Cisco DevNet vs. JNCIA-DevOps: Which is Harder?
| certifications | cisco - David Zomaya

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

DevOps and network automation have matured to the point big names in the industry are certifying related skills. Two of the biggest names in the world of network certifications, Cisco and Juniper, are among them. Juniper's JNCIA (Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate) DevOps launched in late 2018 and Cisco released their 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 take a closer look to help you contextualize that opinion.

Cisco DevNet: The Basics

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

To keep things apples to apples, we'll focus on the DevNet Associate because the JNCIA-DevOps is also an "associate" level cert. DevNet Associate certifies an IT pro's knowledge of software development and design as it relates to using Cisco platforms, APIs, and infrastructure automation. This cert is a good option if you're interested in 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 USD

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 when it comes to 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, it's fair to say 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 USD

Exam duration: 90 minutes

Recertification period: 3 years

Cisco DevNet vs JNCIA-DevOps: Difficulty

Thus far, it seems like we have two similar certs from rival vendors. Ideally, to determine difficulty, we'd like to take a 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 that 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 around the web about DevNet. This is great because it gives us an easy way to get several 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 generally agree it is "tough but fair." That is, DevNet isn't easy but the exam blueprint is a fair guide of 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 to. If you're a Juniper expert, the JNCIA may be a breeze. That being 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 exam topics are similar, the sentiment from test takers leads us to this opinion. DevNet is building a reputation as a tough but fair cert. JNCIA-DevOps isn't a guaranteed pass but seems to be less of a challenge 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 harder doesn't mean employers will definitely value it more. When evaluating what cert to study and test for, you should consider:

How it fits into your career goals. If you're interested in network automation and programmability, either one of these certs may be a good fit. What's best will boil down to 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 on 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 value, both tangible and intangible, a certification will add to your career should be considered. It's a little early to get DevNet salary data, as the certification path just came out in February. However, we can compare Cisco and Juniper "associate" level certs in general. According to PayScale, 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 is likely to become the automation 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 it comes to making a decision, there are valid reasons to go either way. Of course, you could also decide to do both if you're interested in mastering 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, be sure to make the decision that best aligns with your long-term career goals.

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