International crises, stumbling stock prices, and an economy that's only sputtering along are making 2003 look like one big question mark for storage professionals. Despite the potential for gloom there are clearly bright spots, too.
For the most part, says Nancy Marrone, analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, storage staffs are about as lean as they can get. "If you talk to end users, many would say they have lost staff but their requirements have continued to increase," she says. That, says Marrone, gives her confidence that there won't be many more job cuts. Employers simply can't cut any closer to the bone. What's more, she notes, "more management people are now aware of how important storage is and how it affects business operations." In short, to maintain data availability requires a well-oiled storage machine run by an adequate staff of professionals.
However, Marrone did indicated that there might be some opportunities for organizations to consolidate IT groups and resources so that they can get more work done with the same number of people. Furthermore, Marrone speculates that where organizations can't afford to hire more storage staff they may instead invest in training to make other IT people more storage-aware and storage-capable. "They want to manage storage as it relates to their applications," she explains.
Still, she admits, if you are going to install a SAN "you will need someone who understands the nuances of Fibre Channel -- and is a real specialist."
David Foote, president and chief research officer at Foote Partners LLC, a management consultancy and IT workforce research firm in New Canaan, Conn., offers a slightly different perspective.
Foote explains that his company focuses on detailed, longitudinal studies of more than 30,000 IT professionals. The data they collect comes directly from those individuals. Thus, says Foote, he is often able catalogs perks and other rewards that even HR doesn't know about.
"There are premiums for many in-demand skills but most of those premiums aren't official," he says. Given the recognized importance of storage skills, Foote says he has been surprised by the lack of activity in the storage certification area. He says there has been little activity from organizations providing certification and little evidence of storage pros flocking to get those certificates that are available. [In a recent article, Data Mobility Group's John Webster pointed to this issue has a hot button. He said IT managers would really like to have an equivalent to MCSE for storage pros.] "There is nothing compared to the 30-40 percent increase we have seen in security certifications," he said.
"Security used to 'get no respect'," says Foote. Now that's the problem faced by storage, he says.
Finally, Alexander C. Baxter Marketing Director and Managing Partner at LucasGroup, a recruiting firm based in Atlanta, says he has seen a sharp up tick in demand for storage professionals in recent months. However, those doing the hiring are looking for very specific skills to fill very specific needs. Baxter says many of those with specific skills are heading for jobs in new task-specific sub departments. "It's happening in storage as it has happened with wireless or data mining -- companies want to focus and apply talent in the most efficient way possible. They don't want to depend on generalists any more," he says.
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- Alan Earls often writes about things NAS and SAN the "SAN/NAS Update: Trends" column. View the latest
About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.