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Thin provisioning optimizes storage utilization and reduces costs

Galvin Chang, associate director, Infortrend Technology, Inc. | March 4, 2011
While provisioning all the capacity of an external disk to a given application, known as full provisioning, ensures the app has plenty of growth potential, it results in poor utilization rates, a costly problem that can be addressed with thin provisioning technology.

Automated tiering ensures applications have access to the performance levels they need. High-performance applications can be assigned to high-performance tiers featuring drives such as SSDs or SAS, while applications requiring less performance can be assigned to lower tiers featuring low-performance drives such as SATA.

This ensures that no storage resources are wasted and that applications can function properly. In addition, this technology helps automatically migrate data based on usage patterns. If data in higher tiers has not been used for an extended period of time, it is demoted to lower tiers. Conversely, if data in lower tiers is frequently accessed, it is promoted to higher tiers. Storage efficiency can be greatly improved with this technology.

The benefits in a nutshell

In terms of tangible benefits, the overarching result of using thin provisioning is it helps significantly reduce costs. With thin provisioning, utilization can be greatly increased and you can get more out of your existing capacity, reducing the need to add new HDDs (hard disk drives). This can generate significant cost savings, which can be particularly important for companies with limited budgets.

These benefits are highlighted by the figure below. With thin provisioning, capacity is dynamically allocated to applications from a consolidated storage pool, eliminating the need for the allocated but unused capacity in full provisioning.

The benefits of delaying new HDD acquisitions are further magnified by the fact that HDD prices continue to decline. Delaying acquisitions thereby becomes even more worthwhile.

Another major benefit is power consumption can be reduced considerably, leading to more cost savings. Since you do not need to buy as many HDDs as before, the rack space needed for a storage solution can also be reduced.

Storage management also becomes much easier with thin provisioning. There is less to manage with a smaller number of HDDs, and you spend less time allocating capacity to applications. Furthermore, when capacity limits are reached, capacity can be added nondisruptively, eliminating the hassles associated with downtime.

If you end up turning to thin provisioning for the benefits outlined, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the technology:

• Claim as much virtual capacity for applications as possible: This reduces management tasks and ensures applications have access to sufficient capacity as long as physical resources are available.

• Monitor physical storage capacity utilization: Even though large virtual capacities can be allocated, each storage pool still has physical limits. Monitoring physical capacity utilization is thus extremely important.


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