Today I Passed the Juniper JNCIS-SP Exam

This post details my experience passing the Juniper JNCIS-SP JN0-362 exam. I explain some of my background and motivations for taking this exam, as well as the study resources I used. I have also released a mind map of topics which may help you as a starting point for your own studies.

This post is also available on LinkedIn and my blog at neckercube.com.

I came from an IT generalist background but decided early on to specialize in computer networking. Of all the IT specializations available, networking always seemed the most interesting to me. Ironically, networking itself has its own sub-areas of specialization, and you can still be considered a “networking generalist”.

Like many people who decide to specialize in networking, I started out with a focus on enterprise routing and switching with the “traditional” Cisco CCNA and CCNP track. I worked toward the expert level within this area of focus, having attempted the CCIE R&S lab twice. While working toward that level, I always felt a little bit of cognitive dissonance in trying to specialize so deeply in something without having a firm grasp of some of the adjacent networking specializations.

First, I wanted to get some multi-vendor experience to help solidify my understanding of the various networking protocols and operations. Taking this approach helps you move from someone who can simply memorize a vendor’s configuration syntax to truly understanding the concepts of what is occurring when you enter that syntax. This was extremely important for me when I studied for this exam.

Additionally, I felt it was important to understand the fundamentals of adjacent networking technologies. This includes wireless, data center architecture, cloud networking, security, industrial/OT networks, and network automation. I did not feel the need to go extremely deep into these, even though some of the certifications I’ve obtained along the way, such as the CISSP and AWS Advanced Networking Specialty, are considered quite a bit above entry-level. Each certification I’ve obtained made sense for me at the time I achieved it.

Now that I have what I feel is a wide grasp of the networking landscape, which you can look at as a form of employability insurance, I am ready to dive deep into the networking specialization for which I am truly passionate: service provider networking. It is my intention to follow this through to the expert level.

If you are still relatively new to networking, and you’ve just passed the JNCIA-Junos or maybe even the CCNA, this could be considered a beast of an exam due to the relatively large topic scope. When you have less experience, it can be really difficult to ascertain the depth of knowledge you need to pass a particular exam. I’ve spent years dealing with that feeling.

Most of the major topics have had entire large books written covering just those individual items (OSPF, IS-IS, BGP, MPLS, etc.). While certainly helpful, this level of understanding is not required for this exam. Luckily, Juniper offers two free full-length practice exams to help you gauge your level of understanding and to also demonstrate the kinds of questions and topic depth level you need. The real exam is, in my opinion, just slightly more difficult than the practice exams, but not by too much. The style and depth of questions are extremely similar.

I felt the exam was fair based on the blueprint, and that only a couple of the questions could have been worded better for clarity. I passed with a score of 92% after studying for about two weeks. But remember, I’m not starting completely from scratch. My previous background and studies carried me through the majority of the concepts (I’ve read many of the aforementioned large books on individual topics), and I mostly just had to learn the Juniper syntax.

Coming at it from this perspective, I found it pretty interesting to have thoughts like “I know how Q-in-Q bridging works, now how do I configure the device to make it work that way”. Juniper offers several free videos on their Juniper Learning Portal (formerly Junos Genius). These are great videos and offered a refresh for me on the concepts, as well as the Juniper syntax for most topics.

Beyond that, I spent most of my time with the Juniper documentation and utilizing both the vMX trial on my own server, and the free Juniper vLabs. In using the documentation, there is some confusion due to the fact that some of the topics overlap with configurations on the EX-series switches, which are sometimes a little different than the MX-series counterparts. However, the exam is based on the MX-series, so be aware of that when you are looking for answers.

Other resources I used were the amazing (and hilarious) posts by Chris Parker on his blog Network Fun Times. He also has a webinar available on the JLP providing a great overview of the JNCIS-SP certification. Additionally, Knox Hutchinson’s review of the exam provided some great insight. He also produced a course for the JNCIS-SP which will be available within the near future (probably even by the time you read this).

And finally, I found this great post from Christian Scholz that explains how to set up the vMX with dual Routing Engines so that you can practice some of the high availability topics. This is very cool, I don’t know of many other virtual network platforms that allow you to replicate hardware-level redundancy like this!

As has been often the case during the past few years when I study something deeply, I have created a mind map for the JNCIS-SP. I debated for a while about posting this one, because it is not complete due to me already understanding most of the theory, but it does contain a fair amount of configuration syntax. I decided to share this anyway just because I believe it could be a decent starting point for someone else to build off of.

Thank you for reading, and good luck with your studies!

Full mind map available on my blog at neckercube.com

Senior Network Engineer

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