By Lisa Coleman
It's no secret that implementing and managing storage area networks (SANs) can be challenging. Leading SAN vendors have training programs, but one drawback to those programs is that they're not exactly vendor-neutral. That's one reason why the Storage Networking Industry Association (www.snia.org) established the SNIA Fibre Channel SAN certification program.
"I support the need for certification," says Ray Dickensheets, a senior technical architect for Sprint who has also completed two levels of certification in the SNIA program. Dickensheets believes industry-wide certification can help users and vendors better communicate with each other.
"I've heard many examples of configurations and best practices that have pertained only to certain kinds of switches, so I thought that industry-wide certification was really what I needed to focus on," he says.
Since 1999, Dickensheets has helped build and maintain Sprint's Hosting SAN environment, which is now based on Hitachi Data Systems' 9960 array. Although he is well-versed in SANs, Dickensheets still spent a lot of time studying for the exam. He encourages anyone interested in taking the exam to take some instructor-led training.
Since its inception last year, more than 800 people worldwide have been certified in the SNIA FC-SAN certification program. Of those, approximately 40% were from vendor organizations (mostly SNIA member companies) and 60% were end users, according to Deborah Johnson, president and CEO of Infinity I/O, an education and training firm, in Half Moon Bay, CA. Infinity I/O (www.infinityio.com) developed (in conjunction with SNIA member companies) and administers the SNIA FC-SAN certification program.
Johnson says that most of the end-user trainees are either in pre-SAN mode, or are in the very early stages of implementation. The program has three "levels." The FC-SAN Professional certification program (Level 1, $125, one to two days) is for non-technical employees who will not be directly involved in deploying or managing SANs (e.g., sales, sales support, and support call-center professionals).
The Practitioner certification program (Level 2, $295, three days) is for those who will be directly involved in implementing and managing SANs. The Specialist program (Level 3, $325, five to seven days) is for SAN architects and managers charged with tasks such as SAN troubleshooting, performance tuning, etc. The Specialist certification program was launched in October.
The SNIA FC-SAN certification program is currently limited to Fibre Channel SANs, but Infinity I/O plans to offer training in non-FC storage network technologies such as iSCSI and FCIP in the future, according to Johnson.
Storage networking professionals can take the FC-SAN certification examination at thousands of Prometric test centers worldwide (www.prometric.com).