Is the JNCIP-ENT Worth It?
| technology | networking - Josh Burnett

Is the JNCIP-ENT Worth It?

In the IT world, some have dismissed Juniper Networks as inconsequential. They are indeed dwarfed by the industry giant, Cisco, but that doesn’t mean they’re failing; in fact, it means quite the opposite. Cisco has taken a typical large corporation approach and acquired numerous smaller companies, and attempting to incorporate these diverse technologies has led to consistent customer complaints about buggy tech over the years as tech that wasn't designed to work together is forced to coexist.

Juniper, on the other hand, has focused on consistency and specialization. They know what they do, and they do it well. When it comes to performance and speed, their routers and switches consistently perform at the top of their class. Used by many enterprise organizations, Juniper technology is a crucial niche in the networking world, and their certifications carry corresponding value.

What is the JNCIP-ENT?

The Enterprise Routing and Switching, Professional (JNCIP-ENT) certification is the third in a four-cert pathway. Understanding Juniper's role in the market is crucial at the professional level because, by this point, anyone with a JNCIP-ENT is an "experienced networking professional with advanced knowledge of the Juniper Networks Junos OS." If you have a Juniper professional certification, you've committed to a career that heavily involves this company's technology.

The JNCIP-ENT focuses on validating a candidate's "understanding of advanced routing technologies and related platform configuration and troubleshooting skills." It primarily targets IT professionals in various engineering capacities.

What Does the JNCIP-ENT Test?

The JNCIP-ENT focuses on material in eight domains:

  • Interior Gateway Protocols (IGPs)
  • Border Gateway Protocols (BGPs)
  • IP Multicast
  • Ethernet Switching and Spanning Tree
  • Layer 2 Authentication and Access Control
  • IP Telephony Features
  • Class of Service (CoS)
  • Ethernet VPN (EVPN)

Passing the exam requires detailed knowledge of the Junos OS as well as extensive experience with real-life scenarios. If you dig into each of these domains, you’ll find a list of subsequent concepts divided into two lists.

The first begins with "describe the concepts, operation, or functionality of…" and the second kicks off by saying, "Given a scenario, demonstrate knowledge of how to configure, troubleshoot, or monitor…" You’ll need to have a solid balance of book knowledge and hands-on capabilities to earn the JNCIP-ENT.

How Much Does the JNCIP-ENT Cost?

The JNCIP-ENT exam costs $400 USD, the standard price for all professional-level certification tests from Juniper Networks. However, since you must earn each lower-level cert in the Enterprise Routing and Switching track before you can sit for the JNCIP exam, you'll spend a minimum of $500 more. The JNCIA-Junos costs $200 per voucher, and the JNCIS-ENT will set you back another $300. If you pass each one on the first try, you'll be all-in at $900 to earn the JNCIP-ENT.

Although not required, Juniper does recommend that you take two training courses to prepare for the JNCIP-ENT:

You'll undoubtedly gain a tremendous amount of valuable information by taking these classes, but you're also going to pay for it. The five-day AJER costs $4,750, while the shorter two-day AJEX runs $1,900. Juniper does base exam questions on the content of these courses, so be aware that these have more testable value than recommended courses from other vendors.

As far as test specifics go, the JN0-648 exam consists of 65 multiple-choice questions. Your time limit is 120 minutes, and when working through scenario-based fix actions, you'll need to be at the top of your game to ace it.

What Experience Do You Need for the JNCIP-ENT?

Juniper doesn't have any hard and fast experience requirements to earn the JNCIP-ENT, nor do they list official recommendations. The reason for this is primarily that you must pursue each certification on the enterprise routing and switching pathway before getting to the JNCIP-ENT, so by the time you've knocked down the JNCIA-Junos and the JNCIS-ENT, you'll have a good idea of whether you're ready for the professional cert.

Who Should Take the JNCIP-ENT?

The JNCIP-ENT is geared toward IT pros whose careers revolve around enterprise routing and switching. If your career revolves around networks, having Juniper certs in your back pocket is a good idea, even if your current job doesn't require it.

Although you may stop short of the JNCIP-ENT in the role you now have, starting the path toward it by sitting for the JNCIA-Junos is a smart choice for a few reasons. First, you're entering a unique niche for long-term specialty players in a technical market. Juniper Networks isn’t growing rapidly, but it also isn’t going anywhere. It’s been around for a long time and has a host of loyal customers. This means that when a position opens up for a Junos-based network role, the employer doesn't want a generalist. He wants someone who can speak Juniper.

Second, to speak Juniper, you need to know the vocabulary. Juniper Networks has a unique approach to many networking concepts that has resulted in a distinctive terminology. Even working through the material for the JNCIA-Junos will set you up to succeed down the line when you go for the JNCIP-ENT.

JNCIP-ENT for Network Administrators

As a professional-level cert, the JNCIP-ENT is likely overkill for network administrators within their current capacity. The exam's focus on advanced routing and platform configuration indicates more of a design and programming role than daily administration and maintenance.

However, the JNCIP-ENT can also be something you consistently work toward as you advance your career within the Juniper space. There are two basic philosophies when it comes to certifications. Some individuals wait to be hired into a job for which they need a cert, then use that job to "push" them to earn what they need. Others look at what they need to get the job they want to have, then pursue the certification proactively. They use career goals to "pull" them into that role, and that's the outlook you should have as a network admin considering the JNCIP-ENT.

JNCIP-ENT for Network Engineers

The JNCIP-ENT is a perfect fit for network engineers. It sits above the specialist-level JNCIS-ENT that's appropriate for talented network administrators and just below the Expert JNCIE-ENT that is the pinnacle of achievement for Juniper network architects. As you move from the junior engineer space into a more senior role, you might naturally reach for the JNCIE-ENT—but it all starts with earning the JNCIP-ENT.

JNCIP-ENT for Network Architects

Network architects who work with Juniper Networks technology should consider the JNCIP-ENT a must. In fact, it should be more than a destination; see it as a stepping stone to the expert-level certification in the Enterprise Routing and Switching track.

Is the JNCIP-ENT Worth It?

If your career involves Juniper Networks technology at anything above the network administrator level, the JNCIP-ENT is a certification that's definitely worth pursuing. The company has carved out and established a cornerstone niche in the enterprise routing and switching market that will likely be around for years to come.

For those IT pros who are earlier in their careers and looking down the road, getting started on the path toward a JNCIP-ENT is something you should seriously consider. Use the "pull" method and start with the JNCIA-Junos, then continue to push yourself to develop new skills. Even if you pursue Cisco (or other vendor) certifications as a primary path, being certified to work with Juniper technology will only do you good.

Using the JNCIP-ENT to learn skills

Any Juniper certification is going to be useful for learning new skills. While you might be intimately familiar with routing and switching technology, Juniper’s proprietary terminology and unique approach to building routers and switches will undoubtedly stretch your brainpower. Employers who hire Juniper experts aren’t looking for generalists, so using the JNCIP-ENT and other Juniper Networks certifications to establish yourself in that world is a good call.

Using the JNCIP-ENT to validate skills

While many certifications are vendor-neutral, Juniper certs are decidedly not. Someone who holds a Junos-based cert has demonstrated both a general level of knowledge and comfort with the specific Juniper applications their position needs. The JNCIP-ENT is an excellent validation of your skills.

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