Storage supplier 3Par has invented an approach to storage management which it believes will reduce the need for businesses to purchase large amounts of capacity up-front.
The technology, called Thin Provisioning, supports the way applications and databases use storage. Craig Nunes, vice-president of marketing at 3Par, said when a business configures an e-mail server or a relational database, it is necessary to install enough physical storage to support the maximum amount of data it is likely to support, even though the application at present may only require a small amount of storage to run.
The reason for allocating more than enough storage is to reduce downtime. "You would need to take the server down to add extra capacity," Nunes said. And adding storage to an e-mail server can be extremely difficult once the server is running, he added.
Virtualisation is one way users can simplify managing storage for different applications and operating systems, providing a pool of storage capacity available on demand. However, Nunes said this still requires physical storage in order to work.
3Par's approach is based on software that fools the application into thinking it has the physical storage it needs whether now or in the future. A user specifies the amount of storage they would normally configure for an application and the Thin Provisioning technology manages the physical storage currently available.
3Par said Thin Provisioning reduces capital expenditure by eliminating or postponing the need to buy large disc capacity.
As physical capacity is purchased and added over time, users benefit from falling disc drive prices. 3Par said users could also benefit from reduced licence fees for many storage software products, such as SRM tools.
Other benefits from having less physical storage include electricity and space savings. And by "allocating once", the IT department needs to spend less time on storage planning and provisioning, 3Par said.
Problems with existing storage
Over-requests for capacity
When application administrators request capacity, they account for current needs as well as anticipated growth. To the extent expected growth is uncertain, capacity estimates are increased.
Applications are less successful than planned
Sometimes applications are not utilised as anticipated, and so little growth in requirements occurs. Meanwhile, significant storage has already been provisioned.
Replication of unwritten data
For many applications, additional copies of data are kept online, which can lead to wastage.