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3PAR fattens its thin provisioning arsenal

3PAR adds applications to solve thin provisioning problems by converting fat volumes to thin, and keeping thin volumes thin over time.

PHOENIX – Thin provisioning pioneer 3PAR Inc. today moved to extend the technology, rolling out 3PAR Thin Conversion, 3PAR Thin Persistence and 3PAR Thin Copy Reclamation at Storage Networking World Fall 2009.

3PAR has used thin provisioning in its storage arrays for seven years, but larger storage vendors such as EMC Corp., Hitachi Data Systems, IBM and NetApp have since added thin technology. Now 3PAR is try to staying a step ahead by solving some problems of thin provisioning with these three new applications that are designed to take advantage of 3PAR'S Gen3 ASIC and a Thin API developed with Symantec Corp. last year.

The goal of thin provisioning is to optimize capacity utilization by allocating disk storage only as it's needed. 3PAR's new applications are designed to make fat volumes thin and keep thin volumes thin over time.

More on thin provisioning
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Thin provisioning was built to work with newly provisioned volumes. When existing fat volumes are migrated to systems with thin provisioning, they write to all the blocks associated with the volume and undo the benefits of thin provisioning. And when data is deleted or overwritten on thin volumes, the data doesn't always get deleted when removed. Again, much of thin provisioning's benefits are wasted.

Thin Conversion converts legacy fat volumes to thin while migrating them to 3PAR InServ T-Class and F-Class Series arrays. 3PAR claims Thin Conversion can eliminate 60% of existing capacity on the average system. The vendor is targeting organizations looking to replace aging arrays with 3PAR storage.

Craig Nunes, 3PAR's vice president of marketing, said fat to thin conversions without the Gen3 ASIC would take "days or even weeks, and probably would've disrupted other application volumes on the array." The ASIC identifies free space in fat volumes as they're migrated to 3PAR arrays, and the software returns the blocks to the free volume pool.

3PAR Thin Persistence helps keep thin volumes thin over time by stopping them from using more capacity over time as application data is written. 3PAR claims Thin Persistence can save between 60% and 70% of capacity on these volumes.

3PAR Thin Copy Reclamation reclaims unused space from virtual copy snapshots and remote copy volumes on InServ arrays, and 3PAR Thin Reclamation for Veritas Storage Foundation restores capacity for Symantec file systems attached to 3PAR arrays.

Thin Conversion, Thin Persistence and Thin Reclamation for Veritas Storage Foundation are additional licensed products, with licenses starting at approximately $700 per system for the three combined. Thin Copy Reclamation is part of 3PAR's InForm 2.3.1 operating system.

Nate Amsden, operations engineer at Bellevue, Wash.-based online marketing site AudienceScience, said he expects 3PAR Thin Persistence will help him reclaim approximately 29 TB of space on the 150 TB InServ T400 array he bought about a year ago.

"That will help us out a lot," said Amsden, who currently has approximately 28 TB of free space on his array. "We make heavy use of read-write snapshots, so Thin Copy Reclamation will let us reclaim more space."

Amsden said fat-to-thin conversation wasn't available when he acquired his 3PAR array and migrated from a 518-drive BlueArc NAS system to a 200-drive T400 to improve performance and cut floor space used by the array in half. "It was a manual process, which we were happy to do because we had three years of crust built up and weren't interested in blanket copying data," he said.

Jeff Boles, a senior analyst and director, validation services at Hopkinton, Mass.-based Taneja Group, said he expects 3PAR and others to continue to advance thin technologies.

"Overall, thin provisioning is still in its infancy," Boles said. "Just about everybody's doing thin now, but it's kind of a thin foundation, not applied thin technology where you can manage your business and keep it thin. That's what 3PAR wants to get to."

He added: "This is step two – reclaiming and zeroing stuff out after it's freed up. It's still out of band. Step three will turn thin provisioning into a more dynamic creature. That's when it becomes interactive and in-band."

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