through CLARiiON and Symmetrix storage systems helps underscore the importance of this knowledge and understanding.
- Specific mention of using the EMC support matrix to verify support for host environments indicates that candidates should be both familiar and comfortable with this tool, which is readily available on Powerlink for customers and partners to access.
- Lab descriptions also provide additional data about what kinds of hands-on skills are important. These include using Navisphere Manager to configure RAID groups, logical units (LUNs) and Storage Groups. They also include understanding how to use the ControlCenter GUI and selected views of storage c