The Virtual Mind-set

Storage staffers can make the leap to managing virtual environments, but not without targeted training.

As companies are diving deeper into virtualized storage projects, IT managers are getting a better understanding of the staff skills they need to make those projects succeed. The exact talents required depend on the type of storage implementation, but most employers say they're in the market for two kinds of IT worker: technicians with vendor-specific SAN or NAS knowledge, and systems administrators and IT architects who understand the complexities and interdependencies among applications, operating systems and I/O, all of which affect storage requirements. (Find average pay rates for storage professionals in Computerworld's annual Salary Survey.)

But the different approaches to storage virtualization demand different skills. For example, IT organizations that have created virtual server farms have typically relied on storage professionals who are knowledgeable about the types of platform being used and how best to allocate storage for those configurations, says Vincent Franceschini, chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association in San Francisco.

That's one reason why IT leaders and industry observers say systems administrators and IT architects have skills that can help organizations manage storage virtualization efforts. Workers with such backgrounds are typically adept at configuration management and understand how storage, or "block," virtualization interrelates with disciplines such as disaster recovery planning and server clustering, says Irwin Teodoro, director of engineering, systems integration at Laurus Technologies Inc., a systems integrator in Itasca, Ill.

What's needed is targeted instruction in how virtualization works.

For example, IT professionals who want to get involved with storage virtualization "need to know how the operating systems treat disk or what the disk limitations are to be successful in this environment," Teodoro says. Plus, systems administrators "are familiar with some form of data storage layout, and what you find is that 80% to 90% of storage administrators have backgrounds in systems administration," he adds.

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