Information Creating Opportunities for Professi

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According to a recent IDC study,

“The total volume of digital information created in 2010 will surge sixfold to an astonishing 988 exabytes — 988 billion gigabytes — compared with 2006. And although most of this information will be created by individuals, 85 percent of it will be managed by organizations. IT managers will see the span of their domains considerably enlarged, and information security and privacy protection will become a boardroom concern as organizations and their customers become increasingly tied together in real time. This will require the implementation of new security technologies in addition to new training, policies and procedures.”

Managing this unprecedented storage demand is the No. 1 challenge IT managers face today.

Increasing information storage means increasing requirements to protect, manage, optimize and leverage information.

The advancements in information storage technology present a variety of options in storage networking, protection, management, security and compliance.

Opportunities for Storage Professionals

Mission-critical information and exploding requirements and advancements in technologies require a very knowledgeable workforce. As compared with operating systems, networking, databases and applications, storage technology generally is understood the least, except by those who are involved in information storage and management.

This knowledge gap creates a large opportunity for new IT professionals, as well as for those who want to move into a new, rewarding career as a storage professional.

In most organizations, the storage management function is still evolving. Large corporations usually have well-defined storage management groups with specialized skill sets. Small and sometimes midsize corporations have this function spread across other groups.

A recent EMC Corp. study of more than 1,200 storage professionals showed that, on average, one storage professional is deployed for every 20 to 40 terabytes of usable storage, depending on the overall size of storage infrastructure.

Standards in defining the storage teams, individual job definitions and job titles are still evolving.

The following is an attempt to describe some of the key functions that are carried out in IT organizations either within a formalized storage management group or across IT groups by forming a storage management virtual team.
These functions can be combined to create an individual job definition.

Storage Manager

The storage manager is a strategic function that carries overall responsibility of defining strategic direction and capacity planning, as well as designing, deploying, integrating, monitoring and managing the storage infrastructure. The function covers all aspects of storage infrastructure, including storage networking, information protection and day-to-day management.

Storage managers are responsible for the overall performance of their department or organization. This role requires a broad range of expertise, spanning both technical and managerial skills.

Storage Administrator

Storage administration is another critical function that ensures superior performance and high availability of the storage infrastructure.
Storage administrators’ responsibilities might include performance monitoring and troubleshooting, provisioning, configuration management and monitoring the overall health of the infrastructure and all its components.

In addition to understanding the varied storage technologies, storage administrators are required to have a strong technical and usability knowledge of all components (whether hardware or software) of the implemented storage infrastructure. Storage administrators must master the features, functions, capabilities and limitations of each implemented component in the infrastructure.

Storage Architect

Based on the business, applications and systems requirements, storage architects are responsible for overall storage infrastructure design and architecture. Storage architects must have strong knowledge and understanding of both storage networking and information-protection/data-availability technologies.

They also are responsible for defining best practices, design standards and strategic, long-term planning of information storage infrastructure.

In addition to strong design skills and being current on all segments of storage technology, storage architects are required to have strong knowledge and skills in operating systems, databases and applications as implemented in their organization.

Backup and Recovery Administrator

Backup and recovery administration is a critical part of the overall IT function, as it ensures recovery of data from any corruptions and failures. Individuals in this area are responsible for implementing and managing the backup and archiving policies and processes, management of tape/online backup libraries and periodic testing of the backup/recovery processes.

Backup and recovery administrators are required to have strong knowledge of various backup- and archiving-related hardware and software components. They have to drive the best practices and processes to meet well-defined service level agreements with the user business units.

In many cases, this function is combined with the responsibilities of the storage administrator or IT operations manager.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Administrator

With increasing reliance on IT to provide nonstop availability of mission-critical information, the business continuity function has become one of the most critical in IT. Using sophisticated replication technologies, the business continuity administrator is required to implement and manage procedures and policies that ensure nonstop data availability in case of any unplanned and planned outages.

Disaster recovery administration deals with an organization’s preparedness to ensure continuity of the business in case of any disastrous event, which (in extreme cases) might require an immediate switching of entire IT operations to an always-ready secondary site.

Based on the organizational layout and distribution of responsibilities, the business continuity and disaster recovery functions may be combined or added to the storage administration function. They might be part of the backup-recovery function if an organization primarily relies on off-site, tape-based disaster recovery (vaulting).

Business continuity and disaster recovery administrators are expected to have a thorough understanding of the organization’s mission-critical applications and associated data. They must be capable of deploying and managing business continuity- and disaster recovery-related processes and storage technologies.

What Do IT Managers Need?

Many managers who participated in EMC’s managing storage study said they plan to increase their storage management teams by two to three times in the next 12 months.

When asked about their hiring preferences, more than 75 percent of the managers said they want to hire experienced storage professionals.

Unfortunately, experienced IT people are becoming increasingly scarce — Forrester Research reports that by 2017, 76 million baby boomers in the United States will retire, with only 46 million younger employees in line to replace them. During the next several years, storage experience, literally, might walk away.

As the next-best alternative, more than 67 percent of managers want to hire candidates who are trained and certified in storage technology. Certification is an easy way for a hiring manager to validate job candidates’ knowledge and ensure they can contribute quickly.

Acquiring Storage Technology Knowledge

Exacerbating the growing knowledge gap is the lack of options available to acquire storage technology knowledge and skills — you rarely find a university or college that offers comprehensive education on information storage and management, and until recently, few IT training providers offered public classes on this fastest-growing segment of IT.

Academia, vendors and IT users must play a role in addressing this challenge. For example, EMC has introduced an open curriculum that covers a variety of modern storage infrastructure components.

This curriculum focuses on underlying concepts and principles of storage technology rather than on specific products, and it supports an open certification track: the Storage Technologist (EMCST).

The unprecedented growth of information and management of storage, combined with the alarming knowledge gap in the industry, creates a very attractive opportunity for the next generation of IT professionals. Creating awareness and providing learning and certification options are paramount in addressing these challenges.

Alok Shrivastava is the senior director of the EMC Corp. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com .

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