Sunday, April 21, 2013

JNCIE-SP Boot Camp

So I just returned from the Juniper JNCIE-SP bootcamp, and my brain is full. While I haven't sat the JNCIE-SP exam yet, I am confident that I was ill prepared prior to this training (I may still be ill prepared, although I now have a path to preparation). It was a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of my perception of my preparedness, for some of the reasons you'll learn soon. Before diving too far into the meat of the area that I found I was too weak (and the areas where I outperformed my expectations), I wanted to comment on the quality of the instruction received, in two words ... top notch. A huge thanks is due to Dave Warren of DWWTC. This is the second time that I've received instruction from a DWWTC trainer, and the second time that I've finished a week with a full brain. I can't recommend their training highly enough, and I strongly urge anyone planning on taking the JNCIE to take the training.

All of this said, this post won't go too far into the technical details of the things that I learned; instead it will be  focused around the softer skills and the technical topics that I plan to expand on in future posts. Since I haven't taken the JNCIE yet, I'm not worried about devaluing the exam with anything I share, and my assumptions about the exam are based on the practice exam at the end of the training.The information that follows assumes that the actual test follows the same high-level design as the practice test.

It's tough to say where to start with regards to the general test taking. The problems are designed to test the edges of your knowledge, and does so with little mercy. Knowing how each of the protocols work, in detail, is critical to success. Conversely, knowing what can cause a protocol to break in different ways is a key component to success. For example, if you find an ISIS adjacency up, and no routes are being exchanged, you need to be able to quickly identify that the problem is the LSP authentication may not be configured properly. Because the tasks compound, if you are unable to complete getting the basic configuration tasks done and the network working, you won't be able to get the points for the later tasks.

Something that I knew prior to the exam, that is worth sharing is that a 0 point score on any of the seven sections results in an immediate failure of the exam. This means that time management and objective management are clutch to success, and having that awareness is key. Based on the objectives on the practice test, I went straight into the final two objectives right after lunch before working on the VPN section, getting the full points for those sections (not a lot of points, but every point counts). It's also important to know when to not tackle a new problem. I chose to leave quite a few points on the table with 15 minutes left, rather than tackle them leaving the potential for creating a problem that would cost points. A great tip that I received is not to stay stuck more than 15 minutes on any single problem. Missing some big point problems because you spent all of your time on a 3 point problem would be a tragic way to not pass.

My final tip is to tackle problems one at a time. Trying to fix 5 broken OSPF adjacencies at the same time is a recipe for a for a lot of lost time. Fixing everything on the first router and the second router, getting that adjacency up, and then moving on to the next problem.

There were a few topics that I didn't have any experience around that I am excited to write about in the next few weeks, namely 6PE Tunneling, Inter-provider VPNs, and Carrier of Carrier VPNs. Look for these posts as I hone my understanding of these topics in the next few weeks as I prepare for the JNCIE-SP lab.

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