I feel a lot better after that. This year, my certification goals started out pretty light. My goal was basically going to be to ease back into the certification landscape after taking a year off, looking towards maybe CCNA and DevNet Associate.
Safe to say I accomplished my goals. Now in December, I have achieved DevNet Associate (8:30 AM the day the exam was released), DevNet Professional (ENAUTO and DEVCOR, back to back two days later), CCNP Enterprise (July), studied heavily for CCIE but couldn’t take the exam, and then tackled JNCIA-Junos and JNCIS-SP.
So this blog is all about my experience with the Juniper certifications and focusing on the JNCIS-SP.
A quick note on the JNCIA-Junos. This exam, to me, feels like an exam that is going through a bit of an identity crisis. I took this exam four years ago and found it to be very basic, but this time around I was caught quite off guard. Seems like they went through a bit of an overcorrection. Still, having worked with Juniper products for years and couple with the Junos Genius, I was able to pass after a couple days of studying.
The thing you need to know about JNCIA-Junos is this: The spirit of this exam isn’t an Associate level networking exam. The spirit of this exam is to setup newcomers to Junos for success by teaching them how Junos works and how to work with it. Junos is different, and if you follow me close enough and have seen my Juniper network automation work, you know why. It was created with programming in mind for the last 20 years and it’s configuration is very programmatic. So when you go into JNCIA-Junos, know that you will learn more about the platform an the OS than you will about networking. For example, there is no Layer 2 on the exam at all. No VLANs, no trunks, no SVIs.
Now on to JNCIS-SP.
What. An. Exam. Keep this in context: this was my first foray into the Service Provider world. The extent of my bridging knowledge (in SP terms) was 0. The extent of my MPLS knowledge was turning on MPLS with LDP by typing “mpls ip.” I’ve only ever looked at BGP from the Enterprise’s perspective.
So my SP knowledge is extremely limited. Here’s how I passed in two weeks:
1. Junos Genius – This should go without saying, but Juniper offers video training and practice exams for all of their tracks through their JNCIP equivalent. **I cannot stress this enough – if you are new to Service Provider, regardless of vendor, this is the place to start learning.** There simply is not much SP content out there in the world, is there? It’s even harder to find content of high quality. Well, Junos Genius has quality content in spades. But I have some tips on how to use it.
Watch them in the order that they are numbered. You NEED to watch the certification prep videos FIRST. The eLearning courses are more advanced, focused, and LONGER. The certification prep videos lay the foundation before you can move on to eLearning courses. But then, you may notice that the eLearning courses are sorted alphabetically. This is absolutely not the order you should learn them in.
For instance, if you started at the top of the list, you would learn CSPF first, then LDP signaling protocols, and then you would learn MPLS later. This would be a completely backwards way of learning these things (which is what I did, and ended up re-watching a lot of content).
Junos Genius alone is probably enough to land you a passing score, so long as you pay close attention and rip through the practice exams but be warned – you would not pass by a huge margin. I found that Junos Genius, while thorough and sufficient, did not cover all of the types of questions you could receive on the exam. Learners who are seriously pursuing a solid, passing score on JNCIS-SP will also need:
2. EVE-NG: You can register for a free Juniper account on their website which entitles you to ffree Juniper evaluation images. For the SP track, you will want to download and setup the vMX Evaluation images (but you might as well grab vSRX and vQFX devices while you are at it). Also worth pointing out, the first time I went to download these images, I received a permissions issue error saying I wasn’t entitled to the eval images. I fired up a chat support session, and after about 45 minutes, they were able to resolve the issue for me. They really do just have to flip a switch on their end.
3. Networkfuntimes.com blog. This is a blog written by a rare Juniper Ambassador, and an even rarer JNCIE-SP. It is extremely high quality and informative. Spend some time there and enjoy the laughs that come with it.
4. MPLS in the SDN Era – This is a book largely targeted on, well, MPLS but it has sprinkles of BGP scattered throughout it. Even cooler, it is a multi-vendor book. Almost all examples are in both Junos and IOS-XR, and highlights the interoperability of MPLS, LDP, RSVP, CSPF, IS-IS, BGP… you get the idea. Now, let me say this. The book is about taking people from zero to hero, so if you read the whole book, you’ll be at or approaching JNCIE level. But let me say that I did not feel overwhelmed or challegend while reading this. It starts out with the basics and paces itself nicely.