The skinny on Hitachi's thin provisioning

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Moderator: Peter Burris

Analyst: Dave Vellante

Over the last number of years, the storage community has waited expectedly for viable enterprise thin provisioning and related virtualization technologies to become integrated and generally available. The forces behind this anticipation are drawn from multiple locations including: (1) end users' growing expectations that the acquisition of storage should be as simple and transparent as using Google Gmail; (2) demands by CFO's to begin gaining greater control over the rate of storage purchases; and (3) storage administrator desires to find better ways to manage multiple different forms of storage and storage resources.

We've noted in the past that virtualization has become an umbrella term for describing the types of technologies that organizations ultimately will flock to over the next 4-5 years as innovations become more available. This past week (5/14/2007) one of the 'big boys,' Hitachi Data Systems, announced the Universal Storage Platform (USP V) which provides one of the first viable examples of how one type of virtualization technology called thin-provisioning can be employed within organizations to change the way storage is administered, purchased and used.

While the USP V has, as any product does initially, certain constraints to deployment --for example only resources behind the USP V are available to be controlled by the USP V and the new function is not supported on older USP's as a software-only upgrade-- we note that this is an example of a product that integrates both backend data and storage virtualization with front end storage administration and application services virtualization. Over the next few months, we expect users will be very focused on exploring how the USP V platform can start to deliver benefit in their organizations.

We think they'll find several obvious answers. First, USP V and technologies like USP V may re-claim as much as 20 - 40 percent of dead storage in many application domains. Secondly, that these technologies can dramatically improve the mechanisms that IT and storage administrators utilize to communicate needs, delivery and value to their businesses. And third, that these technologies will more fully integrate the way the marketplace is beginning to look at storage as driven by more consumer-oriented organizations: namely, that storage is best perceived as a service tied to application requirements and not as hardware to be purchased, provisioned and allocated years in advance of its actual use.

Today, $1 or so per GB is going to added to the USP V overall cost of storage (Thin provisioning added costs), but as competition from EMC, IBM and other new startups begins to heat up around the thin provisioning market, we expect that price point as well as existing constraints on accessing all forms of storage resources from this very powerful type of capability will start to pick up dramatically.

Action Item: User organizations should view the USP V as an excellent example of how thin provisioning technologies will be packaged and put forward into the marketplace over the next few years. Near-term, new and Tier 2/Tier 3 applications should gain some significant economic benefits from improved capacity utilization. We expect this technology will become the centerpiece of discussion for all users and suppliers of storage over the course of the next few years.

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