JNCIA-Junos passed. Up next: JNCIS-SP

8da476f72f06a276b1f930cdb28c21f1_XLThis was my first Juniper test. I used only the free material provided by Juniper (of which I took notes). I found the subject matter to be very easy, and at this point in my career I definitely should, as this exam is essentially the “CCNA of Juniper.” However, I will say that I found the provided training material to be quite lacking compared to the final content on the exam. If I was just starting out in networking and took this exam first instead of the CCNA, it would have been much more difficult because there are some networking basics, such as conversion of binary to decimal and the operational differences between hubs, switches and routers, that I don’t recall seeing in the free training material.

So, with my introduction to using another vendor’s equipment, I can definitely say that all the important concepts are exactly the same, they are just implemented differently. This is exactly what I was hoping to get out of studying Juniper. I now know with confidence that I can take the things I’ve learned from Cisco and apply them to other vendor’s equipment with relative ease — it’s really just a matter of learning the syntax.

And on that note, I have heard people say that after they got into Juniper (coming from Cisco), they liked the syntax much better. I have to say that I am not there yet. Configuring Junos does not yet feel as natural to me as it does on Cisco. I’ll admit, I do like the way some things are organized in the command structure, but overall I still prefer Cisco’s way of doing things at this point.

Now I’m going to study for the JNCIS-SP, which is more or less equivalent to the CCNP Service Provider certification. One thing Juniper does that I very much prefer over Cisco is the pricing structure of their exams. With the Fast Track program, the JNCIS-SP is a single exam (despite covering three courses of material), costing only $100, compared to the Cisco CCNP Service Provider, which is four exams, costing a total of $800. The JNCIS-SP, I feel, is going to be a very nice introduction or maybe transition into studying for the Cisco CCIE coming from the CCNP.

CCDP acquired; now a short detour to Juniper

New Juniper branch routersI passed the CCDP today. I don’t feel like the content of the exam was balanced in the same manner as was represented in the FLG. For example, as I said in my previous post, about 1/4 of the content in the FLG dealt with security design, but the exam covered other topics much more heavily. In addition, there was one question in particular that had answers that were worded somewhat ambiguously — I had to be very careful in trying to decide the true meaning of the question. Hopefully I got it right 🙂

Unless my plans change, this should be my last Cisco exam before attempting the CCIE. I say that because my current intention is to pursue the Juniper JNCIA-Junos and JNCIS-SP exams, then work on getting my CCIE. I also say that because I will probably at least review some of the training materials for the other Cisco tracks, such as security (especially since at this point in time, I have not yet configured the ubiquitous ASA firewall). Upon reviewing the material, I may or may not decide to actually get certified on it.

I decided to pursue Juniper certifications because I want exposure to other vendors’ equipment. Since Juniper is pretty much #2 to Cisco, and since most of their equipment is geared toward the service provider environment, where I want to eventually land, it made sense to me to broaden my horizons a little bit before going after the CCIE. Juniper provides nice incentives with their Fast Track program, which includes free training for the JNCIA and JNCIS as well as 50% off their already less-expensive-than-Cisco exam prices. I’ve already passed their free web-based pre-test to receive the 50% discount code for the JNCIA. I am going to study on that for the next couple of weeks then take the JNCIA-Junos exam.

Briefly going over the curriculum for the JNCIS-SP exam, it looks like the material will transition nicely from the knowledge of CCNP to beginning to study for the CCIE.

Just two years ago, the CCNA seemed a little distant. It still sounds weird to me to say that I’m going to be studying for the CCIE soon. I’m very excited and looking forward to the weeks of reading and labbing. 🙂

Reading the CCDP FLG

132701Studying for the CCDP exam has been a great experience, and I’ve been exposed to so much great information through the FLG textbook. This book definitely helped to explain several technologies that I have heard about and have had vague ideas about up to this point, such as the various internals (and externals) of both service provider networks and Cisco-designed data centers.

I’ve also learned about some design aspects of enterprise campus networks that were not really covered in the ROUTE and SWITCH materials, such as making sure that only your core layer is in OSPF area 0 when possible, and to use totally stubby areas when possible to help speed convergence in large topologies. The ROUTE exam, for instance, completely covers the configuration of multi-area OSPF, but it really doesn’t go into any sort of depth as to why you would want to configure things a certain way.

Another thing I found interesting is that while the SWITCH exam covers SSO and NSF basic configuration, I didn’t feel like it explained very well that SSO is for L2 and NSF is for L3. Also from SWITCH I got the impression that this was a core layer technology, but the CCDP makes it very clear that this technology serves the access layer best. The concept of oversubscription was not covered on SWITCH at all either, but is definitely a good consideration and is explained well on CCDP.

I found the section on data center design to be thoroughly fascinating. One of the subsections I thought was great was the idea of supporting 1,000 servers in a data center using a Top of Rack vs. End of Row switching design. I think this might be the first time I’ve been given a look into how a large data center would actually be cabled for network connectivity and it gave me some new ideas to consider. The FLG gives the hypothetical of supporting 1,000 servers via 80 TOR switches, or 8 larger EOR switches, and the differences in cabling each. And of course the (expensive) best of both worlds with the Nexus 5000 + 2000 FEXs.

Probably one fourth of the book covered various aspects of security. At this point in time, I’ve had a basic-level understanding of security. I understand the theory behind most general types of attacks, and the purpose and positioning of firewalls. I’ve even implemented CBAC-based firewalls in Cisco routers. However, there is definitely a much deeper level of knowledge available out there and studying for the CCDP has made me consider at least reviewing the materials for the Cisco security exams, even if I don’t actually pursue the certifications.

There is a lot of information within this book, and while it certainly goes much deeper than the CCDA material, it still makes me wonder just how difficult it is to pass the CCDE. With the CCDP, experience will definitely help (as with any Cisco exam), but it is definitely going to be passable without having much actual enterprise-level experience. However, I don’t believe the CCDE is the same way 🙂