Despite uncertainty over the economic outlook storage salaries are rising. And while skills in specific new technologies are in demand, architecture-level know-how and experience is increasingly being demanded by employers.
According to recruitment consultants IT salaries are generally increasing, and in storage the picture is similar, with high demand for skills in a context of spiraling data growth and more onerous compliance regulations.
Neil Price, managing consultant in business IT and technology with recruitment consultant Hudson IT, says, "Storage skills are in demand – it's a hot topic and most storage roles can expect to secure salaries that are 10% to 15% higher than they were a year ago. In general it's looking like a fairly buoyant time for storage firms and the people that work within the market. Rates for contractors are still increasing and salaries are good, with some consultancies paying a premium for the client facing skills to accompany the technical know-how."
Employers are also demanding staff are grounded in more than just specific technology skills but also have experience and knowledge at the level of entire architectures. Dave Lipsey, information systems infrastructure manager with UK mapping agency Ordnance Survey, confirms this.
"Anyone coming in needs to understand storage architectures, tiering and information lifecycle management," says Lipsey. "These skills are vital for anyone wanting to stay up to date and for an organisation that wants to take best advantage of its storage systems and get value for money from them."
The cause for this lies in the evolution from storage as a directly-attached technology to storage networking and division of storage into tiers appropriate to data value. Tony Reid, services director at Hitachi Data Systems UK, says good, professional storage administrators are in great demand as a result of this sea change.
"As tiered storage environments are becoming more common, those that have a good understanding of the costs and value of the different tiers and how to utilise storage virtualisation effectively will be able to command a premium rate," says Reid. "It makes a storage professional much more valuable if they are able to understand the impact of changes and incidents on the business and can articulate the tasks they are performing to the business unit people in a way they understand."
The change from directly-attached storage solutions to networked, tiered solutions is also reflected in changes in demand for storage training courses.
Peter Coleman is managing director of Infinity I/O, which supplies the Storage Networking Industry Association with its certification training courses, which include Storage Professional, Engineer and Architect. He says demand for training has moved over the past five years away from technology-specific skills delivered to vendors and channel partners to a broader grounding in storage networking aimed at users.
"What we've seen is a shift towards providing more training to users and a focus on architectures," says Coleman. "Where in the past vendors and their partners would have the skills they provided as services to users we now see users wanting to understand their storage. It's their lifeblood and they want a grasp of the big picture, about storage networking and usability and the benefits they can get," says Coleman.
Coleman also says IT pros are using training as a way of gaining information needed to engage more knowledgeably in procurement processes. "We are seeing users go for certification before going out to tender for storage systems so they have more idea of what they need to buy. They want to have more idea about things so they can specify systems more efficiently."
Underlying the move towards increasingly complex storage network architectures is the massive growth of data and the ever greater necessity to retain vast amounts for compliance reasons. Such regulatory requirements are fuelling demand for skills in handling metadata, says Dennis Szubert, principal analyst with Quocirca.
"We're increasingly seeing storage management tool vendors using metadata to organize information, to tier it properly and to attach compliance-related information to files," says Szubert. "As a result, demand for metadata management skills is growing, and experience is particularly difficult to find. Understanding metadata is going to become more and more vital because of the impact of compliance regulations, which will be increasingly important in the EU over the next few years, with companies investing in replication, data protection, archiving and management solutions purely to address those requirements."
Specific new technologies which are in demand include iSCSI, as businesses increasingly push to network more of their storage as well as MAID, thin provisioning and data deduplication, which are seen as contributing towards 'green' storage practices.