Monday, June 17, 2024

3PAR Attempts to Solve Storage Overprovisioning

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Utility computing goes by many names – on-demand, adaptive enterprise, N1, and others. The basic idea is that computing, including storage, operates like services provided by utilities such as water and power – you plug it in, it’s immediately available, and you use as much as you want.

3PARdata Inc. of Fremont, CA, for example, has released a tiered-storage array that is aimed squarely at the utility computing market. The 3PAR InServ Storage Server family offers administrative efficiency, capacity utilization (maximization of purchased resources) and scalability (consolidation onto fewest possible systems), says 3PAR president and CEO, David Scott.

This 3PAR product family comes in three models. The InServ S800 Storage Server is the largest version, with 2 to 8 3PAR Controller nodes, up to 128 Fibre Channel (FC) host ports, up to 16 iSCSI ports and up to 384 TB of capacity. Pricing starts $145,000, says Scott, including warranty, installation and software support.

At the middle of the line is the InServ S400 Storage Server with 2 to 4 3PAR Controller nodes, up to 64 FC and 8 iSCSI ports, and up to 192 TB. It is designed primarily for enterprise storage consolidation and pricing starts at $125,000.

At the bottom rung, the rack mountable InServ E200 is aimed at departmental or remote office consolidation projects. With a price starting at $65,000, it has 2 3PAR Controller nodes, up to 12 FC and 4 iSCSI ports and up to 63 TB of capacity.

He believes that it cuts storage administration by 90 percent as the administrator can respond instantly to demand. Self-configuration features enable the provisioning of storage in 15 seconds with no pre-planning.

Fast RAID 5 features, for example, are enabled by a special ASIC and a massively parallel architecture that allows for RAID 5 where only RAID 1 was appropriate before. This translates into 66 to 88 percent less disk capacity being needed for data protection.

Thin Provisioning, on the other hand, is a technology pioneered by 3PAR to deliver a new, less wasteful and more cost-effective way to purchase and manage data storage. Prior to the introduction of Thin Provisioning, enterprises had to purchase massive amounts of storage space up-front and then allocate that space for use by applications.

”When allocating disk capacity to an application, administrators found it necessary to routinely over-provision capacity so that the applications would have sufficient room to grow,” says Scott. “Because adding capacity to an application can be so disruptive, administrators would routinely seek to minimize the need for subsequent capacity allocations by provisioning more capacity up-front than was actually necessary.”

All too often, however, applications never fully consume provisioned capacity. This allocated-but-unused capacity phenomenon results in storage utilization rates hovering around 25 percent. Thin Provisioning is an attempt to solve this issue, allowing organizations to only purchase and provision physical capacity as it is actually required by an application.

This minimization of over-provisioning has a ripple effect across the storage landscape: less overall capacity means a smaller infrastructure to manage and fewer arrays to buy (along with associated SAN paraphernalia).

“Since implementing 3PAR Utility Storage, we’ve increased storage utilization to 80 percent, eliminated the requirement for SAN switching, and can provision within 10 seconds,” says Gareth Eynon, Infrastructure Manager at AGI Media of New York City.

3PAR targets enterprise and government agencies in which IT acts as an internal service bureau. Financial Services, IT and health care are particularly strong users, according to Scott, with customers such as Credit Suisse, Prudential, Merrill Lynch, Symantec and Cambridge Health Alliance. Within the public sector, customers include the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Army.

Market Uptake

Market acceptance for 3PAR arrays has been rapid. The company has achieved a growth rate of 110 percent a year over the past few years and now has 230 employees. It has shipped more than 12,000 TB to around 200 customers worldwide. This includes about 400 Utility Storage deployments. As a result, Gartner Inc. of Stamford, CT, rates 3PAR as the number two provider, behind EMC, of disk arrays in the outsourced/managed market segment.

“3PAR has an innovative and well-architected midrange system that provides its customers with more scalability, performance and usability features than any of its competitors,” says Stanley Zaffos, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “It and NetApp are the only vendors offering thin provisioning in a midrange system, and 3PAR is the only vendor offering users the ability to non-disruptively change the performance characteristics of existing logical unit numbers via a single command.”

Scott believes the reasons for this rating, and the overall fast growth of the company, are ease of use, the fact that it is a good fit for a specific niche.

“3PAR Utility Storage is a simple, efficient and massively scalable tiered-storage array for utility computing,” says Scott. “It is ideal for open-systems storage consolidation, integrated data lifecycle management and performance intensive applications.”

This article was first published on

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