3PAR Puts Storage on a Diet

3PAR claims its new 3PAR Thin Provisioning technology dramatically reduces storage costs by eliminating over-provisioning.

“We are perhaps the only storage vendor interested in selling our customers fewer disk drives,” says 3PAR President and CEO David Scott. “Using Thin Provisioning, they can cut IT costs while getting more done. I don’t know a single customer that wouldn’t find that proposition compelling.”

Traditional storage uses Dedicate-on-Allocation technology, where customers have to purchase up front all the storage they want to allocate, resulting in a capacity utilization rate of only 25%-35%, says 3PAR.

3PAR claims its Thin Provisioning breaks the link between purchased and allocated storage via the company’s Dedicate-on-Write (DoW) technology, which allows users to safely allocate as much logical capacity as needed over an application’s lifetime. Physical capacity is drawn from a common pool on an as-needed basis — only when applications actually write data to the storage array is physical disk capacity drawn from the pool.

By keeping a small buffer of physical capacity, IT managers can quickly deploy new applications as needed, avoiding traditional budget or procurement delays and accelerating returns from new applications. The physical pool can be replenished at an appropriate rate while taking advantage of falling disk prices over time.

“Over-provisioning is economically idiotic, but it’s the only way users have been able to keep up,” says Enterprise Storage Group founder Steve Duplessie. “With Thin Provisioning, 3PAR is enabling a giant cell phone company to not only be more fiscally responsible, but to also set themselves up with a real storage utility. I spoke to them first-hand, and they couldn’t be happier.”

3PAR says excessive amounts of capacity are allocated to applications to meet volatile growth expectations, assure service levels, and avoid future upgrade complexity. But the downside is that enterprise users estimate that used allocated capacity is only 25%-35% of total allocated capacity, “a monumental waste of capital and related operating expense,” the company says. The problem of allocated-but-unused capacity is not solved by physical storage networking, since this capacity is already logically assigned to and owned by applications.

A recent survey by Glasshouse Technologies of more than a dozen companies with over 700 servers found that a typical host might have 500GB of external storage, 375GB in volume groups, 240GB in file systems, and just 93GB used. The result is only 25% utilization of the provisioned 375GB of storage.

This allocated-but-unused storage costs enterprises millions of dollars a year, according to 3PAR. A typical enterprise requiring 10 useable terabytes for a set of projects might spend $2 million on 40 physical terabytes to provision and make a single copy of this allocated capacity, assuming RAID 1 and a cost of $0.05 per megabyte. If the average overall utilization rate of the allocated storage capacity is just 25%, then $1.5 million of this capital expenditure has been wasted. This does not include the additional cost to house, power, and cool hundreds of effectively unused disk drives.

3PAR says its Thin Provisioning approach delivers on the promise of organic utility computing, providing flexible and autonomic delivery of scalable computing services to customers without having to dedicate physical resources up front. Utility computing allows customers to use as much as they need, but to pay only for what they use, when they use it.

Thin Provisioning is available now. A base license for Thin Provisioning is bundled with every 3PAR InServ Storage Server. Additional licenses can be purchased for less than one cent per written megabyte of Thin Provisioning-based physical capacity.

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Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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