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Nine out of 10 organizations expect their data storage capacity to increase by at least 10 percent in the next two years, according to a September 2010 CompTIA survey. And one-third of organizations expect their data storage capacity to double in that same timeframe.

The number of people needed to manage that growing storage is likewise increasing. The survey found that approximately half of the organizations surveyed in September have five or more people supporting and managing their storage technologies. Nearly half expect that number to increase in the next two years.

But how can professionals demonstrate their qualifications for these storage management positions?

To address this issue, CompTIA and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) have partnered to develop a new storage networking certification that will build on SNIA’s success with its Storage Network Foundations training course.

The new CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA certification will test an individual’s skills and knowledge in supporting data storage, storage networking, data protection and the underlying interconnect technologies. As is typical with both CompTIA and SNIA, the new certification will be a vendor-neutral technology certification when it becomes available globally in the second half of 2011. A beta version of the exam and certification is planned for a second quarter launch.

“The former storage networking credential, the Storage Foundations credential, has had a tremendous amount of respect in the channel,” said Rick Bauer, director of product management for CompTIA.

The new credential will essentially be an update of Storage Foundations, but it won’t immediately make Storage Foundations obsolete, said Leo Leger, executive director of SNIA. The organization was looking into doing a major rewrite of the Storage Foundations exam and course when it began discussing what would become Storage+ with CompTIA.

The 5,200 Storage Foundations credential holders will be given the opportunity to join the new credential’s beta program for free so they can start updating their skills for the new certification. In time, Storage Foundations will be retired.

The Storage+ certification will be suitable for storage networking managers, engineers and storage administrators. Upon successfully attaining the certification, individuals will have proven their skills in provisioning, connecting and configuring storage in a switching environment, as well as their understanding of storage management and a variety of tasks related to data centers and NOCs.

According to Joe Iovinelli, CEO of IT staffing solutions provider SmartSource, the number of requests for skilled IT staff with storage networking certifications is increasing.

“We’re seeing the demand for storage resources, but not all orders come in for certifications, but it’s happening more and more now,” Iovinelli said.

The most requested certifications currently are vendor-specific, with EMC and Cisco certifications topping the list. According to a recent top 10 storage certifications list from Enterprise Storage Forum, two SNIA certifications are in high demand – Storage Networking Certification Program and SNIA Certified Profession (SCSP).

“Data management and storage is a self-standing discipline itself, and it continues to grow,” said Wayne Adams, chairman of SNIA.

The landscape of managing data is becoming more complex, and there are more people entering the field, he said. Getting the foundational training through SNIA can help them stand out in a crowd of job applicants because they have validated their skills through certification.

“It’s not going to be as simple to move people in and out of the storage domain as it was 10 years ago,” he said.

Although there is a demand for storage professionals, the requests for certifications are still low, but they will continue to grow, Iovinelli said.

“With all the file sizes getting bigger and people doing things with video and everything, storage is kind of a key area now to try to figure out,” Iovinelli said.