Juniper Extends Training And Certification Program


The Juniper Networks Certification Fast Track Program was launched last year to help experienced networking professionals become certified on Juniper's JUNOS operating system, the OS Juniper has based its new lineup of EX enterprise Ethernet switches on. The program is designed to help VARs speed up their education in a short amount of time and at little to no cost. Originally, participants were required to hold a Cisco routing certification to qualify for Fast Track, but Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper announced this week that that will no longer be a necessity. Instead, any experienced networking professional can participate. Juniper will also add two new certification offerings to the portal.

Chris Becerra, co-founder of Terrapin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider, said training and certifications can mount substantial costs, especially as he continues to grow his two-year-old business. Having engineers on staff that are certified not only on Cisco's gear, but on JUNOS only made sense, he said.

"We were new and didn't do as much revenue as other companies," he said. "We had to fast track and get certified as soon as week could."

Like any business objective, Becerra said training and certification takes a lot of time, money and personal investment. Between the costs of courses, travel involved and time off to complete training, those costs add up.

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"It's not something that's going to kill your business, but it's going to affect your bottom line," he said. "It can get pretty pricy."

Bill Annino Jr., director of the network convergence solutions group at Exeter, R.I.-based solution provider Carousel Industries, agreed.

"At any point in time we have engineers going through certification and recertification. So we're going to continue to take advantage of it. Anything that any manufacturer will do for me to ease that financial burden helps," he said, adding that using the Fast Track program "you're only on the hook for downtime and travel."

Annino said Juniper's program recognizes Cisco's market presence and understands it's easier for resellers to bring aboard Cisco certified staff and cross-train them for Juniper than it is to start fresh. He added that having engineers trained on both Juniper and Cisco, two vendors Carousel is partnered with, puts his company in a better position to win potential accounts.

"It's easier to find Cisco talent and cross-train them with Juniper," he said. "Within one calendar year we got our entire staff cross-trained, now we're one of the dominant players in our space."

Becerra agreed, adding that even his biggest Juniper customers still have some Cisco gear in their networks.

"A typical objection is: My guys are trained on [Cisco's] IOS and not [Juniper's] JUNOS," he said. "This program is a good opportunity to learn about new products and test the waters too."

Steve Pataky, Juniper's vice president of worldwide channel and development programs, said the vendor has seen success with the Fast Track program, despite some uncertainty when it was launched last year.

"We didn't know what to expect when we did this and the results have been staggering," he said.

So far, the Fast Track program has had 17,156 participants from 137 countries and has resulted in 10,853 vouchers earned and 4,818 certifications granted. Juniper now has 12,083 overall JUNOS certifications issued, 6,422 of them in fiscal year 2007. Of those, 3,719 can be attributed directly to Fast Track. Across all platforms, Juniper has issued 23,899 certifications to date.

According to Pataky, Juniper's enterprise routing courseware is offered at no cost under Fast Track and vouchers are worth a 50 percent discount for exams. The routing courseware is valued at several thousand dollars and on average a partner would spend roughly $60 per exam.

Juniper will add two new certifications to the program this year, which have yet to be announced. And, in February, Juniper will release an enhanced Juniper Networks Certification Fast Track Web Portal, featuring a new enhanced user interface, updated program information with frequently asked questions, event-based email notifications to keep partner accounts secure and the ability to track the progress of participants' pre-assessment exams.

The portal gives access to several learning tools, such as JUNOS as a Second Language eLearning course; student and lab guides to operating Juniper Networks routers in the enterprise; student and lab guides to advanced Juniper Networks routing in the enterprise; hardware and software technical documentation; the JNCIA-ER preassessment online exam; and the JNCIS-ER preassessment online exam.

Scott Edwards, director of education services for Juniper said the Fast Track program eases the difficulty for resellers to add new vendors, new products and new technologies to their offerings, while also recognizing that they can leverage certifications from competing vendors to enhance their abilities.

"Why don't we leverage what investments that have already been made by these partners?" Edwards said. "We'll go after these people and make it accessible for them to get training and certified to demonstrate they've learned something new."

Pataky said Juniper recognizes the high costs involved for VARs to bring new technology on board and wants to help ease that overall financial burden to help get Juniper deeper into the channel.

"We know it costs money for training," Pataky said. "We know it costs money for certifications. We're making it a better ROI story."