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Cisco DevNet vs. JNCIA-DevOps: Which is Harder?

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Published on April 21, 2021

DevOps and network automation have matured to the point that big names in the industry certify related skills. Cisco and Juniper are among the biggest names in the world of network certifications. Juniper's JNCIA (Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate) DevOps launched in late 2018, and Cisco released its DevNet Associate cert earlier this year.

Of course, whenever competing vendors put out comparable certs, it's common to ask, "Which one is harder?" Topically, it seems like Cisco's DevNet Associate exam may be, but here we'll look closer to help you contextualize that opinion. We've got you covered with tons of DevOps certification training, whichever path you choose.

Cisco DevNet: The Basics

The Cisco DevNet 200-901 DEVASC exam went live on February 24, 2020. Passing the exam earns you a Cisco Certified DevNet Associate certification. Beyond the associate level, the DevNet series of certifications has professional and specialist offerings, and we expect to see an expert offering (comparable to the CCIE) in the future.

We'll focus on the DevNet Associate to keep things apples to apples because the JNCIA-DevOps is also an "associate" level cert. DevNet Associate certifies an IT pro's knowledge of software development and design for using Cisco platforms, APIs, and infrastructure automation. This cert is a good option if you want a career that mixes software development and network infrastructure.

Here is a quick rundown of the basics of the DevNet Associate Exam:

  • Prerequisites: There are no official perquisites to sit for the 200-901 DEVASC exam.

  • Recommended experience: Cisco recommends a year or more of software development experience, specifically calling out Python programming.

  • Exam topics: Software Development and Design, Understanding and Using APIs, Cisco Platforms and Development, Application Deployment and Security, Infrastructure and Automation, and Network Fundamentals (you can download a full PDF list of topics and subtopics here).

  • Exam cost: $300

  • Exam duration: 120 minutes

  • Recertification period: 3 years

JNCIA-DevOps: The Basics

Passing the JN0-220 will earn you a JNCIA-DevOps certification. Beyond the associate level, Juniper offers a specialist tier with the JNCIS-DevOps but no professional or expert level (currently). The JNCIA-DevOps is similar to the DevNet cert in terms of topics and target audience. As a result, IT pros interested in the intersection of networking and programming as it relates to Juniper products may be interested.

  • Prerequisites: There are no formal perquisites for the JN0-220.

  • Recommended experience: Juniper recommends an Introduction to Junos Platform Automation and DevOps (IJAUT) course. Given what that course covers, familiarity with Junos OS, REST APIs, Ansible, Python/PyEZ, NETCONF, and data formats like YAML, JSON, and XML is useful.

  • Exam topics: Junos Automation Stack and DevOps Concepts, XML/NETCONF, Data Serialization, Ansible, Python or PyEZ, and REST API are the high-level exam objective categories. You can view the complete list here.

  • Exam cost: $200

  • Exam duration: 90 minutes

  • Recertification period: 3 years

Cisco DevNet vs. JNCIA-DevOps: Difficulty

Thus far, we have two similar certs from rival vendors. Ideally, to determine difficulty, we'd like to look at pass rates. Unfortunately, there isn't enough information available to take that data-driven approach. Without pass/fail rates, quantifying difficulty becomes more subjective, but there's still plenty we can look at. For example, feedback from those who have taken the exams can be a great reference point.

JNCIA-DevOps has been around long enough to generate a few conversations around the Internet. Similarly, despite being relatively new, there is plenty of chatter about DevNet around the web. This is great because it gives us an easy way to get different viewpoints.

Digging into forum posts, blogger feedback, and Redditt threads, we can see a bit of a trend to form in test-taker opinions. JNCIA-DevOps test-takers seem to have been surprised by an emphasis on Ansible and the ease of the exam. On the other hand, those who have sat for the DevNet Associate exam seem to agree it is "tough but fair generally." DevNet isn't easy, but the exam blueprint is a fair guide to what to expect.

Cisco DevNet vs. JNCIA-DevOps: Which One is Harder?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer here. If you're familiar with Cisco, DevNet may be easier to adapt. If you're a Juniper expert, the JNCIA may be a breeze. That said, we have enough information to compare difficulty and formulate an opinion if we assume all else is equal. And we've done just that.

In short, Cisco DevNet 200-901 seems harder than JNCIA-DevOps JN0-220. While the exam topics are similar, test takers' sentiments lead us to this opinion. DevNet is building a reputation as a tough but fair cert. JNCIA-DevOps isn't a guaranteed pass but seems less challenging than the DevNet 200-901 exam, all else being equal.

Cisco DevNet vs.JNCIA-DevOps: Picking the Right Cert for You

Of course, we'd never recommend you pick a cert based only on exam difficulty. Just because JNCIA-DevOps is easier doesn't mean it's the better option. Similarly, just because DevNet is more challenging doesn't mean employers will value it more. When evaluating what cert to study and test for, you should consider the following:

How it Fits into Your Career Goals

If you're interested in network automation and programmability, either of these certifications may be a good fit. What's best will depend on which platforms you want to specialize in and what the market demands.

Your Current Experience Level

Both of these are associate-level certs. If you're early in your career, either could be a valid choice. Alternatively, if you're an experienced network engineer or developer looking to develop network automation skills for the first time, these certs can help.

Cost & Difficulty

We're rolling cost and difficulty into one point for a reason. It's easy to compare the dollar cost of two exams, but you also need to consider your time investment. If the difficulty of an exam means you'll need to study twice as long for it, factor in that opportunity cost.

Projected Value

This is the flip side of the cost coin. What tangible and intangible value a certification will add to your career should be considered. It's a little early to get DevNet salary data, as the certification path came out in February. However, we can generally compare Cisco and Juniper "associate" level certs. PayScale shows the average JNCIA salary is $85,000/year, and the average CCNA salary is $80,000/year. Again, those numbers are JNCIA's in general and a different Cisco associate cert, so take them with a grain of salt.

Once you consider all those variables, you can make the right choice for your situation. In many cases, it may boil down to which side you prefer in the Juniper vs. Cisco debate, and that's fine. If you'd prefer to build a career around one of the two vendors, they're both viable choices today.

Final Thoughts

Cisco's DevNet Associate vs. Juniper's JNCIA-DevOps will likely become the automated version of CCNA vs JNCIA-JUNOS. From the perspective of exam difficulty, we hope we gave you some good food for thought when comparing the two.

When making a decision, there are valid reasons to go either way. Of course, you could also do both if you want to master multiple platforms.

Both vendors have a strong presence in the enterprise networking market. While Cisco may seem ubiquitous, Juniper certainly has a respectable market share. Whatever route you take, decide that best aligns with your long-term career goals.


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