With vendors ramping up their thin provisioning strategies, users are starting to discuss the benefits and challenges of the technology. (See EqualLogic to Add Thin Provisioning and Hitachi Bulks Up.)
The technique, which is being adopted by more and more storage vendors, aims to ensure that physical disk capacity is only used as it is needed. (See 3PAR Debuts 'Thin Provisioning' and A Data Reduction Dossier.) EMC, for example, is planning to deploy thin provisioning on higher end SAN boxes, joining a growing list of vendors that includes 3PAR, LeftHand Networks, Compellent, HP, and NetApp. (See LeftHand Adds 10-GigE SANs, LeftHand Secures $25M, VeriStor, Compellent Team Up, and Cardinal Uses CommVault, NetApp.)
One user with extensive experience of thin provisioning is Najeeb Ahmad, technical projects and support manager at U.K.-based Sunlight Service Group, a supplier of textile rental and laundering services, which deployed a 9.5-Tbyte S400 system from 3PAR last year. (See 3Par Shines at Sunlight.) "The benefit of thin provisioning is that you can allocate the storage as and when you need it -- there's a lot of wastage with the traditional approach," he says.
Sunlight was on the lookout for something to replace a 2.5-Tbyte MSA device from HP and also support major server consolidation. "If we didn't have this in place, we wouldn't be able to contemplate [the consolidation]," says Ahmad, explaining that the firm is cutting back from 120 to 50 HP ProLiant servers.
Specifically, Sunlight can now provision storage for these servers in a matter of seconds, a process which otherwise would have taken a couple hours.