The balancing act of choosing a solution based on Requirements & Budget Constraints

I am frequently asked how to architect solutions when you have constraint/s which prevent you meeting requirements. It is not unusual for customers to have an expectation that they need and can get the equivalent of a Porsche 911 turbo for the price of a Toyota Corolla.

It’s also common for less experienced architects to focus straight away on budget constraints before going through a reasonable design phase and addressing requirements.

If you are constrained to the point you cannot afford a solution that comes close to meeting your requirements, the simple fact is, that customer is in pretty serious trouble no manner how you look at it. But this is rarely the case in my experience.

Typically customers simply need to sit down with an experienced architect and go through what business outcomes they want to achieve. Then the architect will ask a range of questions to help clarify the business goals and translate those into clearly defined Requirements.

I also find customers frequently think they need (or have been convinced by a vendor) that they need more than what they do to achieve the outcomes, e.g.: Thinking you need Active/Active datacenters with redundant 40Gb WAN links when all you need is VM High Availability and async rep to DR on 1Gb WAN links.

So my point here is always start with the following:

  • Step 1: What is the business problem/s the customer is trying to solve.

Until the customer, VAR , Solution Architect and vendor/s understand this and it is clearly documented, do not proceed any further. Without this information, and a clear record of what needs to be achieved, the project will likely fail.

At this stage its important to also understand any constraints such as Project Timelines, CAPEX budget & OPEX budget.

  • Step 2: Research potential solutions

Once you have a clear understanding of the problem, desired outcome / requirements, then its time for you to research (or engage a VAR to do this on your behalf) what potential products could provide a solution that addresses the business outcome, requirements etc.

  • Step 3: Provide VAR and/or Vendors detailed business problem/s, requirements and constraints.

This is where the customer needs to take some responsibility. A VAR or Vendor who is kept in the dark is unlikely to be able to deliver anything close to the desired outcome. While customers don’t like to give out information such as budget, without it, it just creates more work for everyone, and ultimately drives up the cost to the VAR/vendor which in turn gets passed onto customers.

With a detailed understanding of the desired business outcomes, requirements and constraints the VAR/vendor should provide a high level indicative solution proposal with details on CAPEX and ideally OPEX to show a TCO.

In many cases the lowest CAPEX solution has the highest OPEX which can mean a significantly higher TCO.


  • Step 4: Customer evaluates High level Solution Proposal/s

The point here is to validate if the proposed solution will provide the desired business outcome and if it can do so within the budget. At this stage it is importaint to understand how the solution meets/exceeds each requirement and being able to trace a design back to the business outcomes. This is why it’s critical to document the requirements so the high level design (and future detailed design) can address each criteria.

If the proposed solution/s do meet/exceed the business requirements, then the question is, Do they fall within the allocated budget?

If so, great! Choose your preferred vendor solution and proceed.

If not, then a proposal needs to be put to the business for additional budget. If that is approved, again great and you can proceed.

If additional CAPEX/OPEX cannot be obtained then this is where the balancing act really gets interesting and an experienced architect will be of great value.

  • Step 5: Reviewing Business outcomes/requirements (and prioritise requirements!)

So lets say we have three requirements, R001, R002 and R003. All are importaint, but the simple fact at this point is the budget is insufficient to deliver them all.

This is where a good solution architect sets the customers expectations as a trusted adviser. The expectation needs to be clearly set that the budget is insufficient to deliver all the desired business outcomes and the priorities need to be set.

Sit with the customer and put all requirements into priority order, then its back and forth with the vendors to provide a lower cost (CAPEX/OPEX or both) detailing the requirement which have and have not been met and any/all implications.

In my opinion the key in these situations is not to just “buy the best you can” but to document in detail what can and cannot be achieved with detailed explanations on the implications. For example, an implication might be the RPO goes from 1hr to 8hrs and the RTO for a business critical application extended from 1hr to 4hrs. In day to day operations the customer would likely not know the difference, but if/when an outage occurred, they would know and need to be prepared. The cost of a single outage can in many cases cost much more than the solution itself, which is why its critical to document everything for the customer.

In my experience, where the implications are significant and clearly understood by the customer (at both a technical and business level), it is not uncommon for customers to revisit the budget and come up with additional funds for the project. It is the job of the Solution Architect (who should always be the customer advocate) to ensure the customer understands what the solution can/cannot deliver.

Where the customer understands the implications (a.k.a Risks), it is importaint that they sign off on the risks prior to going with a solution that does not meet all the desired outcomes. The risks should be clearly documented ideally with examples of what could happen in situations such as failure scenarios.

Basic Flowchart of the above described process:

The below is a basic flowchart showing a simplified process of gathering business requirements/outcomes through to an outcome.

Starting in the top left, we have the question “Are the business problem/s you are trying to solve and the requirements documented?

From there its a follow the bouncing ball until we come to the dreaded “Is the solution/s within the budget constraints?”. This area is coloured grey for a reason, as this is where the balancing act occurs and delays can happen as indicated with the following shape DelayIconGreay.

Once the customer fully understand what they are or are not getting AND IT IS FULLY DOCUMENTED, then and only then should a customer (or VAR/Architect recommend too) proceed with a proposal.


The above is not an exhausting process, but just something to inspire some thought next time you or your customers are constrained by budget.


  • Don’t just “Buy what you can afford and hope for the best”
  • Document how requirements are (or are not) being met (That’s “Traceability” for all you VCDX/NPX candidates)
  • Document any risks/implications and mitigation strategies
  • Get sign off on any requirements which is not met
  • Always provide a customer with options to choose from, don’t assume they wont invest more to address risks to the business
  • If you can’t meet all requirements Day 1, ensure the design is scalable. A.k.a Start small and scale if/when required.
  • Avoid low cost solutions that will likely end up having to be thrown out

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How to validate VMware Certifications

It seems of late there is more and more people claiming to be VCDX as well as VCAP when they are not. This to me shows the people have no integrity and I would not want to work with a person who lied about a certification to try and get a job.

Luckily there is an easy way to validate if a person has a certification or not.

For VCDX its super easy, visit and enter the persons First Name, Last Name , VCDX Number or Company and you can quickly find out if they are VCDX or not.

See example below:


Another way is to have the person login to and open their transcript. The transcript shows all VMware certifications including VCA , VCP, VCAP , VCIX and VCDX.

The following shows part of my transcript which shows VCDX, VCAP and VCP certs inc:

  • VMware Certified Design Expert – Cloud
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Cloud Infrastructure Administration
  • VMware Certified Professional – Cloud


You will also see the “Share” button, what this does is allow you to give a URL to a prospective employer or recruiter for them to validate your certification/s.

To use this facility, simply click the “Share” button and you will be prompted with a window similar to the below:


This gives you two options:

1. Share the PDF version of your certificate with anyone by simply copy and pasting the URL.

You will see something similar to this:


2. Share the Certification Authentication form URL and Code and allow anyone to check the current status of your certification.

The following is what you will see when you click the Authentication Form button:


Simply type the random numbers and click Authenticate and you will see something similar to the below:CertFound

Simple as that!

I hope this post helps potential employers and recruiters validate candidates credentials and stamp out this growing trend of people claiming they have VMware certifications (especially VCDX) when they don’t.

My Journey to Double-VCDX

It was back in 2011 when I started my journey to VCDX which was a fantastic learning experience which has helped improve my skills as an Enterprise Architect.

After achieving VCDX-DCV in May 2012, I have continued to put the skills and experience I gained during my VCDX journey into practice, and came to the realization, of how little I actually know, and how much more there is learn.

I was looking for another certification challenge however there was no additional VCDX certification tracks at the time. Then VCDX-Cloud and VCDX-Desktop were released, I figured I should attempt VCDX-Cloud since my VCDX-DCV submission was actually based on a vCloud design.

At the time I didn’t have my VCAPs for Cloud, so as per my VCAP-CID Exam Experience and VCAP-CIA Exam Experience posts explain, I formed a study group and sat and passed both exams over a period of a few months.

Next came the VCDX application phase, I prepared my design in a similar fashion to my original application which basically meant reviewing the VCDX-Cloud Blueprint and ensuring all sections have been covered.

I sad part about submitting a second VCDX is that there is no requirement to redefend in person. As a result I suspect the impression is that achieving a second VCDX is easier. While I think this is somewhat true as the defence is no walk in the park, the VCDX submission still must be of an expert standard.

I suspect for first time VCDX applicants, the candidate may be given the benefit of the doubt if the documentation is not clear, has mistakes or contradicts itself in some areas as these points can be clarified or tested by the panellists during the design defence.

In the case of subsequent applications,  I suspect that Double-X candidates may not get the benefit of the doubt, as these points cannot be clarified. As a result, It could be argued the quality of the documentation needs to be of a higher standard so that everything in the design is clear and does not require clarification.

My tips for Double-X Candidates:

In addition to the tips in my original VCDX Journey Post:

  1. Ensure your documentation is of a level which could be handed to a competent engineer and implemented with minimal or no assistance.
  2. Ensure you have covered all items in the blueprint to a standard which is higher than your previous successful VCDX submission
  3. Make your design decisions clear and concise and ensure you have cross referenced relevant sections back to detailed customer requirements.
  4. Treat your Double-VCDX submission equally if not more seriously than your first applications. Ensure you dot all your “I”s and cross your “T”s.

I was lucky enough to have existing Double-VCDX Magnus Andersson (@magander3) and Nutanix colleague review my submission and give some excellent advice. So a big thanks Magnus!

What next?

Well just like when I completed my first VCDX, I was already looking for another challenge. Luckily I have already found the next certification and am well on the way to submitting my application for the Nutanix Platform Expert (NPX).

The VCDX-DCV and VCDX-Cloud have both been awesome learning experiences and I think both have proven to be great preparation for my NPX attempt, so stay tuned and with a bit of luck, you’ll be reading my NPX Journey in the not to distant future.