How does thin provisioning impact capacity planning?

Q: What factors come into play when considering thin provisioning for a project?

About the author
Storage expert Kurtis Lindemann is the director of Technical Services for RoundTower Technologies, a storage service provider based in Cincinnati. Listen to the rest of Kurtis' answers on assessing a customer's storage capacity by downloading our storage capacity podcast.

Thin provisioning is the act of provisioning more storage than you have physically available on an array. It is becoming increasingly common in enterprise-class storage arrays. The theory behind it is that it improves your storage utilization, helping you keep your costs down. The thing to keep in mind is that thin provisioning is basically like trading stocks on margin. It works out great as long as things go as planned, but you have to keep a constant eye on the storage. You can get into dangerous situations that can cause servers to crash if you run out of capacity, potentially resulting in data loss. So, when considering the total cost of thin provisioning, make sure that you consider the extra cost of monitoring and management for the solution, as well as any potential disaster scenarios due to "operator error." Use caution when using thin provisioning in a solution, and make sure that the customer understands all of the caveats as well as the benefits when choosing to use that feature.

This was first published in January 2008

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