Skilled storage pros are in demand as enterprise IT teams take on exponential data growth and strategically migrate data assets from legacy systems to more modern options.
For these professionals who are looking for a new job or aiming to advance in their current role, a certification could potentially differentiate them from other one candidates. And for hiring managers, certifications can help trim some of the risk from the recruitment process by validating to some extent expertise in areas such as network-attached storage, storage area networks, and storage configuration and operations management.
Vendor neutral vs. vendor specific
In general, storage industry certifications fall into two categories: vendor neutral and vendor specific. One longtime vendor-neutral organization is the nonprofit Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), which works to develop standards and education programs related to storage. Vendor-specific certifications are available from storage players including Brocade, Dell EMC, HPE, IBM and NetApp.
Choosing a certification to pursue depends on a candidate’s situation. Candidates with vendor-specific certifications can be appealing to companies that are searching for specific platform expertise, yet they may not be as desirable for companies that need people with the skills to work across a heterogeneous storage environment.
Meanwhile, current salary trends indicate strong demand for experienced IT pros who work in the networked storage arena. Tech career hub and job-search site Dice released its annual guide to U.S. tech salaries, and a number of storage positions are netting higher-than-average pay increases. As an example, the single biggest salary increase, percentage wise, among all IT roles went to tech pros who have experience with Dell’s Compellent enterprise storage platform. Tech pros with Compellent skills earned, on average, $111,457 last year, an increase of 11%, according to Dice's salary research. (See more salaries for storage pros here).
Granted, hiring managers won’t view a certification as a replacement for practical experience. Another consideration is the evolving landscape of technologies for architecting and managing storage in modern data centers. Companies are stepping up adoption of flash storage, software-defined storage, cloud storage and hyperconvergence, and certifications are being revised to stay current with these technologies.
Here’s a look at some of the most valuable options available today in the market for storage certifications, beginning with the vendor-neutral SNIA and then organized alphabetically by vendor.
Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)
The SNIA Storage Networking Certification Program (SNCP) is focused on vendor-neutral storage networking knowledge and skills. The program is based on four primary certification levels: SNIA Certified Storage Professional, SNIA Certified Storage Engineer, SNIA Certified Storage Architect, and SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert. SNIA stresses that its education and certification resources are designed to integrate with and complement individual vendor certifications, providing industry context for different product nuances. In its words:
“To be successful in your career, it is necessary to understand how the storage products fit together in a multi-vendor environment. SNIA Education provides the framework for a general understanding of storage networking concepts, troubleshooting, management and administration and architecture. The knowledge and skills you receive from the vendor training and certification makes you better prepared to architect and deliver a full multi-vendor solution,” SNIA explains in an FAQ.
Brocade recently revamped its certification program, with the new lineup taking effect in November 2016. Brocade’s certifications are organized by four major job roles (architect/designer, implementer, administrator, and support) and four proficiency levels (associate, professional, expert and master). The IP certification track cultivates expertise in the installation, configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting of Brocade Layer 2/3 products, for example, while the Ethernet Fabric IT track is focused on Brocade VDX hardware, and the storage networking track is focused on VCS Fabric storage networks. Details available here.
Dell EMC’s certification program tackles the broad range of the combined company’s hardware, software and solutions. The company offers four proficiency levels (associate, specialist, professional, and expert), and its storage-specific certification tracks include information storage and management; storage administrator; implementation engineer; technology architect; and many more. View a summary of Dell EMC’s certification framework here.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
HPE offers a wide range of certifications in its certification program, which spans IT management, big data, security, servers, cloud computing and more. It offers four storage-specific options: HPE Master ASE - Storage Solutions Architect V2; HPE ASE - Storage Solutions Architect V2; HPE ATP - Storage Solutions V2; and HPE Product Certified – OneView.
The IBM Professional Certification program spans all of its enterprise tech offerings, including analytics, cloud, security and more. Currently, IBM offers nine credentials related to its storage software and 12 specialist certifications related to its storage systems.
Aimed at storage pros working with NetApp data storage and management technologies, NetApp’s certification programs offers 12 credentials. It’s organized in three levels (associate, specialist and professional) across four main job roles (implementation engineer, storage administrator, support engineer, and installation engineer).