EVER SINCE HUMANS started to produce documents they have been searching for better ways to store and retrieve information more securely and efficiently. In the ancient world, early attempts at data storage involved using sun-dried clay tablets with characters inscribed on them. In the modern world, computers and the internet revolution have expanded the demand for data storage exponentially as organisations produce ever more information in electronic format. Depending on the industry, demand for data storage is growing between 30 per cent and 70 per cent a year. For many involved with data storage management, planning and systems, the pressure to deliver performance, integrity and scalability has become a huge task. Steven Leonard, EMC Corporation president for Asia Pacific and Japan, said the creation of information continued to compound the complexity of dealing with a wide range of needs and solutions for managing data storage. He said it was not just about the sheer volume of data that businesses and government departments needed to process; they also needed to decide which data had to be retained and in what form, for what length of time, who could access the information, and in what security environment. EMC, a world leader in products, services and solutions for information management and storage, works with clients to help them maximise the value of their information at the lowest cost of ownership. This includes helping with the development of data storage infrastructure and organising the structure of information life cycle management processes. The company provides a range of services that include hardware, software and customer support and engineering services. Mr Leonard said there was an across-the-board demand for people with a range of skill sets to join the data storage industry. 'Demand is similar to the years when the dotcom industry was booming,' he said, adding that there were not enough properly trained professionals to fill job positions. In terms of 'hot' jobs, demand is high for those who understand data management, planning, security, strategies and organisation. There is a particular shortage of professionals with two to three years experience and senior managers to lead data storage teams. To train and nurture data storage engineers and managers for the future, EMC has put into place a number of strategies that include partnering with mainland universities. The company has also announced plans to build a research and development (R&D) centre in Shanghai. EMC is looking to train about 500 engineers over the next three or four years. Across Asia, EMC employs about 3,000 staff. 'We are looking to seed the industry with talented and innovative people and not to localise products and employment,' Mr Leonard said. Companies such as EMC were turning to Asia and, in particular, India and China as a source of graduates because of a strong education culture in engineering and maths. He said the demand for data storage professionals had created an environment for poaching staff and employee retention had become a challenge. 'There is little point in having the same group of people moving from company to company every few months, which causes disruption and uncertainty. We need to create a bigger pool of talent to meet the wider needs of the market,' Mr Leonard said. The products and services developed at its Shanghai R&D centre would be utilised in the global market. Mr Leonard said EMC's business continued to grow in Hong Kong, with the local headcount remaining steady. George Or, Network Appliance (NetApp) general manager for Greater China, said data protection and security were the biggest challenges for information technology professionals involved in managing storage networks for their organisations. He said the emphasis on security was not surprising given the potential cost of a security breach or data loss and its negative impact on a company's reputation and bottom line. 'The wider security environment is made even more complicated by the massive amount of data that needs to be stored, the increasing scale and complexity of storage systems, and the requirements for record retention to comply with government regulations,' Mr Or said. That was why it was essential for every organisation to have in place a well-designed, well-managed and secure data storage operation. He said this created many challenges and today's data managers and IT professionals had more on their plates than ever before. Their responsibilities had grown in size and complexity, characterised as much by diversity as by standardisation. 'Companies are asking: What are we going to do with our data? Where are we going to put it? How will we know it is safe? How can we ensure it cannot be tampered with and find specific pieces quickly?' Mr Or said. The bottom line is that if you store data such as credit card details it has to be protected. NetApp encrypts the data on route to the server so that even if anyone gets access to the data they will be unable to use it unless they have the right decryption keys. KEY PLAYERS Senior storage engineer architect Senior system administrator - storage Senior technical project manager, storage systems Sales manager - storage, servers and services Storage tools developer Data storage management analyst Data storage security manager Customer services engineer JARGON ILM (information life cycle management) A strategy based on the principle that all information is not created equal. For example, an urgent e-mail sent today is more important than last year's staff memo. Information pipelines The bandwidth that allows an amount of data to be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. DAS (direct attached storage) Disk drives contained within a computer cabinet and connected to the CPU via PCI or other peripheral. DAFS (direct attached file system) A protocol system for transferring files between devices without operating system intervention. SAN (storage area network) A high-speed special-purpose network that interconnects different data storage devices with associated data servers on behalf of a larger network of users. ISCSI Internet SCSI, an internet protocol (IP)-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities. iSCSI can be used to transmit data over LAN, WAN, or the internet and can enable location-independent data storage and retrieval. Fibre Channel High-speed transport technology used to build storage area networks for transmitting data between computer devices.