The Data Keepers

What you need to know to land a job and keep your skills fresh in the storage field.

State Farm Insurance Cos., the largest insurer in the U.S., has hundreds of terabytes of stored data to tend, according to Eric Ogilvie, the manager responsible for enterprise storage at the company's Bloomington, Ill., headquarters. With four data centers in the U.S. and one in Canada, it's no wonder State Farm has frequent job openings in the storage arena.

One State Farm IT group focuses on designing and planning storage systems, while another handles daily functions such as monitoring the backup-and-recovery infrastructure and following up on component failures. A subset of this group performs hands-on tasks, Ogilvie says: "They're the folks who actually install the fiber for a SAN and configure the hardware from a disk-array perspective."

These groups form a natural career ladder, Ogilvie says; it's common for storage workers to start out running fiber and progress to a point where they're designing storage-area networks (SAN). "In the past, a Unix or Windows expert would naturally see his career path as [operating systems]-related. But with storage, you use all those OS skills and then some," he says.

State Farm keeps storage staffers interested with leading-edge projects such as SANs and network-attached storage (NAS). "We haven't bought any NAS devices," Ogilvie says, "but we've built our own NAS solution using rack servers and mass storage devices to get the same benefits."

Skills

You must understand the fundamentals of Fibre Channel, RAID and Ethernet/IP networking. Where do you learn these skills? Bill Voegele, manager of the enterprise storage group at Supervalu Inc., prefers experience. "Training or a certification doesn't hurt a resume, but there's no substitute for on-the-job training," he says.

Backup-and-recovery methodologies. Eric Ogilvie, manager of enterprise storage at State Farm, says this is an area in which vendor-sponsored or independent training comes in handy. "That's a mature field, so there are some good courses out there," he says.

Training

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in Mountain View, Calif., recently launched a vendor-independent certification program for storage networking. Currently, the program tests only knowledge of Fibre Channel SANs, but the association says future modules will include network-attached storage, IP storage, backup-and-restore and capacity planning (www.snia.org).

There are myriad vendor-specific training courses available. For example, you can find information on training and certification for EMC Corp. products at www.emc.com/ training.

Salaries

Storage engineering manager in Stamford, Conn. Responsibilities: To manage SAN architectures and implementations. Sun Solaris certification is a must. Salary: $100,000 to $120,000

Senior systems software developer in Oklahoma City. This is a systems administration position with responsibility for data storage and configuration control. Candidates need five years' experience with Unix, capacity planning and storage management. Salary: $46,500 to $52,000

Ulfelder is a freelance writer in Southboro, Mass. Contact him at sulfelder@yahoo.com.

Special Report

Cheap & Secure Data Stores

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