Virtualization topics in the new CompTIA A+ exams (220-801 and 220-802)

September 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Posted in CompTIA | 1 Comment
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If you’ve been keeping up with CompTIA news, you know that the new A+ series (220-801 and 220-802) will be available in October 2012. Based on the Exam Objectives released by CompTIA and my past knowledge as a Subject Matter Expert, I’ve already started developing Transcender’s practice tests for the new A+ series.

As part of the new exam series, CompTIA has included some objectives that specifically cover virtualization. I wanted to take some time here to explain the level of knowledge on this topic recommended to pass the exams. I also wanted to cover using virtualization in a classroom environment for A+ technician training.

In the two new A+ exams, there are four areas that cover virtualization in some way: three bullet points in 220-801 and one entire subobjective in 220-802. The points that cover virtualization are as follows:

In 220-801:

  • Objective 1.1 Configure and apply BIOS settings.
    • BIOS configurations
      • Virtualization support
  • Objective 1.6 Differentiate among various CPU types and features and select the appropriate cooling method.
    • Characteristics
      • Virtualization support
  • Objective 1.9 Evaluate and select appropriate components for a custom configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs.
    • Virtualization workstation – Maximum RAM and CPU cores

For 220-801 Objectives 1.1 and 1.6, the main thing to understand is that certain vendor BIOS versions and CPUs have actually been created to provide additional hardware support for virtualization. In its infancy, virtualization worked entirely through software. But with recent advances, vendors have created BIOS versions and CPUs that support hardware-based virtualization. Is it necessary to have a BIOS or CPU that provides this level of specialization? No. You can still run software-based virtualization. But like special gaming graphics cards help gaming computers perform better, having a BIOS and CPU that provides hardware-based virtualization support will make your virtual environment much more efficient.  Intel or AMD Virtualization Technology uses the hardware more efficiently and is controlled by the BIOS. But it is disabled by default in the BIOS.

For 220-801 Objective 1.9, the main thing to understand is that you need a fast processor (or multiple processors) and lots of RAM. RAM is the one component in a computer that limits the number of virtual machines that you can run simultaneously. The RAM and CPU are the two primary considerations when designing a computer that will host virtual machines.

In 220-802:

  • Objective 1.9 Explain the basics of client-side virtualization.
    • Purpose of virtual machines
    • Resource requirements
    • Emulator requirements
    • Security requirements
    • Network requirements
    • Hypervisor

For 220-802 Objective 1.9, there are multiple points that you must understand. Virtual machines are not physical computers, even though they will look like separate physical servers to any remote users. Virtualization allows administrators to install multiple operating systems on a single physical computer. Each separate virtual machine can then provide separate services. But the virtual machines are only capable of operating at the performance limits of the physical server, and the virtual machines must share the resources of the physical server. So if the physical server only has 4 GB of memory, the performance of each virtual server is limited to part of that 4 GB of memory.

The security of each virtual machine must be considered as well. Simply securing the physical server is not enough. Each virtual machine will need the appropriate security, anti-virus, and anti-malware software configured. Each virtual machine will also need its own network configuration if remote users will need to access the virtual machines via the network.

Finally, test-takers should understand that virtual machine managers are applications that run on top of a host operating system, while hypervisors are virtualization software that do NOT need a host operating system. Virtual machines managers include VMWare Workstation, Virtual PC, MAC OS X Parallels, and Linux KVM. Hypervisors include ESX and HyperV.

In closing, I want to encourage you to actually install some of the virtualization products that are available. Learning about the basics of virtualization is important. But setting up a few virtual machines can actually make the world of virtualization come alive. There are many options out there, some of which are free (our favorite!). My suggestion is to take a look at the following:

Using any one of these tools would be particularly helpful in a classroom. You can configure multiple virtual machines for your students and allow them to “break” them. Simply make sure that you have a backup of the VHD file under another name, and you can restore the VM using a flash drive.

Watch for my upcoming post where I explain the Mobile Devices objective in 220-802. Until then, happy testing!

-Robin Abernathy

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  1. […] month, I posted an article about the virtualization topics in the new A+ exams. At that time, I indicated that I would be posting about the new mobile devices topics. I expected […]

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