JNCIA-Junos Passed!

Yesterday, I took and passed my first Juniper exam! Although I’ve been MIA from the blog, I haven’t been MIA from studying and learning new things which included some studying for Juniper’s JNCIA-Junos (JN0-101) exam. I’ve known about Juniper’s certification program for some time now, I just had no immediate plans to study for any of their exams and if you read on, it really made sense why. I had no experience with any Juniper platforms and will continue to not work with their platforms in a work environment for the foreseeable future. So the question you probably have is “Why study for it then?”. Well, I caught a bit of the Juniper bug over the last few months while talking with some folks in the #packetpushers channel on irc.freenode.net and while reading Anthony Burke’s (@pandom) wonderful blogs on different Juniper topics so I did what any curious IT professional would do; I decided to do some research for myself.

First I started with some research on some of the platforms that Juniper offered, specifically their switching platform, the EX series. I was very impressed with the performance of even the lowest model in the series and all of the bells and whistles that the OS offered for them. The OS being the well-received Junos. After the EX series, I dug into the SRX series which includes security and routing offerings that are also very impressive. The SRX series also runs the Junos OS which really led me to start looking into Junos and how it differed from Cisco’s IOS since it seemed to be the common denominator across the 2 platforms.

As I delved into Junos, I realized there was an entry level exam that covered the basics of Junos and the platforms that used it. I made the decision to go for the certification since I was already taking the time to read all about it. I used several study tools that Juniper offers to study for the test along with a wonderful gesture from someone that I’ll tell you about at the end of this post. Juniper offers some wonderful, FREE web-based training (WBT) on their site. There are 2 that I recommend viewing if you are still young in your networking career. The first is the Networking Fundamentals WBT which cover the basics of networking from a non-vendor specific point of view and includes practice test questions at the end of each section. While I believe I have a pretty good foundation of the basics, these short burst sections were interesting and worth the time it took to view them. You do not need a user account on Juniper’s site to view this WBT in particular. The second is the Junos as a Second Language WBT which goes over the basics of the Junos OS and how it differs from Cisco’s IOS. If you have Cisco IOS experience, this training is easy to follow and helps you compare and contrast the differences between the two. You will need a Juniper site user account to view these, but do not worry, they are still FREE to watch. Juniper also offers Day One books that aim to have you configuring a Juniper device on day one of receiving the hardwar despite any lack of experience. These books are well written, cover a wide variety of topics and are also FREE if you download the PDF versions from their site. Some of these books can also be downloaded for free from the Apple store or Google’s Play store while others must be purchased for 99 cents USD. If you are new to Juniper and Junos like I was, I recommend reading these at the very least that can be found under the Junos Fundamentals section:

As far as the exam goes, I really like what Juniper is doing. They use Pearson VUE to deliver their exams just like Cisco, however, you have to create a separate account on Pearson VUE’s site just for Juniper when scheduling your first exam. When your exam is loaded at the test center, you have to read and agree to the JNCP Candidate Agreement just as many other vendors do including Cisco before you are able to start the exam. Once you accept the agreement, the exam immediately starts. I’m not sure if it’s like this for all Juniper exams, but there were no preparation screens or examples of some of the test questions you might expect to see as which is the opposite of a Cisco exam. The lack of those screens definitely didn’t hinder me from taking the exam and passing, but was just a small difference I noticed right off the bat. Two HUGE differences from Cisco’s exams that I noticed were that I could mark a question for later review and I could also go back to a question while taking the exam. These 2 things are invaluable to me and help prevent you from spending too much time on a question when you know you can come back to it later. I applaud Juniper for allowing this and I wish Cisco would follow suit. The exam was very fair and covered all of the exam objectives. The questions were well-worded and the images were clear and concise when presented. At the end of the test, you are given the opportunity to go back and review any of the questions, including the ones you marked and it will also notify you if you failed to completely answer a question. Once you confirm that you are done reviewing the questions, you are presented with the gut-wrenching pass/fail screen. I like the way Juniper grades your exam over Cisco. With Cisco, they score your exam based on some number usually falling between 300 and 1000 while Juniper gives you a percentage score while also specifying what you needed to pass. When your test sheet is printed, it not only gives you the percentage of questions you got right for each section, it also tell you the number of questions you answered correctly and how many were asked.

In closing, I’d like to say that I was very impressed with the whole experience of studying and taking my first Juniper exam. Between the free web-based training and books that they provide to the actual exam experience itself, they were all top notch in my humble opinion. I look forward to studying for other Juniper exams in the future whenever that may be. Without having dedicated access to the hardware and/or working with it at my current $dayjob, it will be hard to give it a lot of focus but that’s not to say I won’t get that “itch” again and find myself studying for something like the JNCIS-ENT which covers enterprise routing and switching. I’d also like to give a big thanks to Tyler Christiansen (@packettalk) for giving me remote-access into his Juniper lab. Although, I didn’t have much time during my 3 weeks of study to actually sit down and dig into the CLI, I appreciate the fact that he offered this access to someone he barely knows. This speaks to the great networking community that I have come to know and love over these last couple of years. People are willing to help people they barely know for the greater good. Thanks again Tyler!

Take care everyone!