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Storage salaries increase

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Storage skill development
The more prominent profile of the storage function hasn't resulted in any widespread increase in recognition of the value of storage skills (as measured by certifications). The majority of respondents, more than 67%, have no storage certifications.

Average salary by number of vendor certifications held

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One likely reason is the lack of a financial benefit attached to achieving certification. Passing a certification test requires significant time and effort, and entails some cost. If storage administrators aren't being rewarded for the extra effort and if the company isn't willing to pick up the tab, why bother?

"I've had EMC training, but I'm not EMC-certified," says PNM Resources' Morgese. "A certification might be nice to have, but it isn't worth the time."

Jim Smith, an operations technician responsible for backup at Bechtel Corp. in Glendale, AZ, finds himself in a similar situation. He has no certifications, although a Veritas certification might be handy as he performs his backup responsibilities for Bechtel's 15TB of storage. "It might make things simpler, but there's no more money in it and management hasn't expressed any interest in paying for it," says Smith. Instead, he's putting his efforts into earning a Master's degree.

Chad Smykay, a storage engineer at Rackspace Managed Hosting in San Antonio, has earned a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Legato Certified NetWorker Administrator (LCNA), but even he doesn't see much benefit in certifications for storage employees. "Maybe if you're going for a new job it might help, but in my current position there is no direct connection," he says.

Storage consolidation and opportunity
The storage team at Sisu Medical Systems, the systems organization for a 14-hospital consortium in Duluth, MN, has a busy year coming up, which translates into opportunities for storage administrators. The group, which includes about a half-dozen system and storage administrators, has been deeply involved in a multiyear server and storage consolidation project, migrating from DAS to a centralized IBM Corp. blade server and a Fibre Channel (FC) SAN with an 8TB IBM DS4000 array. "When we get all the servers and storage consolidated, it will come to over 20TB," says William Sislo, director of technical operations. To stretch the firm's budget, the consolidation project will take several years.

Beginning in 2006, the team will begin rolling out a new centralized Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) capability for radiology imaging. The hospitals currently run PACS on local servers with DAS. The centralized system will use a new IBM array with SATA drives connected to the existing FC network.

To handle this work, the organization is hiring additional system and storage administrators. "We get a lot of interest from entry-level people. It's harder to find qualified system and storage administrators who want to come here," says Sislo. If you don't mind the far northern climate, working at Sisu can be quite nice. "We got raises and bonuses this year," says Sislo, and management has been supportive of storage.

Adds a system engineer who's responsible for storage at a Colorado manufacturer: "Nobody here has any storage certifications. I don't even know what certifications I'd want to get. Anyway, management certainly isn't pressuring us to get any."

Chasing certifications isn't rewarding in the majority of cases. Those with two certifications clearly did best, averaging almost $83,000. However, those with one or three certifications actually did worse on average--$76,786 and $73,500, respectively--than those with no certifications ($77,307) (see "Average salary by number of vendor certifications held," above).

This was first published in November 2005

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