Thin provisioning optimizes storage utilization and reduces costs

Buyers are acquiring more capacity than they really need.

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.

Research shows that storage utilization rates achieved by most companies is 40 per cent or lower. That means buyers are acquiring more capacity than they really need and the very existence of that extra capacity requires more space apond cooling.

RESOURCE: Thinking outside the storage box

Furthermore, the traditional method of provisioning leads to increased management workloads due to the fact that the extra but unused capacity still needs to be monitored and managed. If applications reach their capacity limits and IT managers have to re-provision capacity, complex management tasks can be involved. More management requires more human resources, further driving up costs associated with storage management.

Additionally, if an application is taken offline to reprovision capacity, it is then unable to serve business needs and can lead to revenue loss.

Thin provisioning provides a way to address these limitations. By automatically allocating system capacity to applications as needed, thin provisioning technology can help achieve up to 90 per cent storage utilization, while at the same time significantly reducing power consumption.

Thin provisioning allows users to allocate a large amount of virtual capacity for an application, regardless of the physical capacity actually available. At initial setup, thin provisioning does not physically allocate capacity to the prescribed data volume, and the actual space is used only when data writes occur.

This on-demand method for capacity allocation not only optimizes storage utilization, but also greatly simplifies capacity planning and management. In order to help users easily monitor capacity utilization, storage systems automatically issue notifications when the total capacity utilization is reaching the threshold set by the user. If users wish to expand capacity, they can do so non-disruptively.

With traditional provisioning, it is difficult to move data across logical partitions in a storage architecture. If thin provisioning is applied, storage capacity from different logical partitions can be consolidated, enabling it to be dynamically allocated. From the opposite perspective, this means that the storage controller can move data dynamically across logical partitions based on how resources are designed to function.

Furthermore, thin provisioning opens the door for other advances in storage design, including automated storage tiering. Storage tiering involves grouping data into different categories and assigning these categories to different types of storage media in order to optimize storage utilization.

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.

•Set physical capacity utilization thresholds based on pace of data generation: By creating notification mechanisms for when these thresholds are reached, sufficient time will be available to properly plan storage expansion. Setting a correct threshold is most important. For example, if an application fills 10 per cent of capacity within only a few days, setting the utilization threshold at 90 per cent could lead to major problems, as the user will not have enough time to plan capacity expansion in order to ensure that an application can continue to operate normally.

The benefits of thin provisioning are numerous and can generate considerable cost savings. With thin provisioning technology now widely available in the storage market, it should be a key consideration for companies planning to acquire new storage solutions.

Founded in 1993, Infortrend Corporation is a leading provider of high performance networked storage solutions focusing on quality, reliability, choice and value.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags storageData Centerhardware systemsnetwork storageConfiguration / maintenanceStorage Managementthin provisioning

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?