Over the last 3 months I have done 350 hours of study towards my JNCIE-ENT lab exam. I had the fortune of being selected to participate in the beta version of a new exam version. Again (as I did for the JNCIE-SP – see my article on this here) I travelled over to the SF Bay Area to do this exam, which I took in Sunnyvale on 21st February (yesterday as I write this while waiting for my flight back to NZ at SFO airport).
I decided to take a few days of annual leave (PTO for American folk) and fly in on the Monday (with the exam on the Friday) in order that I could meet with various people in SF who I know online but had not yet met in person. I had an awesome time doing this, and it’s awesome to have put a heap of faces to names of people I have known for quite some time but never met!
As with all expert level exams, no matter how good you are, a significant amount of study is going to be required. You need to combine a wide ranging detailed knowledge of a heap of different protocols with expert level troubleshooting and debugging skills. The exam was 8.5 hours (8 hours normally, plus an extra half hour due to the exam still being in beta), which seems like a long time, but there are a lot of tasks to complete, and tasks often require a fair amount of configuration to complete.
One of the things that is important to note with these exams is that while you are required to achieve the tasks involved, you don’t have to do anything more – so it’s important to remember exactly what the task specifies. You are not trying to make a perfectly built network – you just need to achieve the goals they lay out to pass!
The JNCIE-ENT focuses on Enterprise Routing & Switching (like a CCIE R&S) – and is geared towards a practical (and realistic) enterprise deployment with a bunch of features you are likely to see. Having said this though, I can’t think of any network where you would see all the odd things you were required to do in this exam – but most networks have one or two of the tasks. The full syllabus list can be found here.
I have always been a big believer that the most important thing in preparing for an expert level exam is to use a wide range of resources to prepare – generally each one will have good and bad elements, but together they present a well rounded view of what is required. Additionally – nothing beats practical operational/architectural experience using the technologies in the exam. Knowing how to drive the right show commands / enable the correct traceoptions / do the right tcpdump is really important in this exam.
My reading list was as follows;
- The InetZero JNCIE-ENT preparation lab book
- The Proteus JNCIE-ENT workbook
- Junos Enterprise Switching (O’Reilly)
- Junos Enterprise Routing 2nd ed (O’Reilly)
- The Juniper Day One guides
- Interdomain Multicast Routing (Practical Juniper & Cisco Solutions)
- Various Juniper courseware;
- Junos Multicast Routing (JMR)
- Junos Class of Service (JCOS)
- Advanced Junos Enterprise Routing (AJER)
- Advanced Junos Enterprise Switching (AJEX)
- Advanced Junos Service Provider Routing (AJSPR)
I also rented a bunch of lab time from InetZero, however unfortunately there was only a very limited amount of lab time available to book in the 3 months I was preparing, so I did not manage to use all my vouchers (hint – if you are doing this, be sure to check with them what times they have available before you buy!).
Finally – I had a fairly extensive lab available at work, and used Junosphere quite a bit to lab various routing features. All in all, by the time I took the exam I was feeling as prepared as I could be, and actually ended up deciding to do absolutely no study in the last week I was in SF – as I had done (hopefully) more than enough prior to that.
I cannot say much about the actual lab – only that there were a lot of interesting and unique tasks – and that it was a really enjoyable day of configuring and troubleshooting! I had everything done after about 5 hours, then spent another hour double and triple checking everything. I’m proud to say that I walked out 2.5 hours early after getting to the point where I was sure everything was right (though of course there’s always the chance that I will have to eat my words if I’ve overlooked some major points and I end up failing!).
I felt that the exam was pitched at a fair level, ensuring the participant met the level required, while sticking to scenarios that you might be required to see in real life. Now I have to wait 2 months while all the other participants do the exam before they will mark them all together then figure out what the passing score is going to be (and then if I have made it!). I have always found that waiting for the result of an exam like this is super-painful, so I will be trying to keep busy and not think about it over the next wee while until I get the pass/fail mail!
Thanks to all those who were preparing for the exam or had already done it, particularly my “study buddies” Tyler and Campo, both of whom I would regularly bounce things off (as they would do the same to me). If you are studying for one of these exams I would highly recommend buddying up with a couple of people to do this – sometimes nothing is more helpful than someone else’s perspective on a problem.
Stay tuned for the result as soon as I have it!