Storage Area Networks (SANs) offer companies an excellent method for cutting storage costs while providing greater availability -- provided you have an abundant supply of people possessing the knowledge and skills to manage them. And that's the problem. The explosive growth in SAN deployment has led to a dearth of personnel who are proficient at running them.
"There is a definite lack of storage expertise across the IT industry," says Nancy Marrone, senior analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass. "Configuring storage arrays is one thing; configuring, maintaining, and managing SANs adds a level of complexity that your common system admin does not have the knowledge or time to handle."
To address this skills shortfall, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in late April announced a three-level storage training program at the Storage Networking World conference in Phoenix, Ariz. The program is targeted at the SAN skills shortage and aims to certify administrators on Fibre-Channel (FC) SANs.
The Need for Basics
While most storage manufacturers offer training on how to access the features of their particular products, such a piecemeal education doesn't meet the needs of enterprises which are seeking to deal with storage on an enterprise basis.
"Most organizations used to make separate buying decisions for each computing platform," says David Liff, regional vice president of brand management for Storage for Computer Associates Inc. in Islandia, N.Y. "This has changed over the last year to where they are assigning one person to oversee centralized storage purchasing."
But the people making those purchasing decisions, as well as the administrators and users, need to achieve an overall view of storage technology issues in order to make the correct decisions. This requires a clear understanding of the basic underlying principles and technologies, in addition to the nuts and bolts of how to architect, assemble, and operate storage for optimum business value.
"In the past, people would just train on a particular box or storage product and leave it at that," says Deborah Johnson, president and CEO of Infinity I/O, a storage training company located in Half Moon Bay, Calif., that is partnering with the SNIA on FC-SAN training. "Now more and more enterprises are coming to recognize that they need to view storage as part of the big picture, including how it relates to business practices. Such training is essential before they get into the individual product training on storage products and technologies."
Infinity I/O provides a series of vendor-neutral storage training courses, both live and online. The online course takes eight hours and costs $500, while the live courses take two to three days at costs from $1,300 to $2,895.
The e-Learning course covers the fundamentals of Fibre Channel SANs, giving an overview of the industry and the various components, technologies, and topologies used. The live courses cover SAN technologies in more depth, including the networking protocols involved. Infinity I/O also offers a hands-on lab where participants can gain experience planning, building, and configuring SANs.
"Many storage personnel now have enough familiarity with SANs and NAS, but they are not satisfied with their ability to manage these technologies or to deal with interoperability challenges," Johnson explains.