By Zachary Shess
As storage area networks (SANs) become more mainstream, an increasing number of end users, integrators, and even vendors are seeking help to better understand the involved technologies.
Independent Fibre Channel training companies offering courses in multi-vendor SAN interoperability are experiencing high enrollments-a clear indication of the work still before vendors to make heterogeneous SAN components interoperable and easy to implement. Also offering SAN training are system vendors and ISVs; however, these courses are often slanted to vendor-specific products.
Instructors say the challenge of SAN training is exacerbated by the newness of the technology. "Realistically, SANs are just a concept. Technologically, we still haven't defined exactly what they mean, and it is the undefined aspects that generate the most curiosity," explains David Deming, president of Solution Technology (www.soltechnology.com) in Boulder Creek, CA.
Ed Frymoyer, CEO of Infinity I/O (www.infinityio.com), a Fibre Channel and SAN training firm in Half Moon Bay, CA, agrees. "A SAN is a system. Vendors sell products, but no one is selling the customer a system, and you need systems-level training," says Frymoyer. "This is not Ethernet, this is not about connecting the wire or linking up SCSI connectors and setting up a few addresses. You have to understand the entire system application and be able to access the installation, what the company needs, its workflow, and where they want to go in the future."
SAN and Fibre Channel trainers say individual backgrounds, motivation, and technical abilities vary significantly among students. However, their concerns consistently mirror the gating factors to SAN implementation: hardware and software compatibility, data migration, fault tolerance, and management.
"Given the diversity of the students, you have to set reasonable expectations," explains Allan Pallaritto, an instructor with both Infinity I/O and Global Knowledge (http://am.globalknowledge.com), an IT training company based in Cary, NC. "First we try to establish the band of the audiences and the bounds of the topics we can go into."
As for students, they need to consider many factors before choosing SAN training providers, such as the geographic location of the training, budgets, their technical abilities, and the type of training needed based on their role in the company. SAN training firms such as Global Knowledge, Infinity I/O, and Solution Technology differentiate themselves through teaching techniques and their respective audiences.
Global Knowledge is among the country's largest IT training companies, offering 150 different courses in a variety of disciplines. Its entry-level, three-day SAN course includes both classroom and lab work. Company officials believe they are the only training company with the resources to bring a SAN on the road, with 25 training centers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Infinity I/O launched its Fibre Channel training program in 1995. Conducting most of its courses at its headquarters, Infinity I/O offers a three-day SAN training course, taught by 14 instructors. The course in-cludes a hands-on lab and classroom time. Instructors conduct interviews and prepare attendee profiles before each course.
Founded in 1984, Solution Technology branched out into Fibre Channel training in 1994 and launched a SAN course last year. Its courses are geared toward employees of SAN component vendors and emphasize training documentation. "Training is just the beginning. If you don't remember how to solve the problem, you need to have something to refer to when you need to answer the question," says Deming.
Leading concerns of SAN trainees
- What is a SAN and under what conditions do I need one?
- How do I assemble a SAN and make it work?
- How do I design a SAN?
- How do I tune a SAN?
- What is the best way to ensure fault tolerance?
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