Back to the blog, now that the JNCIE-SP is finished. I got #2332. The last time I did an expert-level exam was 2008, and I forgot just how challenging it is. I passed my JNCIP in June and it took me until November, working solidly most of the time, to get my number. It’s been a great experience. I work in a director-level architecture role at Juniper, and I am getting more and more removed from day-to-day, hands-on work. When I was in Cisco TAC, it was extremely technical, detailed work every day. Now it is meetings and PowerPoints. However, my ability to contribute at this level is entirely dependent on my technical expertise, and it feels great to refresh the knowledge and hit the CLI again. They say CLI will be dead with automation and SDN–don’t count on it. They can’t change the fundamental way networks operate, and when you look at SDN solutions, they are a lot more complicated then how they are presented. Being acquainted with MPLS and routing protocols in depth is the best preparation for anything to come, and the only way to learn those topics is at the command line. Period.

I will post some more thoughts on the exam and cover specific topic more in depth on this half-neglected blog. Unfortunately it seems to be running a bit slowly, so I will try to make the response time more tolerable. Meanwhile, here is a repost of some of my initial thoughts which I posted to the TechExams community.


 

I finally got my score report and got my number, 2332. Nice and symmetrical. I wanted to pass along a few thoughts on this exam, strategies for taking it, etc.

Since I have two CCIE’s, the first thing people ask is: how does JNCIE compare? Well, I passed my first CCIE in 2004 and my second in 2008, so I don’t know what the current CCIE exam is like. However, I will say that the current JNCIE-SP exam is easily as difficult as the CCIE exams I took, and possibly harder. I failed my first try and I was astounded by the difficulty. I came in thoroughly prepared, and crashed and burned. As I walked out of the exam room, the other guy who was taking SP looked at me and just shook his head. “Terrible,” he said. This test is no joke, and you need to know the material on the exam objectives very well. Unfortunately, the best way to prepare is to fail the exam once, since it gives you the best idea of what they are looking for.

My preparation: I am a Juniper employee, which is an advantage. I have easy access to the education services slideware, which is excellent. If you are external you can purchase it. Do. Go through every slide and condense it into notes. You’ll want to know all the scenarios they present, and all the configuration options. Try everything in the lab.

I took the JNCIE-SP bootcamp here at Juniper in August. The course is mostly labs, of course, so don’t do it until you have passed your JNCIP and feel confident in all subject areas. The bootcamp was very helpful, and focused my studying. I learned quite a few things from the labs and slides, and also from our instructor, who knows the test quite well. Despite all the above, the bootcamp is not adequate in and of itself. There are some topics that are not covered (e.g. hub and spoke) which are on the exam objectives. Know all the topics listed in the objectives.
I used lab scenarios from the bootcamp. I supplemented these with self-designed labs on specific topics (e.g., hub and spoke VPN, VLAN normalization). After I failed the exam the first time, I created a much more complex lab designed to simulate a service provider environment, which is how the actual lab is designed. Due to NDA, I won’t be sharing that lab.

I used Junosphere for all of my labs, and an internal Juniper tool that is similar. I didn’t touch physical hardware for practice. Everything you need to do, you can do in Junosphere.

I managed to finish the lab 2 hours early the second time, and went back and fixed a few errors. I actually realized I had made a mistake on one section while I was driving home. Luckily I had enough points elsewhere to pass.
A side note: Juniper says it may take up to 15 business days to receive your score. It will take 15 business days to receive you score. Plan accordingly. Once you take the test, don’t check your email every five minutes. Put it out of your mind and go on with life.
These are just some initial thoughts. I’ve learned so much over the last months and I am happy to have done it. My third expert-level networking exam will almost certainly be my last.

To those of you who are studying for this test or any other: good luck!