Beef up your paycheck: Top five storage certifications

Surveys indicate that a combination of storage experience and certifications are worth a lot

Storage jobs are hot and trained storage personnel are in short supply, say industry analysts and IT managers. This combination is weakening the resolve of IT managers to hold out for experienced personnel, leaving them with few options other than to hire those who have or are willing to obtain storage certifications. Though IT managers and analysts differ on which specific storage certifications are best for advancement in 2007, they recommend that individuals prioritize and obtain vendor-specific storage certifications that businesses can use right now.

With the concept of networked storage still relatively new for many companies, initial surveys indicate that a combination of storage experience and certifications are worth a lot. The top five storage certifications that IT managers want in 2007 are:

-- Vendor-specific storage platform

-- Backup software

-- Volume management

-- SNIA certification

-- Storage networking

David Foote, CEO and chief research officer at IT workforce consultancy Foote Partners, says he has been tracking storage-related salaries and certified and noncertified skills pay for more than two years, and 2006 is the first year his company started tracking storage certifications and their associated pay. Though data gathering for storage certifications is continuing, storage-area network (SAN) administrators are on Foote Partners' list of hot jobs for 2007.

Foote Partners finds that companies are desperate to get people with experience and certifications, and they are willing to pay handsomely for it. "In the last six months, we have seen 20 percent growth in pay for some SAN certifications. Moreover, salaries for senior storage network administrators are up 10 percent over the last 18 months, well beyond the average growth pay for IT jobs overall," Foote says.

Since companies cannot find experienced storage people, Foote finds some companies are willing to consider internal or external applicants with storage certifications. However, people with certifications are in short supply. According to Ralph Luchs, education director at the Storage Networking Industry Association, "There are only 1,000 SNIA certified professionals, and of those only 400 have gone on to obtain advanced certifications like the SNIA Certified Architect or SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert."

In the absence of users possessing vendor-neutral storage certifications, vendor-specific storage platform certifications or training, such as EMC's Proven Professional, Hitachi Data Systems' Certified Storage Manager or Hewlett-Packard's StorageWorks training, top the list as to what companies are looking to reward in 2007.

Pete Fischer, a storage systems manager at a Midwest paper packaging company, followed this path to success over the past two years, achieving an associate-level EMC Proven Professional certification through online training. "EMC's coursework covered a lot of vendor-agnostic concepts and gave me a solid base for storage networking technology as a whole," Fischer says.

Steve Olson, infrastructure manager at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, similarly placed a high value on anyone with a combination of vendor-specific experience and certifications. He says that despite EMC's claims that the company's EMC Control Center management software would take the brainwork out of storage platform support and ease management problems, Olson found that managing his 20TB EMC DMX storage array is too complex through just a simple graphical user interface.

"Individuals holding disk subsystem certifications like EMC's are most valuable since it indicates to me they understand the inner workings of how a product like EMC's Symmetrix works," Olson says.

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Jerome Wendt

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