Fifteen years ago, storage conferences dominated the IT event calendar. Storage Networking World and Storage World were packed full of vendors displaying the latest and greatest storage arrays, solid-state drives (SSDs), and automated tape libraries. However, since storage hardware isn’t the specialty it used to be, those shows are no longer on the calendar.
Not so long ago, there were people devoted to deploying storage area networks (SANs), others required to maintain and run network attached storage (NAS), and still others specializing in storage switches, host bus adapters, and other items of hardware. But in these days of virtualization, cloud computing, and software-defined storage (SDS), the heyday of storage hardware is behind us.
Despite that, storage hardware remains at the heart of all on-premises and cloud systems. The equipment is still there, but it is buried behind layer after layer of abstraction. And it still needs to be cared for by skilled professionals.
Let’s review the top trends impacting storage hardware employment and job prospects:
See more: The Job Market for Hardware & Storage Engineers
1. Augment Storage Hardware Savvy with Data Skills
Rob Gordon, senior sales engineer at Komprise, noted that given the growth in cloud storage and infrastructure automation, storage IT professionals’ traditional duties of implementing and maintaining the hardware and mechanical layer have become less complex.
“With storage now distributed across many systems and clouds, the need is to understand and manage the data contained on the systems, not so much the physical storage silos,” Gordon said.
“Many storage hardware jobs will morph into cloud data architects and data management roles, as data takes center stage and storage technology becomes more ephemeral and dynamic.”
2. The Scramble to Find Parts
There are shortages of servers, storage arrays, switches, chips, cabling, filters, and many more essential storage components.
If lead times for items are too long, storage managers must learn to make do with the equipment they have. And they must become skilled in seeking out unusual sources for parts and equipment.
One data center, for example, reported a six-month lead time for an order for hundreds of Ethernet switches from a leading networking manufacturer. Unavailability of fiber, too, has been reported in some regions. And there are shortages of items normally taken for granted, such as cabling. Even some top servers now have lead times of more than 45 days.
In response, storage managers should become well-versed in the second-hand market. They must also devise workarounds and OEM alternatives where necessary to keep their systems running.
3. Higher Demand for High-Availability Equipment and Skills
One area where storage hardware skills are particularly prized is in high availability (HA).
With the complexity of modern infrastructures growing, concerns about the ability to meet 99.99% service-level agreements (SLAs) for business-critical applications prompt companies to implement sophisticated, application-aware, high-availability, and disaster recovery (DR) solutions.
For example, major database and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, such as Oracle, SAP S/4HANA, and SQL Server, have become so relied upon that even brief downtime for these systems is costly.
They are running in increasingly complex environments, prompting more companies to turn to HA specialists, with deep, application-specific experience in implementing uptime protection for these important systems.
“Enterprise reliance on databases and ERP systems will drive higher demand for specialized HA expertise,” said Cassius Rhue, VP of customer experience at SIOS Technology.
4. Disaster Recovery Heats Up
Disaster recovery has been a firm part of the storage management job description for some time, but it could hardly have been described as a vibrant career path. That may be changing.
DR planning is no longer factoring in the rare “once in 100-years storm” or “once-in-a-lifetime earthquake.” Companies have to be able to recover due to weather, power surges, ransomware, and other threats, which are all becoming far more commonplace.
Simple backup of data storage is no longer sufficient. Regardless of whether the storage is network file system (NFS), SAN, cloud-native shared storage, or replicated local storage, companies are increasing protection levels for their data storage — both on-premises and in the cloud — to include HA/DR protection. And that means installing and maintaining more storage hardware.
“Climate change and social unrest have moved the need for disaster recovery to the forefront of IT focus,” said Rhue with SIOS Technology.
“Companies will spend more on DR in 2022 and look for more flexible deployment options for DR protection.”
See more: 5 Top Trends in the Backup and Recovery Job Market
5. Migrating Workloads to the Cloud
Veteran storage hardware specialists have seen their influence shrink over the last two decades. While there are certain areas where they can still shine in the enterprise, ultimately, their sphere of operation has been in decline. That trend is expected to continue.
For the next few years, at least, a career opportunity exists in becoming an expert in moving workloads from the data center to the cloud. This means knowing how to decommission equipment, how to safely and securely migrate data, and how to transfer applications from internal hardware to the cloud.
But pros looking at this career path shouldn’t just focus on transferring workloads from the data center to the cloud. As companies figure out what should be in the cloud and what should be repatriated onto internal systems, vast chunks of storage infrastructure may disappear. But also, more storage hardware will have to be put in place to host repatriated systems.
“Some companies that moved business-critical applications into the public cloud are now considering either a reverse migration or a hybrid-cloud configuration for three main reasons: unpredictable cloud fees, data sovereignty requirements for companies that are subject to regulations that require them to keep data within their company’s geographic borders, and the need for in-house control over IT infrastructures,” said Rhue SIOS Technology.
See more: Top 5 Data Storage Companies Hiring