Apr 09 2009

The Storage Diet: Why Thin Provisioning Is Good

Thin provisioning works wonders for ensuring every app gets a healthy portion of disk space.

Storage administrators know the drill: Someone in the organization needs extra capacity allocated to a new application. How much is enough? Most end up over-allocating to cover both existing and estimated future needs, resulting in excess capacity that’s seldom used.

Enter thin provisioning, a software technology built into storage hardware from manufacturers such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, LeftHand Networks and NetApp. Known also as dynamic provisioning and flexible volumes, thin provisioning lets administrators initially allocate a large amount of virtual storage to an app while reserving only a fraction of actual disk space. Designed to either increase the physical capacity automatically as need increases or notify the administrator of the need for more physical space, thin provisioning stretches storage and extends the life of existing storage systems.

“Storage thin provisioning is such a valid concept because it allows users to properly utilize their storage resources,” says Deni Connor, principal analyst at Storage Strategies Now. “Customers don’t have to go out and buy more storage when they see they are running out, and the [database administrator] comes to them and says, ‘I need another terabyte of storage.’”

Storage-related activities such as provisioning, backup and moving data account for 20 percent of IT labor costs, according to a report from F5 Networks.