Storage-Related Programs and Certifications
The proliferation of high-speed networking with technologies like HyperChannel, Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet and so forth has fostered an entire industry related to matters of storage. Sometimes known as NAS (network attached storage) or SAN (storage area networking), this technology makes use of high-speed networks to interlink servers and extremely large pools of online (disk), near-line (tape or optical media mounted and ready for use) or off-line (tape or optical media that must be mounted to be used) storage. Very often, this technology depends on what’s sometimes called “side-band” networking, in that the network connections used to access such storage are not part of normal network media but instead use separate media and connections (“off to the side” as it were, hence the name).
The equipment and software used to support SAN and NAS is complex and expensive, and requires considerable expertise and skill to design, deploy and use to its best effect. This probably explains why a surprising number of certifications now address this technology area and why so many system and platform vendors—such as IBM, Sun, HP (and the former Compaq Computer), Dell, Brocade, McData, VERITAS and others—offer storage-related certifications that focus on their particular solutions.
In fact, this is an area where vendor-neutral certification programs, like the Storage Networking Certification Program (SCNP) from the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA), are seriously outnumbered by vendor-specific offerings. Some pundits in this area have argued that this is inevitable because storage networking is still in its infancy and it stands to reason that designers, implementers and administrators are consequently most concerned with specific platforms and implementations, rather than with general concepts, tools, technologies and principles. I’m not sure if I buy into this rationale completely, but it certainly makes a compelling explanation for the shape of the current certification landscape in this topical area.
In fact, outside the vendor-neutral SCNP program, I can’t find any other vendor-neutral certifications on storage networking at all. There are, however, plenty of vendor-neutral courses on this subject from training and consulting companies and at various institutions of higher learning (community colleges, plus graduate and undergraduate academic programs)—just no other vendor-neutral certs or programs.
Thus, the SCNP program holds the enviable position of acting as a gateway to numerous vendor programs and seems to be pretty well accepted throughout the industry. When it comes to selecting vendor-specific programs, it looks like a choice between turning to system vendors like IBM, Sun, Dell, HP and so forth, or to specific SAN implementation vendors like Adaptec, Brocade, McData or VERITAS. In most of these latter cases, whatever platform or technology is in use in the workplace will help to narrow the selection considerably, if it doesn’t dictate it outright.
David Foote (a principal at Foote Partners, a certification industry financial and employment analyst) has expressed surprise at how slow uptake of storage networking certification has been in the past three to four years. Given the rising popularity of such systems, one might expect related certifications to be booming. But given the further statistic that only 10 percent of all SAN and NAS implementations truly qualify as “enterprise scale” with a total size of perhaps 250 to 300 installations that qualify under this rubric, perhaps the surprise is that this certification market is healthy and growing, if somewhat subdued and slow to increase its population. But given current economic conditions, the stage of adoption in many companies and organizations, and the size of outlays required to invest in this technology, perhaps the real surprise is that this area remains strong and offers good opportunities in the years still ahead.
Ed Tittel is vice president of IT certification at iLearning.com and is contributing editor for Certification Magazine. E-mail Ed with your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table 1: Storage-Related Certs
Adaptec Certified Storage Professional (ACSP)
Brocade Certified SAN Designer (BCSD)
Dell Certified Enterprise Engineer – Network Storage Track