These storage certifications are in demand in 2016. Find the most valuable storage certification for your career path on Tom's IT Pro.
For several years, storage-related certifications have loomed large and impressive in a variety of employer and job market surveys. There's no doubt that skills and knowledge related to various networked forms of storage — such as storage area networks (SANs), network-attached storage (NAS), virtualized storage, and even storage as a service (STaaS) — are in high demand. Additionally, IT professionals interested in data center or network backbone-related positions are likely to need strong storage chops.
Average salaries for storage engineers are fairly consistent (and lucrative) across several job-related websites. For example, SimplyHired reports that the average nationwide salary is $102,000, in a range starting at $74,217 and climbing upward of $140,000. Glassdoor puts the national average salary at $99,000, with the low end of the range at about $65,000 and the high end close to $135,000.
Brocade has been running a top-notch storage certification program for more than a decade. The Brocade Professional IP Administrator 2016 (BPIPA) is an intermediate-level Brocade credential that enjoys broad recognition in the industry. The certification recognizes individuals who understand how to administer Brocade hardware, and who maintain Ethernet Layer 2 switching and IP routing networks using Brocade management tools and consoles.
Note: We featured the Brocade Certified Network Engineer (BCNE) in this top five list for the last few years, but Brocade retired the certification in March 2016 as well as the Brocade Certified Network Professional (BCNP). The company created a new exam, the Brocade Professional IP Administrator 2016 (BPIPA), that replaced the BCNE and BCNP. Brocade's updated certification program begins in November 2016.
Candidates must take the Brocade Professional IP Administrator 2016 (BPIPA 200) course before attempting the BPIPA exam. Brocade recommends that candidates take the Network Protocols and Standards Pre-Assessment, which requires candidates to first register with the Brocade website. Achieving an 85 percent or better on the pre-assessment demonstrates mastery of industry-standard protocols and readiness to take the BPIPA course and exam.
The BPIPA 200 is a four-day course available through Brocade authorized training partners. It costs $3,200 (for instructor-led or virtual classroom courses, or $2,000 for the web-based course) and commensurate amounts in local currencies elsewhere, where available.
Cisco offers a variety of certifications that address storage networking topics, including the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) and the Data Center versions of the CCNA, CCNP and CCIE (in order of difficulty). We chose the CCNP Data Center credential as the best fit for this top five list because it hits the sweet spot in terms of warranting an IT professional's knowledge and understanding of Cisco's storage networking products and platforms in a data center context.
Cisco requires the Cisco Certified Network Associate Data Center (CCNA Data Center) credential or any Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification as a prerequisite for the CCNP Data Center.
Of all of the storage-related Cisco certifications, the CCIE Data Center is the most senior and the best-recognized, and while it is a difficult and demanding credential to earn, it comes with a terrific payoff for its holders.
NetApp has been in the storage business since 1992 and offers a broad line of products and systems for backup and recovery, traditional and virtualized storage and cloud-based data centers. Although NetApp has some stiff competition — EMC, HP and Hitachi, to name a few — the company understands the value of flexibility and integration with other third-party products. For example, NetApp worked with Cisco to develop FlexPod, which helps customers manage Cisco, Citrix, Cloudera, Microsoft, NetApp, Oracle, Red Hat, SAP and other applications and environments, and NetApp's hybrid cloud storage integrates with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, among others.
The NetApp Certification Program (NCP) features several certifications within five main tracks: Implementation Engineer, Storage Administrator, Support Engineer, Installation Engineer and Converged Infrastructure. All NetApp certifications focus on some aspect of storage hardware or the software that powers these products. The Storage Administrator track includes the NetApp Certified Storage Associate (NCSA) as well as our featured cert, the NetApp Certified Data Administrator (NCDA), which is a professional-level credential.
The NCDA recognizes working knowledge of storage area network (SAN) administration, FCP and iSCSI components and configuration, CIFS and NFS management, data aggregation and deduplication, high availability, data clustering, protocol administration, storage performance and security. Candidates must be able to configure controllers running the NetApp Data ONTAP operating system in NFS and Windows (CIFS) environments, and understand NetApp SnapMirror, SnapRestore and SnapVault technologies.
Candidates must pass one exam but can choose either the NetApp Certified 7-Mode Data Administrator (NS0-155) or NetApp Certified Data Administrator, Clustered Data ONTAP (NS0-157) exam.
NetApp certifications are valid for 27 months, and credential holders must meet recertification requirements during this period to maintain their certifications.
EMC, acquired by Dell in 2016, has one of the longest-standing and best-recognized certification programs for storage, in keeping with its lengthy presence and excellent recognition as a leading provider of storage solutions of all kinds.
The EMC certification program offers credentials for data scientists, cloud architects and administrators, storage administrators, cloud and implementation engineers, and a whole lot more. We chose to focus on the EMC Storage Administrator, which includes 16 specialties or platforms at the Specialist and Expert levels, as shown on the EMCSA home page.
For many (but not all) EMCSA candidates, their work begins with the Information Storage Associate (EMCISA) certification. From there, a candidate pursuing a Specialist certification must pass one more exam in a chosen track. Finally, an Expert credential requires successful completion of an additional exam, available only for the CLARiiON, Symmetrix and VMAX3 systems.
The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1997 and comprised of more than 400 member companies. The association develops and promotes storage solution specifications and standards, and offers education and certification for storage and information management professionals.
The Storage Networking Certification Program (SNCP) offers several vendor-neutral certifications:
- SNIA Certified Storage Professional (SCSP)
- SNIA Certified Storage Engineer (SCSE)
- SNIA Certified Storage Architect (SCSA)
- SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E)
- SNIA Qualified Storage Sales Professional (SQSSP)
Each certification requires candidates to pass the S10-110 Foundations exam or hold a current CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA certification (exam no longer offered), which earns the SNIA Certified Storage Professional credential. From there, the Engineer (SCSE) and Architect (SCSA) certs require one additional exam, and the Networking Expert (SCSN-E) requires all of them.
The SCSE, which is the focus of this section, recognizes professionals who configure, manage, monitor and administer storage systems and networks, as well as restore and back up files. They understand capacity planning, and how to apply industry standards and best practices.
SNIA certifications are good for three years from the date of certification. After that, a certification holder must take the most current exam to maintain the credential.