Storage administrators: What they need to know

The list of skills agencies look for in ideal storage administrators is long, varied and sometimes hard to find. For starters, agencies would like to find employees with experience in deploying a storage-area network fabric and setting up a file system.

Such a person would possess the qualities of a storage specialist and an expert systems administrator, said Michelle Butler, technical program manager in the National Center for Supercomputing Applications' Storage Enabling Technologies Group.

Knowledge of an agency's major software applications also complements a solid storage foundation.

"Certainly, if you are a business built on Oracle, it's highly beneficial to have a storage administrator understand Oracle," said Bill Williams, manager of information technology in Cisco Systems' Storage Operations Group. "They don't have to be a [database administrator], but they have to understand best practices."

In the coming years, keeping storage staffers apprised of virtualization approaches and encryption technology will become increasingly important, industry executives say. Virtualization calls for the pooling of physical storage devices into a single, logical resource that can be allocated as needed. Encryption applies to data sent across networks and housed on storage devices.

"As we go forward, I think people will pay a lot more attention to the security side," said Bryan Courtright, an enterprise consultant at GTSI.

But as agency storage pros deepen their knowledge, should they pursue certification in a given vendor's technology? Some government and industry executives view certification as nice but not necessary. Other experts argue that certification lets the holder obtain a higher level of support from vendors.

But the large agencies Brocade Communications Systems works with tend to view certification as not that important, said Linda Moss, director of education services at Brocade. "It's the icing on the cake," she added.

— John Moore

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