Experienced SAN Builders a Hot Commodity

By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2001-09-24

Despite the massive layoffs throughout the industry, the task of finding storage administrators with hands-on SAN-building experience is no easier than it was last year.

The major reason for this continuing scarcity is that there really werent that many IT professionals with these valuable skills to begin with, in direct contrast with the surplus of developers and IP networking professionals created by dot-com meltdowns.

Sometimes, the best way to acquire new talent is not by picking up castaways from sunken companies but by developing the talent already present within an organization. To nurture potential SAN-building expertise, IT managers should look to resources such as Infinity I/O (www.infinityio. com), a vendor-independent training facility whose labs are loaded with a variety of SAN equipment from several companies, including QLogic, Vixel, Brocade and Veritas Software.

Last month, while sitting in on a lecture/lab session on SAN building and maintenance by Infinity I/O Labs, in Half Moon Bay, Calif., I saw first-hand how SAN expertise can be developed systematically in a controlled training environment, as opposed to the painstaking trial-and-error process that most IT managers go through.

During the week-long class, Infinity I/Os instructors not only explained the way SANs function on a protocol level, but they also led hands-on lab activities where students set up their own SANs. In this environment, students were able to see why heterogeneous SANs are difficult to set up and how to use tools such as zoning to provision their precious SAN resources.

At the start of the lab session, we performed relatively mundane tasks like installing device drivers and making sure we had the right firmware revisions on our HBAs. Oddly enough, even these tasks are slightly different among the various manufacturers and very different when comparing the NT installation with that of a Solaris-based system (Solaris was a lot more difficult).

Gradually, we moved up to the Fibre Channel switch configuration exercises, where we could navigate and familiarize ourselves with the management consoles of the switch vendors. During the session, we also had a chance to use performance measurement tools such as Intels Iometer and Solaris Iostate to benchmark our SAN setup.

IT managers should be aware that there is no industry-standard certification process for SAN training yet. However, the Storage Networking Industry Association and Infinity I/O are finishing the first round of certification tests, so this drawback wont be a problem for much longer.

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