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Best Storage Certifications

Best Storage Certifications
Credit: Shutterstock/BranislavNenin

There's no question 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. Also, IT professionals interested in data center or network –backbone-related positions are likely to need strong storage chops.

Average salaries for storage engineers are consistent (and lucrative) across several job-related websites. For example, SimplyHired reports that the average nationwide salary is about $106,000, in a range starting at $76,621 and climbing just higher than $147,000. Glassdoor puts the national average salary at $90,000, with the low end of the range at about $64,000 and the high end close to $118,000.

In some ways, the state of storage certification perfectly mirrors in a single subject area (or perhaps a closely clustered collection of related subjects) what occurs across the full spectrum of information technology. There are some vendor-neutral storage certifications available, particularly those from the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and Arcitura, while there are also numerous vendor-specific storage credentials available from vendors that offer storage systems and solutions, including Brocade, Cisco, Dell EMC, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), HPE, NetApp and Sun/Oracle, among others.

Like other IT certifications, vendor-neutral credentials recognize broad competency in design, implementation and management, while vendor-specific programs tend to match up with technologies active IT professionals interact with in the workplace (or that they'd like to interact with for prospective employers).

How is a storage-minded IT professional supposed to pick a winner here? Name recognition is one factor. Big-name/big company certifications tend to have a higher number of certified individuals, lending more credibility to the certification itself.

Popularity with employers is another consideration when selecting a certification. In our informal survey, we searched several online job sites on a given day for specific storage certifications. Note that the Cisco CCNP swamps the other certifications because its coverage goes well beyond storage. (The CCNP Data Center specialization does involve storage to some degree, but it does not focus specifically or only on storage.)

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn

Linkup.com

Total

Brocade storage certifications

208

221

109

88

620

CCNP Data Center (Cisco)

1,102

1,184

730

534

3,550

HDS Storage Administration (Hitachi)

39

42

27

5

113

NCDA (NetApp)

52

59

49

28

188

SNIA certifications

27

30

15

8

80

Based on name recognition and job board surveys, our pics for 2018 are with Brocade, Cisco, HDS, NetApp and SNIA. The following sections explore each of the certifications and/or programs.

Brocade delivers networking hardware, software and services, which include Internet Protocol (IP) networking and storage area networking (SAN) solutions, to small and large businesses across all industries. The company has been running a top-notch storage certification program for more than a decade, which now offers more than 20 certifications across five tracks:

  • Ethernet Fabric IP track: Covers Brocade VDX products
  • IP track: Covers Brocade Layer 2/3 products
  • IP Storage Networking track: Covers VCS Fabric storage networks and supported Brocade storage options
  • Mainframe Connectivity track: Covers Mainframe Connectivity solutions and storage technology
  • SAN track: Covers Brocade Fibre Channel products and solutions

Although all Brocade certification tracks focus on storage, those in the IP Storage Networking track are most like other certifications featured in this article. These certifications are (from Associate to Master level):

  • Brocade Accredited IP Storage Network Administrator (BAIPSNA)
  • Brocade Professional IP Storage Network Administrator 2017 (BPIPSNA)
  • Brocade Professional IP Storage Network Support 2017 (BPIPSNS)
  • Brocade Expert IP Storage Network Support 2017 (BEIPSNS)
  • Brocade IP Storage Network Master 2017 (BIPSNM)

Each certification beyond the Associate level requires one or two exams as well as a lower-level certification as a prerequisite. Details for the various tracks are described in the Brocade Certification Program Guide.

Candidates must take associated Brocade training before attempting certification exams. Training for Brocade storage certifications is available as four-day courses through Brocade authorized training partners. Typical costs are $3,200 for instructor-led or virtual classroom courses and $2,000 for the web-based course.

Certification Name

Brocade IP Storage Networking track certifications

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Recommended prerequisite for all Brocade certification tracks: Network Industry Protocols (NIP 200) course
Brocade Accredited IP Storage Network Administrator (BAIPSNA)

  • No prerequisites
  • Brocade Accredited IP Storage Network Administrator exam (160-250) (optional)

Brocade Professional IP Storage Network Administrator 2017 (BPIPSNA)

  • Brocade Ethernet Fabric Foundations exam (200-200)

OR

  • Brocade Certified Ethernet Fabric Professional 2015 (BCEFP) certification
  • Brocade Professional IP Storage Network Administrator 2017 exam (143-810)

Brocade Professional IP Storage Network Support 2017 (BPIPSNS)

  • Brocade Accredited IP Storage Network Administrator 2017 (BAIPSNA) certification
  • Brocade Advanced IP Storage Network Troubleshooting exam (143-910) (available late 2017)

Brocade Expert IP Storage Network Support 2017 (BEIPSNS)

  • Brocade Professional IP Storage Network Support 2017 (BPIPSNS) certification
  • Brocade Advanced Ethernet Fabric IP Troubleshooting exam (190-210)

Brocade IP Storage Network Master 2017 (BIPSNM)

  • Brocade Expert IP Storage Network Support 2017 (BEIPSNS) certification
  • Details pending on required exams

Number of Exams

See above.

Cost per Exam

$150; price may vary outside of the U.S. Exams administered by certifier.

URL

http://www.brocade.com/en/education/certification.html

Self-Study Materials

The exam web page for each certification provides links to required training (under Prerequisites), study guides, practice exams, user communities on Facebook, LinkedIn and Brocade University, and certification discussion groups. The Brocade Education web page lets you search the course catalog.

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.

Certification Name

Cisco Certified Network Professional Data Center (CCNP Data Center)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Valid CCNA Data Center certification or any CCIE certification. Training recommended but not required.

Number of Exams

Four exams:

plus

  • Design track: 300-160 DCID

or

  • Troubleshooting track: 300-180 DCIT

Cost per Exam

$300 per exam; $1,200 total (price may vary by region). Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications/professional/ccnp-data-center.html?stickynav=1

Self-Study Materials

Instructor-led training is recommended. Information on self-study materials and Learning Partner training available at the URL above and on the Cisco Learning Network Data Center (CCNP Data Center) site.

Hitachi Vantara, formerly known as the Hitachi Data Systems corporation, is known for its hybrid storage systems, storage management and networking solutions aimed at Fortune 100 and Fortune Global 100 enterprises. The company has a well-developed certification program to support its products and services.

Unlike most other IT certification sponsors, Hitachi's program distinguishes between qualifications and certifications. Qualification credentials aim at the Associate and Professional levels, where candidates have broad knowledge of topics and concepts. Hitachi certifications are either Specialists or Experts, where candidates have deeper knowledge of and lots of hands-on experience with products and solutions.

Both types of credentials fall under various tracks: Administration, Architect, Implementation and Integration, Installation and Support, and Basics and Fundamentals, as well as Sales and Presales.

The HDS Storage Administration credential, part of the Administration track, is an intermediate-level qualification aimed at storage networking professionals who can configure and troubleshoot Hitachi Command Suite products, as well as use Hitachi Device Manager to manage the storage environment. Candidates must pass one exam – Storage Administration HQT-6740 – to earn the credential.

Certification Name

HDS Storage Administration

Prerequisites & Required Courses:

The TSI2565 Managing Hitachi Storage with Hitachi Command Suite v8.x instructor-led course, which runs five or six days, is offered at HDS training centers. Training costs begin at $4,875.

Number of Exams

One exam: HQT-6740 (35 questions, 60 minutes)

Cost per Exam

$100. Exam administered by Kryterion Webassessor; is sometimes administered at the end of a training course.

URL

https://www.hds.com/en-us/services/training-certification.html

Self-Study Materials

The exam PDF includes information on exam objectives and training. Candidates must create an HDS account to get more information.

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 — Dell EMC, HPE 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, VMware 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 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 certification, the NetApp Certified Data Administrator (NCDA), which is a professional-level credential.

The NCDA recognizes working knowledge of NetApp storage architecture, core ONTAP components, high availability, data clustering, protocol administration, storage performance, security and data protection. Candidates must be able to configure controllers running the 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, ONTAP (NS0-158) exam.

NetApp certifications are valid for 27 months, and credential holders must meet recertification requirements during this period to maintain their certifications.

Certification Name

NetApp Certified Data Administrator (NCDA)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Recommended: 6 to 12 months of experience implementing and administering NetApp data storage solutions; knowledge of HA controller implementation and configuration, SyncMirror software or ONTAP solutions with single- or multi-node configurations. NetApp training courses are also available.

Number of Exams

One exam (choose from the following):

NS0-155: NetApp Certified 7-Mode Data Administrator (60 questions, 90 minutes)

NS0-158: NetApp Certified Data Administrator, ONTAP (60 questions, 90 minutes)

Cost of Exam

$150. Exams administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

http://www.netapp.com/us/services-support/university/certification/ncda/index.aspx

Self-Study Materials

NetApp offers instructor-led and web-based training, a practice test for the NS0-158 exam, and a list of reference documents. (See the Prepare tab on the certification web page listed above). The NetApp KB TV YouTube channel can provides how-to videos on using NetApp technology. Candidates should also browse the NetApp University and Training website for insights on training and exams. No certification study guides or practice exams were found on the NetApp site or on Amazon.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1997 and comprised of members from various storage vendors and service providers, as well as individuals. 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 Professional (SCSP) credential. From there, the Engineer (SCSE) and Architect (SCSA) certifications require one additional exam, and the Networking Expert (SCSN-E) requires all of them.

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.

Certification Name

Storage Networking Certification Program (SNCP)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Training is recommended but not required.

Number of Exams

SCSP: One exam; Storage Networking Foundations S10-110 (65 questions, 90 minutes, passing score of 66 percent)
SCSE: Two exams; Foundations S10-110 and Storage Networking Management and Administration S10–210 (60 questions, 90 minutes, passing score of 67 percent)
SCSA: Two exams; Foundations S10-110 and Storage Networking Assessment Planning and Design S10–310 (60 questions, 90 minutes, passing score of 67 percent)
SCSN-E: Two exams; Foundations S10-110, S10–210, S10–310 and two SNIA Certification Partner product credentials

Cost per Exam

$220. Exam administered by Kryterion.

URL

https://www.snia.org/education/certification

Self-Study Materials

SNIA provides links to study reference materials, practice exams and training on each certification's web page. Study materials are also available through training partners.

Beyond the top five storage certifications mentioned in this article, there are lots of other certification programs that can help to further the careers and professional development of IT professionals who work in the networked storage arena.

Although no EMC storage certifications made our top five list for 2018, EMC (acquired by Dell in 2016) has one of the longest-standing certification programs for storage. The program offers credentials for data scientists, cloud architects and administrators, storage administrators, cloud and implementation engineers, and a whole lot more.

In addition, look at the credentials available from Arcitura, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Nimble and Sun/Oracle:

  • Arcitura Big Data and Cloud Computing certifications
  • HPE offers four storage-related certifications in its HPE Certification and Learning certification program, including:
    • HPE Master ASE - Storage Solutions Architect V2
    • HPE ASE - Storage Solutions Architect V2
    • HPE ATP - Storage Solutions V2
    • PE Product Certified - OneView

Mirek Burnejko's list of all IT certifications at ITCertificationMaster.com also includes a healthy dose of storage certifications, some of which are featured in this article (this list doesn't appear to have been updated since 2015).

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