Is the JNCIS-DevOps Worth It?
| technology | networking - Ross Heintzkill

Is the JNCIS-DevOps Worth It?

DevOps is the marriage of two competing forces: change and stability. In traditional environments, the change would come from the teams of developers who want to improve the product, write better code, and make the best widget. And the stability would come from the operations teams who want to know how many servers are needed, when they're needed, when they can be spun down, and how to maintain throughput.

DevOps shortens production cycles and increases deployment success rates by taking those two forces that are normally at odds and making them cooperate. Although DevOps is as much a managerial state of mind as it is a set of skills and tools that can be learned by developers and administrators, the JNCIS-DevOps is a certification that focuses on the latter part.

DevOps isn't just one set of policies that anyone can simply follow without thinking, though. Implementing the principles and approaches of DevOps changes based on a lot. The JNCIS-DevOps is an IT certification focused on DevOps skills working with the Junos operating system and Juniper line of networking hardware. Read on to find out if the advanced and specialized Juniper certification is worth it for you and your career.

What is the JNCIS-DevOps?

The JNCIS-DevOps is an IT certification offered by Juniper Networks focused on advanced DevOps knowledge applied to Juniper hardware and the Junos OS. The JNCIS-DevOps certification tests technical familiarity with the tools, protocols and technologies that can be used to automate the Junos OS platform as well as network functionality and network devices.

More specifically, the JNCIS-DevOps focuses on using those automation technologies in a DevOps environment. In other words, the JNCIS-DevOps tests more than just knowledge of scripting languages and tools for automating network devices and functionality — it's specifically focused on applying that knowledge in accordance with DevOps principles and in a way that's ideal for Juniper hardware and Junos operations.

JNCIS stands for Juniper Networks Certified Internet Specialist, which means the JNCIS-DevOps is one of Juniper's specialist-level certifications. That usually means there's an associate-level or entry-level certification that comes before it. In this case, it's the JNCIA-DevOps, an associate-level certification from Juniper Networks that's mostly focused on scripting languages and common automation tools. Many of Juniper's certification tracks have four levels of mastery, up to expert-level, but their DevOps track has only the JNCIA-DevOps and JNCIS-DevOps.

Earning the JNCIS-DevOps requires only passing one exam, the JN0-421. But the JNCIS-DevOps's predecessor is also its prerequisite: the JNCIA-DevOps. You'll need to earn that one first if you want the JNCIS.

What Does the JNCIS-DevOps Exam Test?

The JN0-421 is the necessary exam for earning the JNCIS-DevOps certification. The JNCIS-DevOps exam has 65 multiple-choice questions that you have 90 minutes to answer. Those 65 questions fall into one of the eight major sections of the exam. The JNCIS-DevOps exam objectives are:

  • Platform Automation Overview
  • NETCONF/XML API
  • Data Serialization and Templating
  • Python
  • Stateful Configuration (Ansible/SALT)
  • Junos Automation Scripts
  • YANG/OpenConfig
  • Juniper Extension Toolkit

If you're planning to earn the JNCIS-DevOps, it's worth noting that none of those objectives are about the broader strategies of implementing DevOps. The JNCIS-DevOps is specifically focused on the technical knowledge of implementing automation tools and technologies in a DevOps environment. The JNCIS-DevOps is intended for audiences who are already familiar with DevOps as a strategy and who need to know the technical steps that can be implemented in the Juniper environment.

How Much Does the JNCIS-DevOps Exam Cost?

The JNCIS-DevOps exam costs $300 to attempt – just like all Juniper specialist-level exams. But that won't be all you end up paying if you want to earn the JNCIS-DevOps. The JNCIA-DevOps is an official prerequisite for the JNCIS, which means you'll also need to pay $200 to earn that first. If you can pass both on the first try without any additional courses or training, the JNCIS-DevOps will cost you a total of $500. But if you're not sure that you can pass both exams, you might want to include the cost of training into your overall total.

What Experience Do You Need for the JNCIS-DevOps?

The best experience you can have going into the JNCIS-DevOps is an understanding of the scripting languages and tools that can automate devices and network functions. Before you attempt the JNCIS-DevOps, you should understand automation tools, but you should also understand the best practices for actually using them. The JNCIS-DevOps expects a fundamental understanding of DevOps principles like when you would go about automating Juniper devices.

Apart from the general understanding of being a member of a team using DevOps, there's plenty of technical knowledge you should have before attempting the JNCIS-DevOps. You should be familiar with automation access methods like XML API, NETCONF, and REST API as well as how to configure and use them. Data serialization is a key part of the JNCIS-DevOps exam, so you'll want to be familiar with YAML, JSON, Jinja2, and XML – not just reading their syntax but actually using templates. Python is a central pillar of the JNCIS-DevOps exam, so you should be familiar with reading and writing it with a special focus on using Python with PyEZ, RPCs, PyEZ exception handling, REST, JSNAPy and Jinja2.

For many people, DevOps and Ansible are synonymous. It's not actually correct to think of DevOps as the same thing as Ansible, but you will need a lot of Ansible and SALT familiarity to pass the JNCIS-DevOps. You should know how to use playbooks and templates, as well as how and when to use Tower, Pillars and Runner. The JNCIS-DevOps will test your familiarity with Junos automation scripts, so you should feel comfortable with commits, ops, events and SNMP scripts as well as SLAX.

The JNCIS-DevOps test has a section specifically dedicated to YANG and OpenConfig, so you should have experience with the features of Junos support for YANG models as well as implementation concepts. Last, be sure you can make full use of the Juniper Extension Toolkit, from service APIs to gRPC/gNMI and notification APIs.

Who Should Take the JNCIS-DevOps?

The JNCIS-DevOps should be taken by developers, administrators and engineers since it focuses most heavily on the technical skills and knowledge around automating Junos devices and operations within a DevOps environment. The JNCIS-DevOps isn't a good place to start your DevOps journey from, it's a much better tool for making you an even more technically proficient expert.

JNCIS-DevOps for Developers

The JNCIS-DevOps is worth it for many developers, but not all. It really depends on the level of involvement you have with technical implementation of your team's DevOps strategy. One of the most challenging parts of implementing DevOps in a company is getting all the individual team members on board with the new way of doing things. It's not unusual for the development teams in a company and the operations teams to have an adversarial relationship. The JNCIS-DevOps is worth it for developers who are already on board with the DevOps strategy of their company.

The JNCIS-DevOps doesn't test DevOps strategies or concepts, so it's not a great place to start if you're a developer who doesn't understand why you should worry about automating the network equipment. But for developers who are trying to expand their skills to include automation and management on the network equipment and OS that will run their code, the JNCIS-DevOps is worth it. The JNCIS-DevOps is worth it for developers who want a credential on their resume that shows they understand the impact their code has on network load and how to improve efficiency with automation.

In other words, if your company or team is leaning hard into DevOps and you're looking for a way to be technically valuable to that movement, the JNCIS-DevOps is worth it for you.

JNCIS-DevOps for Server Administrators

The JNCIS-DevOps is definitely worth it for server administrators. Being able to automate your network devices and operations with scripting languages and tools is an incredibly valuable skill, and the JNCIS-DevOps includes all the best technical approaches to doing so. Not only does the JNCIS-DevOps show you the technical strategies to providing automated solutions, it's also a great blueprint for every last skill you should get for automating server operations.

Even if your company or team don't care about DevOps, the JNCIS-DevOps is still worth it for server administrators because it shows you all the ways you can automate many of the most tedious tasks of your daily job away. The great thing about DevOps is that it's just taking the most efficient and effective automation techniques and languages and making them a part of the entire production cycle at a company. So even if your company isn't trying to implement DevOps, the JNCIS-DevOps is still a great way to prove your knowledge of Junos automation scripts, stateful configurations and mastery of the Juniper extension toolkit.

 JNCIS-DevOps for a DevOps Engineer

The JNCIS-DevOps is definitely worth it for DevOps engineers who work with Juniper Networks devices. The content of the JNCIS-DevOps is focused on extending Juniper devices and the Junos OS, so if you're a DevOps engineer who doesn't work with Juniper, there are other certifications that you should look to first. But if you work with Juniper and you're trying to implement technical solutions for network operations automation, the JNCIS-DevOps is an obvious choice.

The JNCIS-DevOps is a particularly good choice for any experienced DevOps engineers who have recently transitioned to Juniper. If you're already highly familiar with automating access methods with NETCONF or using REST API, if you already understand data serialization in YAML and JSON, and you already code in Python, the JNCIS-DevOps tests your ability to do all that – just in Junos. Preparing for the JNCIS-DevOps will make sure you understand the ways that Juniper devices and Junos are optimized for DevOps strategies.

Is the JNCIS-DevOps Worth It?

The JNCIS-DevOps is a valuable technical certification that's worth it for IT professionals who need specialized knowledge of automating Juniper networking technologies. So, what that means for IT professionals who don't work with Juniper equipment or the Junos OS, the JNCIS-DevOps probably isn't worth it. Similarly, if you don't work in a technical capacity with the actual technologies, languages, tools and protocols that go into automating a network environment, the JNCIS-DevOps probably isn't worth it.

But otherwise, the JNCIS-DevOps is worth it for technical professionals – people like administrators and engineers, and even developers – whose daily work involves working automation of network operations in a Juniper environment.

Using JNCIS-DevOps to Learn Skills

The JNCIS-DevOps is basically an inventory of all the things a technical expert should know about automating network behavior in a Juniper environment. What that means for network administrators and server administrators is if you need to learn anything about automation, automation access, data serialization, or network extensibility, there's no reason you shouldn't use the JNCIS-DevOps to learn those skills.

Courses and training that prepare you to pass the JNCIS-DevOps are available to you even if you don't plan to earn the JNCIS-DevOps. The best courses will let you select the material you're most interested in and skip sections you don't need. So if you just need to know how to write automation scripts for Junos in Python, finding a JNCIS-DevOps course should give you deep, technical familiarity with that.

On the other hand, since it is a technical certification, you can also go from very little familiarity with network automation to a technical expert by studying each one of the JNCIS-DevOps exam objectives. You might not want to go into a JNCIS-DevOps course with absolutely no familiarity in automation (try a JNCIA-DevOps course if that describes you), but preparing for the JNCIS-DevOps will teach you all the skills of automating a Juniper network you need to be a great DevOps practitioner.

Using JNCIS-DevOps to Validate Skills

Of course, there's another obvious reason to earn the JNCIS-DevOps, and that's to prove your skills in automation. If you've already taught yourself everything there is to know about stateful configuration, YANG and OpenConfig, the XML API and using NETCONF, then earning the JNCIS-DevOps is a great way to validate all those skills.

Earning the JNCIS-DevOps means you can assure employers and managers that you have a deep technical familiarity with everything that's necessary for implementing DevOps and automation strategies in a Juniper environment. There are many, many companies trying to implement brand new DevOps strategies right now, and they need technical experts who can take those hopes and dreams and turn them into reality. With the JNCIS-DevOps, your ability to do that will be documented.

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