Rite of Passage

It was over a game of pool with John Harrington that I met Doug Hanks. I knew very little of the man other than he was “the man” at Juniper to speak to regarding MX-anything. It was very shortly after we introduced did I start to realize that my counterpart had an absolute wealth of knowledge hidden in that short stature. We shared many beers and chatted many about many things; life, networking, Australia with its flora and fauna to name a few.


When I arrived back to Australia, Doug spoke to me over the Twitters and asked me would I like to review his newly pressed book entitled “Juniper MX Series” by O’Reilly. Co-written by Harry Reynolds. this book had “secret sauce within” written all over the front cover and was adorned by a beautifully hand drawn bird; a signature to the O’Reilly series.

I agreed to doing a review. A FedEx parcel arrived about a week later and contained within was probably one of the most defining books I have read in my networking career thus far. Sure we have staples that teach the IP stack, define basic vendor mantras or leave you wanting more. This was something else. Gosh, I am going to use the word magical.

Attached was a letter thanking me for my time to perform this book review. Let it be known that this book was a gift. Given to me without request for favor. Given to me in exchange for a blog post; the contents of which would purely be based upon experiences reading this book.

I love the corporate stationary. So lush!

Well first a disclaimer. I am a Cisco guy who is dabbling in Juniper. I understand technologies in play but in the case of Juniper, I cannot vouch for the technical accuracy. That being said look at the people who are reviewing on Amazon are saying. The caliber of the people, Darren O’Connor, Kurt Bales (Juniper Champion – AU ) can vouch for the technical accuracy. UK Amazon | US Amazon

So what made this book magical? From the first chapter you are outlined what the MX platform is and how it came to be. The reasons why it are so powerful are there in its technical glory. TRIO chip set explanations include how the MX family utilizes this to achieve its performance numbers and why it can do what it does. The flow in the presentation of the information allows for an easily digestible read. This chapter should be everywhere. Doug and Harry have expressed such clarity and understanding in the first chapter that it was a breeze to continue reading.

Page after page did I keep reading. I analyzed the foreign JUNOS code base and worked with the logical and clear diagrams to figure out that was happening. A structured reference to the syntax coupled with a great analogy really drove home new networking terminologies. On the first read I was gaining insight on how features interacted with the hardware but most importantly is why. This allows better design and architecture choices. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had read over 350 pages. I was reading far beyond my skill set but still understanding. I wasn’t lost in a minefield of poor grammar (I appreciate good grammar though I cannot produce it. Sorry! ) or incorrect charts/numbers. By referencing a start point and escalating very quickly in an ordered, process driven way, the authors can give the reader a real chance to climb with them.

The chapters cover in very deep detail what it can do and more. After experience the joy that comes from Doug and Harry writing about their knowledge of a technology do you find a Case study awaiting you at the end of each chapter. These case studies show deployments of the technology, how to use it, and includes caveats. Couple with some hidden commands (JTAC on production or lab only please!) you can test almost anything. These labs give you a sound foundation to build your labs upon. My personal favorites were MC-LAG and TRIO-INLINE services. I read and re-read each one with such a close eye and can’t wait to pester someone for a play on their MX! It felt like I was on a journey. Well written and thoroughly useful Case Studies.

I am a stickler for nice stationary and typeset. The fact that Doug had already send a thick GSM envelope and letter written on his personal corporate letter head got me excited. Enveloped was printed both sides and accents were in the Juniper livery. Placing my reading glasses on and opening the book I was delighted by the choice of font. Great leading and paragraphing, nice font size and smart use of constant width clearly delineated areas allow the text to flow. I only wish that this book was a hardcover. The workout they are going to get will punish the softbound nature of it over time. Maybe that was a Layer 8 decision.

Doug’s love note

Closing Thoughts

Doug and Harry state early on and more than once that this book isn’t for the faint of heart. This is designed as a modern day technical bible. By cutting the fundamental things people should know by this stage does it allow the authors to dig to depths that haven’t seen light in a long time. Maybe never! I would recommend anyone working with the platform to strongly suggest looking at purchasing this book. If I learnt what I did from a theory background then I can say without a doubt those who are using the MX regularly will gain a new insight  about their boxes.  Not since the days of Doyle has the industry seen such a masterpiece. This is a testament to the craft and knowledge of Doug and Harry and the MX Series platform. Well done guys!

* On a reread and subsequent skill gain on JUNOS will I explore the hands on part of this book in more detail. Only so many hours in a day!


5 thoughts on “Rite of Passage”

  1. Nice write up Anthony. I love the phrase “We shared many beers and chatted many about many things; life, networking, Australia with its flora and fauna to name a few.” Sounds very civilised ;-).

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