Juniper Lab Experiences – My second attempt at JNCIE-ENT
As many of you know, I had the honour and good fortune of being able to take part in beta testing the JNCIE-ENT lab in August of 2011. The day completely wiped me out and I was walking around in a daze for the remainder of that week. While I knew the technologies I was unprepared for the time-management skills required to pass this lab. Needless to say it was no surprise when I received my fail-mail advising me that I was unsuccessful.
Well after almost a year, I decided it was time to get back on the horse and try again for getting those digits. Here in Australia the Juniper lab exams are only offered every 3 months, and I felt I was unprepared to sit the exam when it was offered in January. I knew that a friend of mine, and now colleague, Cooper Lees was preparing to take his JNCIE-SEC exam during the May schedule so I decided to book my attempt for the same day.
I have spent a lot more time working with Junos and various Juniper hardware devices in the time since I took the beta exam in August, and I was now a lot faster on the CLI, and didn’t need to refer to any documentation during the exam (except verify some config when I thought I had completed each step correctly! Needless to say… I hadn’t).
I had the good fortune at both my previous job at eintellego and also my current position at ICT Networks to have a wide variety of Juniper equipment at my disposal to create a lab environment in which to hone my skills required to get through the exam. I made quite extensive use of these labs to prepare and its true that nothing beats hands on experience when it comes to the lab. The JNCIE-ENT exam is based on EX4200 switches and SRX240’s – so be prepared to configure and support anything on these devices (sometimes items on “the edge of the blueprint”!).
So the lead up to the lab date was “exciting” with Cooper and I giving each other some “friendly rivalry” to try and be ready for the exams we had in front of us. We swapped experiences and ideas back and forth. Even though we were sitting different exams, having somebody else work with you on problems during prep time was certainly a god send. I had this during my prep for the beta with Nick Ryce and Chris Jones, both of whom have now gained their JNCIE-ENT certification.
On lab day Cooper and I met around 8am for breakfast near our office (which is only a few blocks from Juniper’s Sydney Office). A hearty breakfast of Bacon, Eggs, Grilled Tomato and Coffee certainly helped calm my stomach. After some banter about how we just wanted to “get this thing started!”, we decided to head over to the lab location and wait. We got there a little early, but it gave us time to settle down. The foyer area outside the room that served as the lab location included a table tennis table, an xbox and a pinball machine. Cooper showed off his fine table tennis skills while the rest of us pretended like we weren’t stressed 😉
While talking to the other candidates, we worked out that there were 3 attempting JNCIE-SEC, 3 attempting JNCIE-SP, and just myself attempting JNCIE-ENT (The “easy one” apparently :P). All of the candidates had a wealth of experience behind them including front line engineers, instructors and consultants. This was great company to be a part of.
Well the next part of the day is all covered by NDA, but I can tell you that I was wiped out by the end of the day. I feel like I was much better prepared this time around, though I am not sure if I scored enough points to earn a pass. I have already gone over some of the “stumpers” from the exam and worked my way through various solutions.
Im reasonably sure I am going to have to give this lab another attempt, but there is not much I can do about that now. This is all in the hands of the Juniper Certifications Team now. There is a 21 day SLA on the turn around of lab results, so all I can do is wait and prepare to book my next attempt.
I would like to leave the following advice to anybody preparing to take the JNCIE lab in the future:
- Prepare for time management. There is a lot crammed into the exam
- Read the entire exam. There are a lot of steps throughout the paper that can be consolidated and completed at the same time. I suggest making a list of all questions that affect each device and trying devise a strategy on how to meet all requirements before diving in.
- Know all of your topics. The lab exam is laid out quite clearly by topic, and these topics align with the same major headings as the blueprint. You are required to successfully complete at least one task from each section to pass. This means that you cannot say “Oh, I am weak in CoS or Multicast” and think you can make up your points elsewhere. Not completing a task from each section is an instant fail. BE PREPARED AND KNOW YOUR STUFF!
- My workstation during the lab was a Windows notebook computer with an external keyboard and mouse. You are allowed to bring your own keyboard and mouse if you wish. Unfortunately this was not what was tripping me up. You see, I am a Mac user and I had to get used to the fact that Ctrl is used instead of the Command key – I spent a lot of time pressing ALT 🙁 This will probably not be a problem for most people, but I will invest more time in lambing on a windows computer so I get the hand of where the keys are 😛 This may change in the future, but this was what I experienced.
- The lab is accessed via a VPN + Remote Desktop and a console server. All of this was up and running before I sat down at the lab machine. There was a little bit of lag for keystrokes, but nothing outside of what I am used to working on customer equipment in remote locations. Due to the time constraints in the lab though, you will want to be well versed in the Junos CLI short cuts (including Ctrl+W, Esc+b, Esc+f, Ctrl+A and Ctrl+E at the very least). These should help you move around the CLI without waiting for your console to catch up.
- Unlike other vendors, then JNCIE lab does include external machines that operate to show if your configuration is working. Be sure you know how to diagnose correct operation of your protocols and features from the blueprint because it will be of great benefit with these devices behaving correctly.
- And last of all Juniper have made the sensible decision that IPv4 and IPv6 are equal. (Except of course where EX Licenses are concerned!). Know how to configure most of the tasks on each protocol – because you never know where you might get tested! Remember, this is the future of networking whether you like it or not, so get your IPv6 on!
As mentioned, the rest is just a waiting game now, and I promise I will post an update regardless of pass or fail! Until then, Im back to labbing some of the scenarios I came up against that I thought “should have worked!”.
POST: Well this blog post was supposed to be published over a week ago, unfortunately I have received my “Fail Mail” in the last couple of days, so I will be preparing to take this lab once again in August 🙁 This isn’t the worst news Ive received over the past week, as one of my best friends died in an accident at the beginning of last week and the “Godparent Card” has been activated. This is why my post was delayed somewhat as I have been working through assisting his wife and 2 young boys (both under 3) to deal with everything that is happening.