Exam Review: JNCIS-ENT (JN0-343)

Published On 2010/10/22 | By Kurt Bales | Certification

As you may have heard, Juniper has been shaking up their certification program – and all I can say is “It’s for the better!”.

In an effort to consolidate the disparate certification tracks (which were previously product based), they have moved towards being more centered around the market segments (and by extension the careers of the engineers going for the certs).

The first change was migrating the M track to becoming the Service Provider track. This is actually the track that would have made the most sense for my 9 to 5 (also 5 – 9) job, but as usual I don’t like to follow convention.

In August, it was announced that the exam I had been studying for (JNCIS-ER) was being retired, and that a new exam track which brought together both the -ER (Routing) and -EX (Switching) in the context of Enterprise Networking was being released. I decided to instead sit the JNCIA-ER exam (which I blogged about previously and received some interesting feedback 😉 ), and then wait until the new JNCIS-ENT course was announced.

It was an anxious wait with the teasers about the new exam coming out of the JNCP office! In early October the exam objectives were announced, then quickly followed by course material being available on the Juniper Fast Track website. I am fairly sure the fast track information had been up for maybe an hour before I had downloaded it and started working on a study plan.

At this point I knew that I had about a week before Prometric would allow me to book the exam, and I knew I wanted to be one of the first people with this certification. Its an ego thing – leave me alone. Unfortunately fate (well a friend’s wedding) would see me out of town the first 3 days the exam was available to sit, and during this time a friend from the twitterverse managed to beat me to it (JERK!). So instead I booked for the following weekend (October 16th).

I figured I had all the time in the world to study for this exam (1 week to be exact), and that I would manage to get all of it in with time to spare, and maybe relax with a few dirty chais pretending that I was enjoying it! Once again, fate intervened. After the 3 day weekend interstate for a wedding, I managed to have an extremely busy week preparing for my presentation at the Australian IPv6 Summit, as well as the lab guide for the training I was presenting on the first day (I flew out to the summit the day after I sat my exam).

Never fear, I can read through 160 pages of routing study guide on the Thursday night, and 140 pages of switching on the Friday. Well, maybe I can read 50 pages on Thursday, but I will head home early on Friday and read all of the remaining sections Friday night. Yeah, that’s a great plan! Lets move on with that.

So, on rolls 6pm Friday night, and I’m still in the office. I’m making every effort to be out of there without anybody stopping me! Phone rings – customer has a problem and somehow I’m the only one able to fix it. Joy! I guess I can study while supporting an onsite engineer. Maybe I can get a few pages in while he is moving between locations.

No. No I couldn’t. By the time I left the office at a 21:45, I had read 3 pages and possibly remembered half a sentence at most! Never fear! The exam isn’t until 10am – that’s more than 12 hours away, and I can still read when I get home. My wife had a different opinion on the matter! Never mind I can get up early, drive the 100+ km back to Sydney and be at the exam centre early and read from the car park.

3 alarm clocks and and two snooze cycles later, I managed to get away on time. I should make it with plenty of time to spare. Wait… what’s that up ahead? Why is there traffic as far as the eye can see? This doesn’t fit at all with my plan.

So a lesson for life – don’t curse at traffic on the freeway and wish bad thoughts on who ever caused it! If only because you will feel really bad when you see that its a Rural Fire Service truck over turned in the middle lane. That moment really snapped my perspective into shape!

So I made it to the exam centre with 30 minutes to spare, so I decided best bet was to flick through both guides as a refresher, and go in trusting on the experience I have gained over the past exams I have studied for and real world experience.

Sign in, sit down, and get underway! Here is my review of the exam:

  • JNCP have put a lot of thought into their new plan and the work has paid off
  • The study material provided on the Fast Track portal vastly superior to the previous material on the site. If you have previous theory knowledge on the exam objective topic areas, these study guides should be enough to get you through. If not, you should look to supplementing your knowledge with some of the great courses offered by your local Juniper training partners.
  • Between the time I sat my JNCIA-ER and JNCIS-ENT, I have learnt a lot more about the Juniper philosophy of building skills layer on layer throughout the certification process. Unfortunately this makes several of my comments about the JNCIA less valid – such a focus on “simple” features, J-Web, or the low end focus. Each exam is there to test a level of knowledge, and the following exam builds on that without repeating content.
  • The merging of the Routing and Switching tracks makes a lot of sense, and the content has been very well distributed between the two.
  • Don’t be cocky! You will need to study for this one, and you will need to know the theory behind each of the technologies from the exam objectives. Try and get some hands on with both routers and switches.
  • There were several questions about correct configuration of certain features from the exam objectives. If you know the theory, and have practical experience with the Junos configuration model, it shouldn’t be too hard to pick between the different options.
  • The exam confirmed things I already knew – my skills were strongest in BGP, Protocol Independent Routing and HA. My weakest areas were Spanning Tree (know the default values!), and IS-IS
  • IS-IS? In an enterprise? It’s not unheard of, but its far from common! Given that it is the only scalable IGP other than OSPF on the Junos platform, I can understand why it is in the exam. My previous certification and study experience had given me a basic theory for IS-IS, but I should have focused more on the implementation of this to supplement the theory.
  • While the exam felt heavier in IS-IS and spanning tree questions at the time, when I think back I must admit the questions were evenly placed, but because of my weakness in those areas they really stood out in my mind.
  • The pass mark for this exam was lower than I expected, but this is probably good news for many out there!
  • The discounted price of this exam if you go via the Fast Track program certainly makes it viable to sit the exam to get a feel for it!

My result? Well I really thought the result could have gone either way once I closed my eyes and hit submit on the final question and review stage. I knew I had nailed some of the questions, but there still felt like many I wasn’t sure about. Nervously I opened my eyes to the news I had passed! It wasn’t the greatest score I have received in a test, but I had pulled off what I come to do!

So what’s next? Well, the JNCIP-ENT hasn’t been released yet, but I am certainly keen to get started on that as soon as the exam objectives and format are released some time in the new year! In the mean time I have to pass my CCDA (worst exam in the world to study for as an engineer!), and continue preparing for my upcoming CCIE written exam.

Special Thanks

I think special mention needs to be made of Liz Burns and her team at the JNCP. If you aren’t already, you should start following @JuniperCertify on Twitter. Liz provided a lot of information in preparation for the exams, as well as encouragement in the weeks leading up to the exam. The JNCP team are really great community ambassadors for Juniper. Liz and Kieran from the JNCP also featured on PacketPusher’s Runt Packet this last week outlining the future of certification at Juniper.

Thanks to Nick (@NetDonkey) and Chris (@ccie25655) for the encouragement and friendly competition in getting ready for the exam.

Lastly, thanks to those three readers of my mindless blog ramblings!

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About The Author

Kurt is a Network Engineer based out of Sydney Australia. He a the Senior Network Engineer at ICT Networks where he spends his time building Service Provider networks, and enterprise WAN environments. He holds his CCNP and JNCIE-ENT, and currently studying for his JNCIE-SP and CCIE R&S. Find out more about Kurt at http://network-janitor.net/ and you can follow him on Twitter.