Enterprise information is bulging at the seams and that has fuelled the demand for storage resources, and thus for trained storage professionals. There is a great void in demand and availability of storage professionals. How can you gear up to take up opportunities on offer and prepare yourself to be a successful storage professional is what this article is all about
Worldwide digital information is being generated at a tremendous pace, and hence the need to store and manage this information has fueled the demand for storage professionals. Data storage is a critical exercise for any business to successfully carry out its business. Emerging trends in storage industry have also encouraged an increase in the average storage capacity in organizations. Although storage resources have been increasing along with the digital information deluge, so is the paucity of trained storage professionals.
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Market research organization IDC has found the total disk storage systems capacity shipped last year reached 1,645 PB (Petabytes), which grew 56.3% over previous year. In India the disk based storage business is growing at 72% and is expected to reach 1 lakh TB by 2009. IDC also predicts that the booming digital information economy is expected to create a demand for a million storage professionals by the year 2012. A US salary survey for the last year also reveals that storage professionals have the highest average salary amongst all IT specialties. Despite the current global economic uncertainties enterprises need to store their ever-increasing volumes of business data. Thus, even during the current recession, the demand for storage professionals continues to grow.
Information explosion, coupled with regulatory compliance pressures, limited IT budgets and dependency on data centric networks has resulted in organizations to adopt a defined information management strategy that lays emphasis on quality storage professionals. SAN administration is one aspect related to storage domain, DR, archiving and journaling being the others. As data is most important for an enterprise's business, it's imperative for an enterprise to have storage professionals for better designing and management of storage requirements of the company. The demand for such professionals is not specific to a particular vertical, but is spread across all. Be it banking, media/publishing houses or data centers; all need storage professionals. Thus, with increasing demand for such professionals, storage as a career is a safe and lucrative option.
|We interviewed Mr. Reddy about the
roles that a storage professional has to perform and what trends are shaping
the storage domain. Excerpts from the interview.
What could be the various job roles for a Storage
professional in an organization? What is your advice for a new aspirant?
Apart from the industry standard SNIA certification, it is recommended that individuals prioritize and obtain vendor-specific storage certifications that businesses can use right now. The top five storage certifications that IT managers want are Vendor-specific storage platform; Backup software; Volume management; SNIA certification; and Storage networking. For professionals foraying into storage, we would advice them to get a hands on experience on various high end storage devices along with certifications.
What domains of Storage arena will be the
hot-spots for professionals and how the market demand for Storage
professionals will be in coming years?
This can be attributed to the shift in computing and storage to data centers with technologies like cloud computing & Grid Computing. In future Storage subsystems, by default, are the most important segment as they provide the backbone infrastructure, storage capacity, reliability, availability, performance, and connectivity.
The focus will also shift to storage virtualization. More and more companies would go for storage management tools. Data protection technologies related to backup and recovery, disaster recovery and business continuity, would take a front seat. We foresee a very good demand for storage professionals provided they have the right knowledge and industry or vendor specific certification backing their knowledge.
How to become a storage professional?
The increasing dependency of businesses on digital information is leading to larger and more complex information storage environments that are challenging to manage. This gives a very clear indication of a growing demand for well qualified storage professionals. With the storage industry growing at a healthy rate, the demand for certified data storage professionals is all set to increase manifold. If you are an IT professional and want to foray into the storage domain, you will have to leverage your existing skills set in IT, gain experience and undergo certifications to enhance your knowledge of the domain. Storage is a domain that has not been standardized yet and there are many vendor specific products (IBM, Hitachi, EMC, Symantec, Net App), and solutions that are deployed in enterprises. These storage solutions are unable to talk to each other and thus create restrictions for professionals as they get stuck with one solution and its deployment. They cannot switch their expertise of one vendor-specific product to another. For instance a backup storage professional on Symantec Veritas won't be able to leverage his expertise to a competing product. With the advent of virtualization software, communication between conflicting vendor products is possible. Enterprises seek professionals who have solid understanding of the various kinds of storage devices and solutions available. The focus towards data storage can be attributed to the growth of globalization, e-commerce and user expectations of zero down time. The role of storage professionals is becoming far more complex including the need to understand a wide array of technologies, vendor solutions and compliance and security techniques, and also to meet the expectations of the users. Thus to prepare yourself as a storage professional, it's advisable that you combine vendor-neutral and vendor-specific training and certifications to position yourself well. To succeed you will also have to enhance your skills and knowledge as technology advances.
Towards a successful storage career
Primarily the job of a storage professional in an enterprise is that of a local storage network administrator. For network professionals, look to extend their skills for this storage domain, this is a natural extension as they would be joining as UNIX or Windows system administrators. A storage professional can start as a junior storage administrator and then move on to become a storage administrator followed by a storage manager or a storage architect. He can then possibly specialize to become a backup/recovery administrator or DR/BCP administrator. Also as the enterprises give increasing attention to archiving and journaling (because of legal and regulatory compliance pressures that calls for the preservation of more data for longer periods of time), these two areas of specialization along with compliance knowhow can also be a great career curve for storage professionals.
Storage demand is always going up and is not showing any signs of slowing down. There are quite a few pain points in the industry that need to be worked on and this gives plenty of opportunities to individuals with the right skill set. Some of them are a) managing storage growth and capacity (b) SAN management is different from managing IP networks (c) lack of a proper interoperable or integrated solutions (d) inadequate support (e) storage provisioning issues. My advice for aspiring IT professionals is to take storage as a career option would be to take SNIA's Storage Network Foundations certification exam which will give him a good overall overview of storage fundamentals. He can use this knowledge to decide on his next career steps.
The storage professional can take a typical careerpath as follows depending
on the level of expertise and skill sets:
1. Storage-network operator: This job is at the entry level for professionals having no or little system administration experience. The job responsibilities entail configuring fiber-channel switches and provisioning storage on a storage array.
2. Storage-network administrator: This is the next step, up the ladder and responsibilities entail switch zoning and management, storage system administration and host integration.
3. Storage architect: With SAN administration experience at different capacities, a storage professional can become storage architect, responsible for capacity planning, SAN design and process management.
There are specific domains where a storage professional can venture. For data
centers, the two most important storage domains where specialist storage
professionals are required are:
1. Backup and recovery: It requires relevant expertise in data backup operations, and having vendor specific trainings or certifications. The job responsibilities would entail carrying the backup operations and deploying and managing backup products for specific operations.
2. DR and BCP: Every enterprise is deploying disaster recovery and business continuity management policies. DR & BCP administrator would be responsible for planning, implementation and management of DR, backup and recovery of storage information.
The booming digital information market is expected to create demand
for one million new storage professionals by 2012.
What skill sets does a storage professional
require and what certifications can help him enhance his career prospects?
What is the scope for such professionals in
India as well as abroad?
Enterprises where digital data capacity is 20 TB and above, storage professionals can be hired for the data management and storage network designing. And as data centers are all set to shape the storage market, it becomes natural for data centers to have storage professionals to cater to storage needs and designing of efficient storage platforms.
Hot new areas
The storage domain comprises of several niche areas where a professional can develop expertise and become a domain specialist. There are a few areas on the priority list of each CIO, CTO and IT administrator. Some of the technology areas where a storage professional can look forward to be a domain specialist are:
1. E-mail management: Majority business users rely on e-mail more than even a telephone for business communications; an ever-increasing amount of critical information is passed through a company's e-mail system. Managing the email system and archiving email messages for complying with government's regulations are becoming issues of concern for enterprises. Enterprises in India are facing this huge email explosion and hence have to adopt effective e-mail management and archiving solutions.
2. Disaster recovery & business continuity: Post 9/11 organizations have woken towards adopting measures for unforeseen situations such as terrorist threats, cyber crimes and occurrence of natural calamities such as Tsunami, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
3. Information security: Assuring data confidentiality and integrity have become major security challenges these days. Customers want to avoid the financial implications of data loss and potential negative publicity.
4. Storage virtualization: Companies that have large, diverse and complex storage environments are looking to simplify the management of these environments. They are the most likely candidates to go for storage virtualization.
5. IP-based storage: IP-based storage will gain momentum because of its strengths of cost, capacity, scalability and manageability, especially in SMBs. IP SAN is a perfect solution for mid-tier organizations, that are planning to move to networked storage or help in consolidating existing SANs at high end. It helps in total network storage consolidation of resources at a lower cost and centralizes the storage architecture. It also helps in leveraging existing investments in Fiber Channel SAN. In case of NAS, it extends NAS consolidation capabilities to include traditional block applications.
Certifications for Storage Pros
|Certification||Level||What you stand to gain||Prerequisites|
|SNIA Certified Storage Professional||Professional||Professionals who want to a strong foundation of vendor-neutral, systems level credentials that will integrate with and complement individual vendor certifications.||SNIA Storage Network Foundations exam (S10-101)|
|SNIA Certified Storage Architect||Architect||Certifies expert-level knowledge of planning, technology design and implementation and process management.||SNIA Architect – Assessment, Planning & Design exam (S10-300) and S10-101|
|SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert||Expert||Validates expert level knowledge for SAN administration and integration knowhow.||S10-101, SNIA Certified Storage Architect exam and S10-300|
|Hitachi Data Systems|
|Hitachi Data Systems Certified Implementer||Professional||Certifies knowledge of Hitachi storage systems and software products and understanding of installation, configuration and deployment procedures and administrative activities.||HDS Storage Foundations Certification. With subsequent certifications one can be Certified Implementation Specialist.|
|Hitachi Data Systems Certified Architect||Architect||Certifies knowledge of storage concepts, including interoperability of storage networking as well as implementation knowledge.||HDS Storage Foundations Certification. With subsequent examinations become HDS Certified Expert Architect.|
|Hitachi Data Systems Certified Storage Manager||Manager||Certifies knowledge to execute storage networking operations and to plan the storage architecture. Next move on to be Business Continuity or Storage Management Expert.||HDS Storage Foundations Certification. With subsequent examinations become HDS Certified Expert Storage Manager.|
|EMC Storage Technologist Certification Specialist||Associate||Gain fundamental knowledge of latest storage architectures, such as Storage Subsystems, SAN, NAS, DAS, CAS, IP-SAN, and information security.||No prerequisite exam. Candidate should be from EMC partners. He can later move on to be a Specialist or an Expert.|
|IBM Certified Specialist - Open Systems Storage Solutions Version 6||Specialist||This specialist understands and is able to explain tape, disk, SAN, NAS, as well as IBM's storage management and storage software.||One should have experience on multiple Open Systems platforms and IBM technical storage.|
|IBM Certified Specialist - Storage Networking Solutions Version 3||Specialist||This specialist knows the IBM storage networking product family and the architectural differentiators related to NAS, SAN, iSCSI, and related networking protocols.||Should have experience with a broad range of storage networking products and in storage architecture.|
|Veritas Storage Foundation 5.0 Administration||Professional||Gain knowledge and skills necessary to administer, install, operate, or integrate Veritas Storage Foundation 5.0||Candidate should have Storage Virtualization Concepts.|
A certification from a particular vendor acts as a value add-on for a storage professional. Though the storage domain is restricted with vendor-specific certifications, there are non-profit organizations like Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) that standardizes the education and training for storage professionals on a vendor-neutral basis. SNIA Storage Network Foundations exam is useful for those having limited or no SAN experience at all. This course provides relevant hands-on labs experience to befit a professional for the role of storage-network operator. For administration level job roles, a professional should have storage architecture and implementation experience. And as these storage implementations are vendor specific, they have their SAN Host Integration certifications available for the professionals. The SNIA foundation course imparts skill on managing the switch and zoning along with provisioning, configuring the host operating system for fiber-channel storage, while the SAN Host Integration course will add to it the knowledge for creating mount file systems, and importing and exporting the volume data groups, which are vendor specific.
EMC Corporation, which is world's leading developer and provider of information infrastructure technology and solutions, has initiated a program by partnering with academic institutes. Under this EMC Academic Alliance program, the associate institutes will impart the storage technology knowledge to the students as part of their curriculum. This will enable students to have the prevalent technology trend information and also the labs experience before they can start on their career. Several vendors provide certifications for their products and solutions which are applicable for their end-users, partners and customers. For instance, Hitachi Data Systems Certifications which give a technical focus on Hitachi storage technology and products to the professionals.
The table shows various vendors' certification exams that a storage professional can specialize in and get channelized into a particular domain to become a domain specialist.