This question is in regards to you and your background. I am a software engineer working for a company that is providing systems on a silicon solution for SAN environments. In my work capacity as a system software engineer, I had to understand how, in general, a SAN works and what requirements need to be fulfilled in order for our product to function properly in such an environment.
My interest in SAN architecture has grown and I have been contemplating a career change to become a SAN architect for quite some time now but I am not sure whether it is a right move for someone with my background?
So I was wondering, if you would be kind enough to give me some idea about what it take to become a storage architect. Given your own example, what are your job responsibilities as an architect working for a company that is a storage product developer and solution provider? Could you also, given the opportunity, work as a private SAN consultant and make good money? What are the typical salary ranges for storage architects?
Great question and one that has a fairly simple answer. Background doesn't really mean anything anymore in IT in my opinion since things change so darn rapidly. You need to redevelop your skill set every 18 months or so. Sure, an engineering background may help you get past all the acronyms you need to figure out and may be helpful as a foundation in electronics, but things change so fast these days that learning new stuff is a daily task.
I'll give you an example. I used to teach Windows NT (I'm a certified instructor and an MCSE (although I let that lapse) at a college and for a technology firm. Many of my students had absolutely zero background with computing. One was a baker (he always brought in GREAT cookies!) one worked in a deli and another was a mechanic. There were many people like this all the time in my classes. They became tired of working long hours at crummy pay and wanted to advance their careers. At the end of the course material, these guys took the certification exams and passed them like everyone else.
Instructing was great and I have run into a lot of my old students in high paying IT jobs at major banks, media companies, brokerage houses, etc. From baker to system administrator, all in a six-month time frame. So as you can see, although background can help (I spent 18 years fixing Digital equipment systems and storage) it is not imperative.
As far as what you need to learn to become a storage architect, you need to start by learning the basics, become well grounded in that and then play with hardware and software a LOT. To learn SAN, I would invest in a training class from one of the switch vendors. I would then take the SNIA training and get certified. Then, ask to join your current employers SAN team and tag along during a proof of concept of one of the vendor's storage subsystems. Getting hands on is the best way to learn in my opinion. You should play with as many operating systems you can, become familiar with the storage solutions from the major vendors, know how to install and program the switches and learn how to install and tune HBAs and drivers on all the operating systems.
All this playing will get you familiar with the little things that drive people nuts when implementing a SAN and will give you the knowledge on how to avoid the pitfalls in the future. You can then take all that knowledge with you as a consultant, or even better get the recognition and promotions from your current employer. Salary ranges vary widely by state, company and responsibility. SearchStorage.com has a salary survey you can tap into to see where you may want to end up.
Hope this helps, and good luck!
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This was first published in April 2003