JNCIE-ENT Study Guides – A Detailed Review

Overview

Last month, I was ecstatic to find out that I had passed the JNCIE-ENT exam (#423). For this post, I’d like to pass along some of my detailed thoughts on the various JNCIE-ENT study guides that are available. Specifically, I used the following during my JNCIE journey:

  • Proteus Networks JNCIE-ENT Preparation Workbook
  • iNET ZERO JNCIE-ENT Workbook
  • Juniper Networks – JNCIE Enterprise Bootcamp Study Guide / Detailed Lab Guide

My intent here is to provide direct feedback on the study guides themselves, and not specifically regarding the study process (i.e. the Why and How), though I’ll provide a bit of detail on that where applicable. This post is a bit long – just over 2500 words – so if you want the quick summary just jump to the Recommendations.

iNET ZERO JNCIE-ENT Lab Preparation Workbook (v1.1)

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Workbook

The iNET ZERO Lab Preparation Workbook can be purchased with or without rack rental vouchers and are supplied in an encrypted PDF format.

The workbook also included both baseline and completed configurations which was very much appreciated. It was sometimes convenient to load the completed configurations and simply review verification commands.

Getting back to the workbook itself, I was able to take advantage of the offered free workbook updates as v1.1 was released about 30 days after I purchased the workbook. iNET ZERO has pro-rated discounting on the workbooks, with the updates being free for the first 6 months and then a gradually decreasing discount until 25 months after purchase. As promised, I was provided the updated workbooks when I requested them. I did find the v1.1 update had some additional detail that was useful for studying the exam.

I found the workbooks to have good technical detail and covered the required material well and with very few cases did I find that the provided completed configurations did not work. That being said, I found some major problems:

  • The use of imprecise English. The JNCIE exam is just as much understanding EXACTLY what is asked as it is knowing how to do configure it (I might even think that is a 75%/25% split). Many times reading through guides it was simply unclear exactly what was being asked – I just had to go look at the answer to figure it out. Throughout most of the guides, there was also very little interpretation of the answers outside of a special chapter that was added in version 1.1 of the workbook. My opinion is that this is likely from the fact that several of the content developers were non-native English speakers (no offense intended – I’m sure that they are some very smart people). I’d recommend a though review of the wording – after all, the JNCIE-ENT lab exam is in English.
  • The extensive use of what I’d call “interface pointers”. This is essentially where 2 or 3 tables are provided to describe an array of data (such as IP Address, Interface number, etc) that could simply be placed directly on the diagram. To use a specific example from the workbook:
    • In the L2 Switching/Security chapter there was physical diagram that has an interface pointer denoted as “i3” on device “D3”. On a following table, there is a table that indicates the Interface name (ge-0/0/6.0) and the type (L2, trunk). On yet another table several pages down, there is a table indicates the VLANs (only by VLAN name such as A and B) for each device and the Interface for that the devices (again using the interface pointer and not the actual interface name). There is then another table that indicates VLAN Name and it’s associated VLAN ID.

I found myself repeatedly opening 3 or 4 windows to the view the same material and probably spent way too much time going back and forth. It probably would have been faster if I had redrawn the diagrams myself with all of the supplied information. My opinion is that the diagrams should have been of higher detail so that this would be unnecessary. I can tell you that the actual Exam diagrams are very clear and concise and much better than what is provided in this workbook.

My opinion is that if the iNET ZERO content developers were trying to make things more difficult just for the sake of being difficult, they succeeded.

Online Labs

Given the issues noted above, the use of iNET ZERO’s online labs are easily the number one reason to purchase the workbook. That is, when you can actually schedule lab time, which seems to be in very limited supply the past few months (as of January 2014). In the weeks leading up to my third JNCIE lab attempt (November 2013), I found it nearly impossible to find lab time and therefore could not extensively rely and using iNET ZERO for my hands-on studies.

Between May and October 2013 (prior to my first lab attempt and up to my 2nd lab attempt) I found that scheduling lab time was quite easy (especially in the July/August timeframe, when Europe is basically shutdown anyway) and I made extensive use of their single lab rack, which is available in 8-hour increments.

Given that iNET ZERO is located in Central European Time (+0100 UTC) and I’m located in the United States, I was able to use the Midnight time slot quite effectively. Being in the US Pacific timezone, this allowed me to start working in the late afternoon (15:00) and finish up at 23:00. I could usually work straight through with a quick break for dinner.

The online rack rental experience on the whole was pretty good and definitely served the purpose. I inevitably had a few technical issues. When I would email support, in general I wouldn’t get a response until the next morning CET, which means that I’d generally be out of luck if I had a problem that I couldn’t either resolve on my own or workaround. Fortunately, iNET ZERO would refund my lab credit in these situations. This might be something to keep in mind if the 0:00 CET time slot is favorable for you.

Note that there was a 96-hour cancellation policy, meaning that lab sessions could not be rescheduled within that timeframe.

In general, I found that the provided lab gear was reasonably similar to what was provided on the lab exam (EX4200 switches & SRX240, an access server and direct access to the “Service Provider” router).

One area I found that they were specifically lacking on the Multicast sections – to the point that they were useless since there were no live multicast streams. I found it far more useful to use the Proteus workbook and build my own Multicast lab using the vSRX / Firefly where I could create Multicast senders/receivers using my own Windows/Ubuntu hosts.

iNET ZERO Workbook Summary:

The Good

  • Materials were promptly delivered in encrypted PDF format, and the updates were provided as well as promised. The encrypted PDF did allow for printing.
  • Aligns closely with the available online rack rental allowing extensive studies without requiring the purchase of the hardware for yourself
  • Provides good technical coverage of what is needed to pass the JNCIE-ENT Lab Exam but does not provide any overview material

The Bad:

  • Imprecise English for the tasks often caused frustration and generally required looking at the answers to interpret what was being asked
  • The use of so-called “interface pointers” created needless complexity and frustration for the user. This does not closely approximate the actual exam.
  • At least in latter part of 2013 and early 2014, only one online rack is available with very limited availability – requiring booking several weeks in advance with a 96-hour cancellation policy.

 Proteus Networks JNCIE-ENT Preparation Workbook (v1)

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The Proteus Networks Preparation workbook was provided in both soft and hard copies. I purchased both, though I think they are not just sold as one unit The soft copy used DRM with LockLizard which has its obvious drawbacks – the primary of which being that I couldn’t use Evernote and LockLizard at the same time (I used Evernote extensively for the JNCIE exam study). I found ways of dealing with this when I didn’t have the hard copy handy, including reading the workbook on my iPad instead of the main PC.

The workbook is organized into 8 chapters, plus 2 appendices for practice test. The order of the chapters generally follows the JNCIE-ENT Exam Objectives noted here.  Each chapter includes a technical overview of each skill before moving onto the configuration details. I think this is a very effective method of covering the basics and getting up to speed quickly, though it won’t necessarily help learn a skill from scratch.This is one area where the Proteus workbook is different from the others reviewed – while it doesn’t spoon-feed the reader, it provides a useful way to get up to speed with the technical details in order to move on to the lab configurations. I also believe that the technical overview at each chapter will improve the usefulness of the workbook after passing the JNCIE exam – I’m likely to use this workbook as a reference in the future for features that I may have long forgotten (like multicast).

While I liked the format of the Proteus workbook and the content is very good, I did find that some of the more elaborate configurations that may be needed for the test were not included in the workbook (one example that comes to mind is adjusting routes in the inet.2 routing table in order for Multicast RPF checks to work properly). This was covered in the other workbooks.

The Proteus workbook did not include online labs, but the clarity of the materials should make it easy to recreate these labs on your own. For my setup, the one exception to this was the practice lab exam in the final chapter. Since I did not procure the full set of lab gear, I didn’t have a way to recreate all of the physical connections, so I instead opted to just read through the final test and answers for review.

I toyed with the idea of trying to make that Final Lab test work on the iNET ZERO labs, but in the end the physical connectivity of the iNET ZERO lab was just too dissimilar to make it worthwhile.

While the hard copy of the workbook was handy, I will note that the way it was bound (I believe it is a thermal binding with a pre-glued spine) is not holding up very well. After approximately a month of use, I noticed that some of the pages were starting to fall out.

Lastly, I had the fortune of meeting Chris Jones (author of the Proteus workbook) a few separate times at Cisco Live and a couple Bay Area Juniper User Group (BAJUG) Meetings – we had the opportunity to discuss JNCIE-ENT study, and, among other things, we agreed that using multiple workbooks was a good way to prepare for the exam and that online labs would be a logical addition to this workbook.

Note: There is uncertainty as to the future of this workbook given FishNet Security’s acquisition of Proteus Networks and that Chris Jones no longer is employed there. It is advisable to watch to see if this workbook is updated in the future, especially after the next revision of the JNCIE-ENT exam which is scheduled to be put in place in the first half of this year.

***UPDATE August 21, 2014 – As Chris mentions in his comment below – the Proteus Press responsible for publishing the Proteus Workbook was acquired separately (not owned by FishNet) and is available at the following link: http://proteuspress.net/jncie-ent-workbook/

Proteus Workbook Summary:

The Good

  • Materials were promptly delivered in both soft and hard copy. The soft copy does allow for printing.
  • Clarity of materials made it possible to practice scenarios with your own equipment
  • Provides good technical coverage of what is needed to pass the JNCIE-ENT Lab Exam.
  • By design, the workbook will have usefulness after passing the exam.

The Bad:

  • Uses LockLizard for copy protection on the soft copy (ahh!!!!)
  • There are no corresponding online lab rack rentals
  • Hard Copy of the workbook isn’t holding up – a few pages started to fall out after a month of use.
  • There is uncertainty around whether this workbook is updated in the future.

Juniper Education Services – JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp Courseware (v11.a)

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Disclaimer: I did not actually attend the JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp class due to time and budgeting constraints. I did have the chance to review another attendee’s copy of the courseware.

The JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp is a 5-day intensive class with extensive courseware and lab facilities. Based on what I’ve heard from others (and based on the courseware), you will be well served to take this course – at least in the United States. Based on my own experience of taking a CCIE Bootcamp in the distant past, my opinion is that the JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp makes the most sense if you nearly ready to take the lab exam – it should not be used as a starting point. YMMV.

The courseware materials include the following:

  • Student Guide – Includes a high level overview of the each technology skill plus a few sample configuration activities. Each chapter is intended to be followed by Lab configuration activities noted in the Lab Guides.
  • Detailed Lab Guide – Includes detailed lab tasks and detailed answers including specific configurations for each device
  • High-Level Lab Guide – Includes the detailed lab tasks with no answers. Intended to provide a close experience to the actual lab exam.
  • Lab Diagrams – Supplement that makes it very easy to review the topology while flipping through the Lab Guides.

Since I did not have direct access to actual labs that were provided as part of the actual course, I used the Detailed Lab Guide as my primary reference in preparation for my third attempt of the exam, followed by the Student Guide where it made sense. In fact, I read the entire Detailed Lab Guide in the 5 days prior to my third lab exam attempt (not too difficult after preparing for several months).

Reviewing the Juniper Courseware as my final preparation for my third attempt at the exam (the one in which I passed) really helped me to solidify the topics that I had already reviewed. I did find that there were some topics covered better in this courseware than in the other workbooks.

I also found that Juniper Courseware provided the best coverage of the “gotchas” that might be needed to complete some tasks. One specific example that comes to mind is explaining a situation where an OSPF NSSA could be used to perform summarization of external routes originating from the NSSA.

The Juniper Courseware also made clear that many of the configurations on the actual test would be configured for you. This was something that actually threw me off on my first lab attempt. After spending an extensive amount of time on the iNET ZERO labs (in which you build everything from the ground up in each exercise – almost to a fault) along with  supplemental work in the Proteus workbook, I wasn’t really prepared to have everything configured for me (with lots incorrect configurations for troubleshooting, of course)

It didn’t make a lot of difference in the end result in my first attempt, but had I actually attended the Bootcamp this would much clearer and I would have adjusted my study accordingly. It might have even saved me an lab attempt.

JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp Courseware Summary

The Good

  • Hard Copy Materials were the closest to the actual test and were directly applicable to the labs provided in the Bootcamp
  • Provided very good reinforcement of the configuration “gotchas”
  • Provided excellent technical coverage of what is needed to pass the JNCIE-ENT Lab Exam.

The Bad:

  • You must attend the Bootcamp to receive the Courseware materials – they are not available for separate purchase.

 

Recommendations

Based on my detailed experience of the study guides reviewed in this post in accordance with my experience of taking the JNCIE-ENT exam three times in latter part of 2013, I will offer up the following recommendations in terms of using the reviewed Study Guides:

  • I would recommend starting your JNCIE-ENT studies with the Proteus Workbook, especially if you plan of procuring your own lab gear, and read the chapters and thoroughly practice the configurations and practice tests. As noted earlier, there may be long-term issues with this study guide due to Proteus being acquired by FishNet Security (it is unclear whether or not the company intends to keep it updated, and the original author is no longer employed there).
  • If you do not have access to the full set of lab gear (or simply do not want to procure it), the iNET ZERO workbook labs are very good for preparation though there are some issues with the documentation. I used 20 lab session credits up through my second lab attempt. Also be aware that lab time may be scarce, you have to schedule far in advance, and there is a 96-hour cancellation policy.
  • If you have the budget and time to take the official JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp, by all means do it. I recommend that you have already done extensive reading and hands-on preparation prior to arrival. Also, try to schedule the bootcamp to be no more than one month before taking the actual lab exam so that you don’t lose your technical sharpness (and not burn out).
  • If you don’t have the budget for the JNCIE-ENT Bootcamp – try to borrow a copy of the courseware if you are lucky enough to know someone that has them. You can still pass the test without the courseware with proper preparation.

 

Conclusion

If you have are looking to go for the JNCIE-ENT exam – Good Luck! I sincerely hope these recommendations will help you. Feel free to add a comment and let me know what you think.

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  • vallabh

    Thanks for the great overview

  • Inder

    Hello, first of all congrats for the certification. Secondly thanks for the great information, I have been working with the SRX and ex series boxes for last 4 years. I am not going for any boot camp, with the reference of the above information I am going to buy iNET Zero material. But still I am not getting the confidence that I will be able to pass the test. Can you also guid me what Kind of LAB scenarios are there in the Jncie LAB exam.

    • http://www.knill.net/ David Knill

      I can tell you in general that the lab scenarios in the iNET ZERO network scenarios are at least as detailed as what you will see in the Lab (I might even say more so) – if you understand those really well, you should have a good idea of what scenarios you are likely to see in the actual lab exam. Also, I feel that the JNCIE-ENT Exam Objectives are accurate as posted on the Juniper website.

      I hope this helps – Good Luck!

      • Inder

        Thanks for the wishes…and the information..:-)

  • Sam

    Thanks for the great share, would you mind telling us what topics or configurations as you stated were configured in the real exam so we can save some time 🙂

    • http://www.knill.net/ David Knill

      Umm….No 🙂

  • http://www.iamchris.ca/ Chris Jones

    I should probably jump in here. FishNet purchased Proteus Networks and TorreyPoint, but did NOT purchase Proteus Press. The workbooks continue to be owned by the former Proteus/TPG CTO and is now available at his new website: http://proteuspress.net/jncie-ent-workbook/

    So no worries there, the book isn’t owned by FishNet 🙂

    • http://www.knill.net/ David Knill

      Thanks Chris – I added an update to the Proteus section above. Are you planning on keeping it updated in the future?

      • http://www.iamchris.ca/ Chris Jones

        Either updated or possibly re-written. I’d like to do it on a single hardware topology. I think that would make it much easier. I just didn’t have enough hardware while writing for that to be feasible.

        • http://www.knill.net/ David Knill

          Awesome. I am sure that many would look forward to those updates.