Traditional storage provisioning means guessing at how much storage might be needed with that amount allocated from day one. From that point forward, the reserved portion can only be used by the specified application. As a result, large portions of the storage environment go unused.
Enter thin provisioning.
“Thin provisioning allows physical storage to be reserved only when data is written, not when the application is first configured,” says Andrew Reichman, Analyst, Forrester Research, Inc. of Cambridge, MA. “Thin provisioning allows storage to be reserved only as data is written.”
What this means is that there is a soft reservation that allows the server to think that it has the full allocation amount, but does not commit physical disk until the consumption level actually rises. This way, the environment purchases and deploys only the amount consumed.
One vendor which advocates this approach is DataCore Software. George Teixeira, the company’s CEO and president says that the key point is that users shouldn’t have to pay for space until they have the benefit of using it. Furthermore, thin provisioning removes the manual grunt work of allocating space. Additional benefits include better consolidation and efficient load balancing, automation of disk administration, and the facilitating of just-in-time storage purchasing.
“DataCore’s thin storage can trim conventional fat storage from 10TB down to 4TB,” says Teixeira.
He lays out the potential savings as follows:
Typical disk drive draws 25-35 watts for power, cooling draws roughly the same 25-35 watts for a total of around 60 watts on average. Over a year = 1 disk x 60 watts x 1 KW/1000 watts x 8760 Hours/year = 525 KW hours/year per disk. Assuming 10 cents per KW hour you get a rough $52.50 per year per disk savings. That doesn’t include the cost of the disks and arrays themselves, assuming that 60 percent less will be required.
DataCore Software can be downloaded and works with any storage and can serve it to any Windows, MacOS, Linux, UNIX, Solaris, AIX and Netware systems. It operates via network-based services across many different vendors and types of storage. It can thin provision 3PAR, NetApp and HDS boxes, for example.
“Servers and storage continue to sprawl – storage growth alone continues to double every year,” says Teixeira. “People are looking for ways to consolidate and reduce the number of servers and disk drives with products like VMware and thin provisioning.”
DataCore were one of the pioneers in thin provisioning. The company issued its first thin provisioning products in 2001. It non-disruptively and automatically allocates physical storage capacity to application servers only when it is actually used. It improves utilization and lowers the number of disk drives required. The software installs on any standard Windows platform in minutes.
DataCore thin provisioning pools can span multiple arrays whether from one vendor or many. Pricing starts at around $1,000. Trial downloads are available.
“You can’t try other vendors’ thin provisioning unless it is running on their hardware,” says Teixeira. “Users can just click, download and try DataCore software.”
Thin Provisioning is available in a couple of DataCore products. SANmelody software converts PC servers into expansion disk servers. Their added capacity appears as additional internal drives to disk-starved servers on LANs or SANs. SANsymphony is an enterprise-class open storage networking platform that is designed to maximize the value from IT assets and boost business productivity. It adds to this, the various benefits of thin provisioning as described earlier.
Thin Provisioning Hype Picks Up
Thin provisioning has been quietly building momentum for a couple of years. In the last few months, though, it has hurtled to the forefront of the storage world. It is now an established regular in analyst reports and articles. Watch for plenty of sessions on it , too, at this falls Storage Networking World Conference in Dallas.
“Thin provisioning can be great solution for budget-strapped IT managers,” says Mike Karp, senior analyst, Enterprise Management Associates of Boulder, CO. “It saves money, time, worry, and is ‘green’, so it makes companies good environmental citizens.”
Like Teixeria, Karp likens thin provisioning to VMware.
“The DataCore approach, like that of VMware and Citrix, is not wrapped in expensive hardware,” says Karp. “A customer’s investment is protected because DataCore thin provisioning will keep working even if their hardware infrastructure changes.”
This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.