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Aruba ACDX Certification, Details, and Success Advice

Aruba ACDX Certification, Details, and Success Advice

The Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX) certification is a key achievement for network professionals who want to specialize in designing Aruba solutions. It’s a great way to show your skills and open up new job opportunities. Starting with the Aruba Certified Design Associate (ACDA) level, you can move up to the Professional (ACDP) and finally reach the Expert level (ACDX).

In this guide, we’ll cover how to prepare for both the written and practical exams, what you need to know for each, and what to expect on exam day. Let’s dive into the Aruba certification and start your journey to becoming an expert.

What is Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX)?

Achieving optimal network performance starts with the right design. Most Aruba certificates focus on configuring and managing the network, but one track focuses mainly on network design. The diagram below shows the current six paths available for Aruba certification, one of which is the “Network Design” Learning Path.  Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX) certification is the highest level of certification in Aruba Network Design Certification and Learning Path. Aruba ACDX positions you as a design expert in multi-site, complex Aruba mobile (wireless) and switch (wired) solutions incorporating ClearPass, mobile engagement, and network management.

Why is Network Design Certification Important?

While configuring network devices is essential in implementing network devices or enabling required features, the performance and reliability of the overall network primarily rely on a well-designed network solution.  Network design converts customers’ business and technical requirements into network products and protocols. It connects different components to achieve customer requirements while providing cost-effectiveness, scalability, and a future-proof solution, which are crucial to any modern network design.

In many cases, flaws in network design can not be compensated by any expert implementer; in this case, the solution needs to go back to the design phase for proper information gathering, product selection, and design building again, which is a time-consuming and costly process.  It is the objective of any customer, integrator, or vendor to make sure an expert network architect conducts that network design and certification from the vendor is the best way to guarantee this level of knowledge and expertise. 

What are the levels of the Aruba Network Design Certification Path?

As in any other certification path, Aruba provides three levels of certification in the Network Design Certification Path, Associate, Professional, and Expert:

Aruba Certified Design Associate (ACDA)

Aruba Certified Design Associate (ACDA) certification validates your skills to plan and design Aruba campus wireless and wired networks with the assistance of a senior designer. This validates your fundamental understanding of the Aruba product line and how to use the Aruba mobility network designs to assist a senior designer with Aruba secure wireless and wired network deployments using Aruba’s best practices.

The recommended course from Aruba for ADCA certification is the “Aruba Design Fundamentals” course, a three-day course. The course covers the following subjects:

  1. Information gathering: This stage is crucial in any network design process. Without a clear understanding of the customer’s business and technical requirements, you cannot build any suitable design that satisfies all requirements. The course gives some tips and sample questionnaires that help streamline this process and make sure that all critical points are collected as part of this process.
  2. Network Design Components: the course provides essential knowledge of different Aruba products and basic network components like:
    • Racks and Cables
    • Aruba Indoor APs
    • Aruba Outdoor APS
    • Mobility Conductors, Mobility Controllers, and Virtual Controllers
    • Wired Networks: Aruba OS Switches, Aruba CX Switches, HPE Office Connect Switches, and general wired architecture.
  3. Design Tools: Aruba provides tools that help build a Bill of Materials (BoM), Topology Diagrams, RF Designs, and Heat Maps. The course includes modules and labs that teach the following tools:
    •  IRIS: This is a non-Aruba tool that helps in building detailed BoM and network topology
    • VisualRF: This tool from Aruba is integrated into Aruba AirWave. This tool helps set up APs in floor plans to generate and review heatmaps.  

Aruba Certified Design Professional (ACDP)

Aruba Certified Design Professional (ACDP) certification validates that you have the knowledge and skills to plan and design enterprise-wide Aruba campus wireless and wired networks. While ACDA prepares you to assist a senior designer, ACDP prepares you to be the senior designer. This includes teaching you the primary skills and knowledge to be able to:

  • Gather the required information for RF Planning, Redundant Campus Architecture design, and Remote Access Branch office designs.
  • Understand the use of Aruba Mobility network designs for Aruba secure wireless and wired network deployments using Aruba best practices on how to plan and design enterprise campus networks.
  • Integrate redundancy and high availability into your designs.
  • Create a Bill of Materials (BOM) and specify the appropriate Aruba products and solutions for a given scenario.

Aruba recommends the “Designing Aruba Solutions” course to prepare for ACDP certification. The course covers the following topics:

  • Information Gathering: although this topic was covered in the “Aruba Design Fundamentals” course, it is discussed again at a different level.
  • RF Planning
  • Aruba Campus Design (mainly for WLAN networks)
  • Wired Network Design
  • Network Security
  • VLANs
  • Redundancy
  • Planning Quality of Service
  • Very High Density (VHD) Design
  • Branch and SMB Topologies
  • Network Management

A valid ACDA certification is a prerequisite for ACDP exam registration.  

Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX)

Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX) certification makes you a design expert in multi-site, complex Aruba mobile (wireless) and switch (wired) solutions incorporating ClearPass, mobile engagement, and network management. It demonstrates your knowledge to gather information, plan at a high level, and create detailed designs.

ACDX is the highest-level certification from Aruba in the Network Design track. As in any Expert level certification in Aruba, it is required to pass two exams to achieve ACDX:

  • Written exam 
  • Practical exam

Candidates must pass the Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX) written exam before registering for the ACDX practical exam.

Aruba recommends the “Aruba Advanced Network Design and Solutions” course to prepare for ACDX written and practical exams. The system includes complete customer scenarios where you need to perform the following tasks on each design:

  • Gather information and analyze customer environment.
  • Identify any missing information and ask the customer questions. This can be direct questions during customer meetings or a questionnaire to be filled out by customers.
  • Assess the customer requirements in the scenario.
  • Produce a detailed design specification document. This document typically includes the following:
    • BoM using IRIS
    • RF Design using VisualRF
    • Network topology using IRIS
    • Key product features and customer benefits 
    • Aruba support plan

The structure and components of the design document may change based on customer scenarios and requirements.

ACDX Exam Topics

The course includes the following seven customer scenarios:

  1. Main Campus Design
  2. Dorm Rooms
  3. Small Stadium
  4. Hospital
  5. Location Services
  6. Remote Access
  7. Retail Design

The process of addressing customer requirements and building the solution differs between these scenarios. Course outline provides more details about the process of each design:

The course also includes an RF and design troubleshooting module to identify gaps between the existing customer setup and the desired state. This covers wireless, wired, and RF issues.

At the end of the course, a module mocks the ACDX exam. This mock exam covers the exact steps of the practical ACDX exam:

  • Review scenario
  • Develop a design to meet the customer’s requirements and be prepared to defend your structure.
  • Provide a topology and cost for your solution.

Once you are ready to proceed with ACDX certification, the 1st step is to pass ACDX written Exam. 

What are the steps to achieve ACDX certification?

To achieve ACDX certification, you need to go through the following steps:

  1. Preparation for ACDX written exam.
  2. Passing ACDX written exam
  3. Preparation for ACDX practical exam.
  4. Passing ACDX practical exam
Suggested_Plan
Suggested_Plan

Preparation is the same for both exams, written and practical. I would suggest keeping the period between written and practical exams short, maybe weeks, not many months. After passing the written exam, you must review the preparation material again. You may review the mock exam and check multiple scenarios before attempting the practical exam, but a few weeks should be enough for this preparation.

More details about each step below

Aruba ACDX Written Exam Preparation

The recommended course from Aruba is “Aruba Advanced Network Design and Solutions”, which includes complete scenarios for seven typical customer environments or Aruba solutions. The course provides sample questions to ask customers and steps to create BoM and RF designs.

To practice more, you need to build your lab. The good thing about ACDX lab is that you don’t need any network devices; it is all about collecting requirements, building BoM and network topology, and writing technical documents, proposals, or essays to customers describing your solution. But you still need to have the following two tools in your lab as they are part of the test, and you need to use them in a test environment to produce the expected output. One tool is from Aruba (Visual RF – VRF), and the other is from another company (IRIS).  

VisualRF

This tool is from Aruba, part of the Aruba AirWave solution. VisualRF allows you to plan sites, create and manage floor plans, and provision APs. You can use VisualRF Plan to do basic planning procedures, such as creating a floor plan and provisioning APs. VisualRF provides a real-time picture of the radio environment of your wireless network and the ability to plan the wireless coverage of new sites. For a better understanding of your wireless network, you must know the location of your devices and users and the RF environment of your network. The VisualRF puts this information at your fingertips through integrated mapping and location data.

VisualRF uses sophisticated RF fingerprinting to accurately display coverage patterns and calculate the location of every wireless device in range. VisualRF does not require dedicated RF sensors or a costly additional location appliance because it gathers all the necessary information from your existing devices. Aruba Visual RF is part of the AirWave solution; documentation is in the AirWave user guide. Please check Chapter 12 of this guide for more details

Getting a license for AirWave and VisualRF can be challenging if you have no business relationship with Aruba. You may need to contact your Aruba local representative to discuss providing you with an evaluation or temporary license for AirWave that includes a license for VisualRF.

IRIS

IRIS is a powerful software tool developed by Intangi that enables users to effortlessly create detailed network diagrams and generate accurate Build of Materials (BOM). It’s important to note that IRIS is not a product of Aruba HPE, although it is accessible to all employees within the HPE organization. Additionally, HPE can grant IRIS access to its valued Aruba distributors and partners.

One of the critical features of IRIS is its ability to facilitate the design and quotation process for intricate networks, allowing users to create comprehensive proposals tailored to the specific requirements of potential customers. IRIS distinguishes itself as a versatile service by supporting multiple vendors while also filtering out vendors that may not be relevant to a particular project or scenario. While IRIS seamlessly integrates with devices operating on the Windows operating system, it is essential to note that for Mac users, a Windows emulation program must be utilized to install and use the software. However, regardless of the operating system, IRIS remains an indispensable tool for creating professional proposals for potential customers, irrespective of the complexity of the network involved.

IRIS
IRIS

Getting access to IRIS can be more challenging as this is a non-Aruba tool, and you need a special permit to be allowed to use the tool and get updates about Aruba products. During the course and the exam, you will get remote access to a computer in Aruba Labs that has the agency licensed and installed. But in your home lab, this access to the tool must be provided to you by Aruba or any organization that does business with Aruba that grants access to this tool for Aruba products.

Passing Aruba ACDX Written Exam

In many ways, the format of this exam is similar to other Aruba written exams. It has 60 questions, and the types of questions can be any of the following:

  • Multiple choice (multiple responses), scenario-based.
  • Multiple choice (single answer), scenario-based.
  • Multiple choice (multiple responses)
  • Multiple choice (single response)
  • Scenarios with multiple questions 

Exam details are provided in the link below

Exam summary and objectives
Exam summary and objectives
Exam summary

Strategies for Tackling the Aruba ACDX Written Exam

Preparing for the Aruba ACDX written exam can be considered part of preparing for the practical exam. They both cover the same material and share the same suggested preparation course from Aruba, “Aruba Advanced Network Design and Solutions”. 

The exam format is similar to most Computer Based Tests (CBT). I have completed many of these CBT exams in the past and used the following strategy:

  1. If the correct choice is clear, select quickly and proceed to the next question.
  2. If there are two possible correct questions, use your intuition to select the one that comes 1st to your mind. It is common for companies to have very similar answers in the choices and depend on your English language skills to use the right one. Spending more time on these questions won’t help; you better choose one answer quickly and then proceed to the next question. Asking a proctor doesn’t help in these cases.
  3. If unsure, start by taking away any wrong or unrelated answers. You will end up with two or three solutions. Apply rule number 2 and select the answer that comes 1st to your mind. Don’t spend much time as this confuses you more.

The datasheet for the written exam includes sample questions with answers, which helps you anticipate the type of questions you will receive during the actual written exam.

Aruba ACDX Practical Exam Preparation

The same resources for the ACDX written exam can be used for practical exams. Aruba recommends the same course and the same material for both exams. If you attended the course, I suggest you apply for a written and practical exam soon after the course, mainly if you cannot arrange for required tools like VisualRF and IRIS in your home lab. The mock exam on the last day of the course can be considered one of the best tools to prepare for both exams; you can repeat it a few times with the same or similar scenarios to be more confident during the actual practical exam and to be more prepared to pass the exam from 1st attempt.

Passing Aruba ACDX Practical Exam

Passing ACDX practical exam is the main step or milestone in achieving ACDX certification. The datasheet for the written exam includes the steps and requirements to register, and these steps help you prepare your environment for the lab and show you what to expect on that day.

The link includes many important steps and links. For example:

If you have ever applied for any Aruba Expert level exam, the experience is similar.

This is an eight-hour exam watched by a proctor. It has strict security to check your ID and make sure there’s nothing around that could unfairly help with the exam.

The exam is offered online (ensure this is still the case before starting the process). Before exam day, prepare the room where you plan to take the exam. Follow the rules for taking HPE and Aruba practical exams carefully to avoid any issues while starting the exam or during exam time.

The exam includes a scenario similar to the mock exam, and you will be provided with tools like VisualRF and IRIS in a remote lab environment. After reading the system and understanding the requirements, you will be able to complete four parts:

  1. IRIS BoM (45% of exam score)
  2. Written essays (30% of the score)
  3. AirWAve VisualRF (15% of exam score)
  4. IRIS Network Diagrams (10% of exam score)
skills
skills

ACDX exam has ten written essays and nine practical tasks. The essay questions and tasks are on different tabs. You may work on them in any order until the time expires. 

Business and technical requirements

For the practical tasks in the scenario, you will be given a list of business and technical requirements. The score reflects how well you met the requirements. Read the requirements VERY carefully.

  • The tasks build on each other.
  • Everything is graded at the end of the testing session (tasks and essays.)
  • There is no score for each task or each essay.
  • The tasks and objectives are mapped to the purposes listed below.
  • In the practical tasks, you must create three files: IRIS diagram, Airwave Visual RF (heatmap), and IRIS BoM. 
  • You MUST save these files in the specified format and the ACDX Results folder. You will receive a zero score if they are not in the correct location or format.
  • If a business or technical requirement is unmet, a zero score may be given even if you complete the task and submit your work. 
  • A panel of subject matter experts determined the possible responses to each practical task and essay question to allow for as many outcomes and responses that meet the requirements.
  • You will receive your final exam results in 48 business hours.

Passing the highest technical certification in Aruba makes you recognized as an expert in that field, not only in Aruba products. Undoubtedly, practical exams have more credibility in the market than theoretical or written ones, which is attributed to valid reasons.

Exam Day: What to Expect in the Aruba ACDX Practical Exam

The exam is about creating a BoM and design for a sample customer. This customer scenario can be an airport, hospital, or any other customer. You will receive a floor plan and requirements for LAN, WLAN security, and applications. You will be required to:

  • Create a heatmap for the provided floor plan. The heatmap should show the AP location and RF plan. During the exam, you will have access to Airwave and VisualRF tools in the LAB environment. The sample floor plan below is for a hospital.
  • Create a BoM using IRIS for wired and WLAN as per customer requirements provided in the exam. You need to select the appropriate APs based on performance and speed requirements. A few notes here:
    1. It is essential to avoid low-entry APs and focus on enterprise-grade APs. 
    2. For switches, PoE support should be based on selected APs. Please consider the power budget and pick the required power supplies based on the number of APs and other PoE devices per switch.
  • Create topology using IRIS. You should be able to create multiple topologies for the same customer using IRIS. You need to practice this very well before exam time to do this accurately and quickly during exam time.
  • There will be essay questions about the solution or general about Aruba products and solutions. Examples:
    1. Why use a cluster
    2. Why use a specific AP and another (make sure to understand the number of antennas and radios per AP and the use of this.
    3. Switch selection based on PoE standards and power budget. 
    4. Controller selection is based on throughput and the number of users, not only the number of APs.

Practising VisualRF and IRIS are integral to your chance of passing the exam on the 1st attempt. Understanding datasheets and features of Aruba products helps answer essay questions, compare other products, and select the right product for customer scenarios.

Final Thoughts on Aruba ACDX

Achieving the Aruba ACDX certification marks a significant achievement for network professionals. It showcases a high level of expertise in Aruba network solutions and opens up advanced career opportunities. The certification journey, from Associate (ACDA) through Professional (ACDP) to Expert (ACDX), prepares individuals with the skills to handle complex design challenges.

Preparation is crucial for both the written and practical exams. Stay focused on your goals throughout this journey, and let the ACDX certification lead you to new professional heights in network design.

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