A SNIA survey done at April's Storage Networking World conference found that 71% of those polled placed significant value on hands-on training, and 45% were interested in a more broad-based storage networking curriculum.
SNIA's certification program has until now revolved around Fibre Channel technology, but "we found that IT professionals now needed product-independent, multi-vendor education on a variety of subjects beyond Fibre Channel," says Peter Manijak, SNIA's Director of Education.
To address those needs, SNIA has launched the SNIA Education Continuum (http://www.snia.org/education) "to leverage the strengths and successes of SNIA Education, SNIA Education Provider members and the SNIA Technology Center in offering new certification programs and hands-on training to storage administrators, integrators, implementers and architects," Manijak tells Enterprise Storage Forum.
Highlights of the new program are a new certification program that delivers on the broad-based curriculum requirement, launch of a SNIA Technology Center Institute that provides hands-on training, and an education framework based on job task analysis findings.
SNIA Education Continuum
Certification Gets Broader Appeal
Manijak and members of the SNIA Education Committee developed a new certification program to address common user, reseller and vendor member goals. A new domain structure allows more flexibility in incorporating courses from worldwide training providers, and extends the appeal of certification to a wider range of IT professionals.
"SNIA's new certification program really focuses on all the things we need to know about to do our jobs as storage networking professionals," says Darrell Kleckley, chair of the SNIA Education Committee. "Before, SNIA's certifications were mainly obtained by Fibre Channel SAN professionals. Now, with a domain-oriented testing structure focused on job roles, we see storage architects, storage administrators, integrators, implementers, support personnel and architects all finding a reason to get certified."
The Concepts Domain covers broad technical areas related to all jobs and serves as a foundation for testing storage and networking knowledge. A new Storage Network Foundations exam — like all SNIA Certification exams, available online through Thomson Prometric (http://www.2test.com/ ) — certifies that the successful candidate has knowledge of general storage networking concepts and storage networking interoperability.
The Standards Domain assesses technology and technical standards that a mid-level administrator needs to know, and the Solutions Domain focuses on technical assessments and planning design.
The Product Domain recognizes vendor certification programs, incorporating current storage and networking manufacturer certifications as part of a SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert credential. According to Manijak, a number of vendors, including McDATA and Hewlett-Packard, have already incorporated SNIA certification exams into their credential programs, a joint effort that is expected to reduce training costs.
Technology Center Expands Education Efforts
With the launch of the SNIA Technology Center Institute (http://www.snia.org/tech_center/institute/) in Colorado Springs, SNIA is offering a full-fledged educational program leveraging its expertise and central role in the industry, says Mark Bradley, SNIA board member and chair of the SNIA Technology Center Committee.
The Technology Center's board of industry experts recommended that SNIA take advantage of its multimillion-dollar storage networking facilities to offer multi-vendor, vendor-neutral education, with a big emphasis on hands-on experience. The result — the Technology Center Institute — was designed to combine the unique facilities at the SNIA Technology Center, the depth of SNIA's experience with technologies, standards and solutions, and the experience of SNIA's education partners to give end user, integrator and vendor personnel hands-on training with multi-vendor solutions.
The SNIA Technology Center has already been used to provide training for SNIA's Storage Management Initiative Standard (SMI-S). SNIA's Technology Center Institute (TCI) program now incorporates two new curricula.
The first is a Storage Networking Solutions curriculum containing courses that focus on solutions that apply across all storage networking technologies. It includes foundation-level courses and advanced courses focused on cross-technology solutions.
The second new curriculum — Technologies and Standards — contains in-depth courses focused on specific technologies, such as Fibre Channel, IP storage and Internet technologies, TCP/IP, SCSI and Serial Attached protocols.
The TCI courses are developed and delivered by storage networking education provider companies Howard Goldstein Associates (HGAI), Infinity I/O, Solution Technology and WBEM Solutions. HGAI's Howard Goldstein sees the combination of vendor-neutral training with a state of the art hands-on opportunity as unique in the industry. "For TCI students to be able to both learn the theory and have hands-on practice is the ultimate learning experience," Goldstein states.
Efforts Could Lead To Storage Engineering Degree
Supplementing these certification and TCI programs is a new Storage Network Education Framework based on job task analysis (JTA) findings. The framework provides guidance and structure for training providers and vendors to develop and deliver courseware based on collective industry knowledge and experience.
An online survey just completed by SNIA delved into tasks and responsibilities of IT personnel assigned as storage administrators, implementation specialists, systems integrators and solutions architects. Survey results are expected to benefit vendors, resellers and end users with courseware based on common learning objectives, with less overlap in material.
Early response to the SNIA Education Continuum from both end users and the analyst community appears positive. Marty LeFebvre, vice president of technology strategy at Nielsen Media Research and a SNIA End User Council (EUC) Governing Board member, saw a link between the Continuum programs and a recent SNIA EUC survey identifying the "Top Ten Pain Points" for IT professionals.
"Accelerating education and certification of storage administrators, along with accelerating the adoption of standards and best practices, are important steps in meeting today's business needs," says LeFebvre.
Jeffrey Brown, a UNIX/Linux system administrator from Jefferson County, Colorado, says the courses offered through the SNIA Technology Center Institute will help him and his colleagues, particularly as they grapple with a major upgrade for their SAN.
Randy Kerns, senior partner at the Evaluator Group, says the new offerings will create more educated storage consumers. "Hands-on experience with existing and emerging storage technologies in a vendor-neutral setting would help end users and customers make more informed purchasing decisions," he says.
SNIA's certification program has issued more than 2,100 credentials to date. New credential recipients receive a certificate and a logo to apply to their business cards. Those who received credentials in 2003 and 2004 will be able to receive a corresponding new credential by passing the SNIA Storage Network Foundations exam by December 31, 2004.
The Education Continuum is not the end of SNIA's education efforts. SNIA's Mark Bradley and the SNIA Technology Center have been approached by two universities to develop storage curriculum programs. The effort could mark the beginning of significant changes in the way traditional higher learning institutions incorporate coursework on storage and networking, perhaps eventually leading to a storage engineering degree.