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Robert Passmore, research vice president at Stamford. Conn.-based Gartner Inc., predicted that 2010 will be a big year for 8 Gbps FC when the majority of HBA, switch and storage array purchasers will go for the faster technology. "We're in the beginning of a very rapid transition," he said.
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Thin provisioning has moved beyond its management and application issues of the past to become a must-have feature on many storage systems, and interest should only intensify in 2010.
Brian Garrett, technical director, ESG Lab at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said vendors have mostly worked out implementation and management issues related to defining separate logical pools and having to reserve capacity for thin-provisioned volumes. Garrett said thin provisioning works smoothly in most cases and is becoming a "feature check-off item" in the storage systems he evaluates.
The benefits of thin provisioning are evident, especially as tightening budgets bump up against ever-growing capacity demands. Releasing provisioned but unused disk capacity to a virtual storage pool and making it available to other applications can significantly increase utilization rates. John Michaels, chief technology officer at Maxim Group, a New York City brokerage firm, used his thin provisioned FalconStor Software Inc. IPStor and Network Storage System (NSS) units to increase his capacity utilization by 59.87%. Michaels said he "could see a difference right away."
3PAR Inc. was a thin provisioning pioneer, rolling out the technology in 2003. Since then, most major storage vendors have jumped on the bandwagon: EMC's Virtual Provisioning for Clariion, Symmetrix and Celerra systems; HP's StorageWorks XP Thin Provisioning Software; IBM's space-efficient virtual disks for its SAN Volume Controller (SVC); and NetApp's FlexVol. And there are many others, including Compellent Technologies Inc.'s Dynamic Capacity software and DataCore Software Corp.'s SANmelody software, which converts standard servers, blades or VMs into virtualized storage servers. .
User interest in thin provisioning is growing, too. In the 2009 Storage magazine/SearchStorage.com Storage Priorities survey, 14% of respondents said they had already implemented thin provisioning, 21% planned to deploy it by year's end and 35% planned evaluations.
Mark Peters, an ESG senior analyst, noted that thin provisioning will continue to evolve as vendors add the capability to easily convert "fat" storage volumes to thin-provisioned volumes. Last October, 3PAR announced the release of Thin Conversion, a technology the company said will thin previously fat volumes. 3PAR also announced Thin Persistence to reclaim deleted thin capacity, and Thin Copy Reclamation to recapture unused virtual-copy snapshots and remote copy volumes.
Compellent and DataCore already offer fat-to-thin and reclamation technologies with their storage systems. As thin provisioning finds more and more users, other vendors will likely follow suit and upgrade their offerings to compete.
Initially, some storage vendors may have been reluctant to offer a technology like thin provisioning that could conceivably cut into their disk sales. But the successes of early entrants and eager acceptance of users persuaded them to follow suit.
This was first published in December 2009