Hitachi's thin provisioning: Where to start?

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Originating Author: Dave Vellante

Thin provisioning promises to offer IT both substantial benefits in terms of reclaiming wasted space, and critical support for the development of new business models that are more in line with those of consumer storage service suppliers. The Hitachi USPV represents the first of many enterprise scale innovations to come in this space.

Questions remain regarding how to get started with thin provisioning. The following can serve as userul guidelines:

  1. Start by understanding the benefits of thin provisioning. Specifically, what are current storage utilization rates, how much capacity is being allocated (wasted) to accommodate future growth and how much space can be reclaimed? Ranges of 20 - 40% reclamation (in utilization percentage points) are by no means out of the question but organizations need to 'personalize' this analysis.
  2. Fully understand the constraints to adoption. Specifically, what skills, application knowledge, process changes and business terms need to be developed to exploit thin provisioning.
  3. Prioritize the applications that are the best candidates for thin provisioning by using a combination of economic justification and degree of difficulty.

Ironically, while the best targets to start thin provisioning are likely to be 'safer' Tier 2 and Tier 3 applications, the USPV announced in May of 2007 didn't support thin provisioning on devices external to the controller-- the best candidates for T2 and T3 data sets. Does this mean Hitachi users waited to implement thin provisioning? Perhaps, but often Hitachi's customers had T2 and T3 storage resident internal to the USPV and they used Hitachi's virtual partitioning manager to support that tiering. Users should note that thin provisioning is not supported on existing USP's and they are advised to place T2/T3 data on USPV's in order to get up the thin provisioning learning curve with less risk.

Action Item: Users should aggressively assess thin provisioning for enterprise storage systems. Start with T2 and T3 applications and understand the costs, application nuances, process changes and ISV support offered. Use the next six to nine months as a learning runway which will speed adoption and time-to-benefit when the next round of announcements hits the market.

Footnotes: Editor's Note: In November 2007, Hitachi announced enhancements to the USPV to extend thin provisioning to support devices externally attached to the controller. A check of several customer installations at the time of the announcement indicated that most customers implementing internal thin provisioning had done so with test and development data.

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