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3PAR, IBM upgrade provisioning features

3PA actually beefed up its storage virtualization and provisioning features today without using the word “thin.” The vendor that pioneered thin provisioning rolled out three applications for automating storage management that work in connection with its thin provisioning but are not directly involved with making or keeping arrays “thin.”

Those applications are 3PAR Autonomic Groups, 3PAR Scheduler, and 3PAR Host Explorer. The first two are part of 3PAR’s InForm Operating System and Host Explorer runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris 10 hosts – all without charge.

Autonomic Groups lets administrators automatically provision clusters. When an administrator adds a volume to an Autonomic Group, the volume gets exported automatically to all hosts in the group. 3PAR vice president of marketing Craig Nunes says Autonomic Groups let administrators provision clusters in three clicks: one click to add a cluster of hosts, a second click to create and group volumes, and the third to provision a volume group to a host group. The application automatically provisions all LUNs on the volumes in the group. Using Autonomic Groups, admins can also create a Virtual Copy snapshot of all volumes with one command.

3PAR Scheduler automates creation and deletion of Virtual Copy snaps, and 3PAR Host Explorer is an agent that sites on a server and discovers information such as Fibre Channel World Wide Name (WWNs) and host multipath data to 3PAR InServer arrays.

“Clusters are knocking on the door of every data center now with virtual deployments,” Nunes says. “If we’re going to get to the place where the data center is a shared virtualization resource as opposed to a bunch of boxes, you have to start hiding some of the underlying technology.”

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tony Palmer says 3PAR has gone farther than just adding wizards for provisioning storage. “It’s really all about virtualizing the storage,” he said. “Thin provisioning is a piece of that, but if you virtualize storage out from under the servers and hosts that use it, you can do anything you want with it. You can thin provision it, create snapshots, and re-provision on the fly while applications are still running.”

Meanwhile, IBM made a “thin” addition today in pursuit of 3PAR. IBM added instant space reclamation to its XIV arrays as part of a package of upgrades that includes general availability of asynchronous mirroring that Big Blue announced in July.

XIV already supported space reclamation – the ability to detect, zero out and release unused storage to the storage pool of volumes that were thin provisioned. What’s new is this can be done instantly without physically scrubbing. But this requires Symantec’s Veritas Storage Foundation, which has an API for vendors to write to.

This is similar to the 3PAR Thin Reclamation for Veritas Storage Foundation capability added last month for InServ arrays. 3PAR and IBM are the only vendors to take advantage of Symantec’s Thin Reclamation API so far.

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