Veritas Storage Foundation’s New Thin Reclamation API Gives Thin Provisioning a Heavyweight Boost

One can hardly visit any storage system vendor’s website without running into a reference to “Thin Provisioning” that is available either in their current product or on their product roadmap. However, how many operating system or volume managers/filesystems producers do you find using those words? Until recently, there were none. But now that Symantec has jumped with both feet into the Thin Provisioning arena, how companies use and manage thin provisioning in the coming years should change significantly.

This addition of the Veritas Thin Reclamation API to Veritas Storage Foundation brings an in-depth and very attractive feature set to those companies that are now using subsystems with thin provisioning or who plan to move to them in the future. The Thin Reclamation API allows the file system and volume manager to effectively interact with a Thin-Aware storage subsystem and provide the capabilities such that when data is removed (e.g., user deletes a file), these deleted files are understood by the storage array as free and unutilized blocks that can be re-absorbed into the available pool of storage.

Now think about that for a minute, an end-to-end solution that ensures your disk subsystem is running at peak utilization levels at all times. This is a significant development especially when you consider the entire process is automated and transparent to the application stack. That is a really awesome concept for those of us who have spent anytime managing storage. Considering that utilization within most storage shops hovers at best around 20 – 40% most of the time, this is something you will definitely want to add to your management tool set to help make you shine during budget planning cycles.

SmartMove is another new addition to Storage Foundation. Unlike the Thin Reclamation API there is no certification involved, it simply works from any server to any thin-storage. This feature enables the movement of data from existing fat LUNs to thin LUNs that reside inside any thin-aware storage subsystem via an online migration process.

As an example, assume you decide to move data to a thin-aware storage array or your existing storage vendor has now added thin provisioning to its existing system. You can simply create those new filesystems on your thin-array(s), perform a dynamic SmartMove migration (with no impact to the applications) from your legacy array(s) and “Bingo!”, you now have thin-aware LUNs (and reclaimed the 60% wasted storage capacity from the legacy array). Also during the migration process, SmartMove ensures that it will only send the specific blocks of the volume that are being used by the application of what has changed and not the entire volume. Further, it supports all major enterprise operating systems including Linux, Windows and UNIX as well as file systems such as NTFS or VxFS.

However it is still important to note that the Veritas Thin Reclamation API has just been released and requires your storage system vendor to take part in an integration/certification process with Symantec. Also the Thin Reclamation API does not alone enable you to create a thin volume on a standard array. Rather the Thin Reclamation API provides the linkage needed to take advantage of thin provisioning on storage subsystems that support it.

Now that we have seen the Thin Provisioning API feature from Symantec, it’s clear that Symantec is continuing to extend its lead over its competition. Providing real integration with storage systems that offer thin provisioning was sorely needed to harness the power of thin provisioning and enable end-users to take full advantage of this advancement in storage technology. By layering the Thin Provisioning API into the host volume management layer of the Veritas Storage Foundation will only help further spur the widespread corporate adoption of thin provisioning. Already we see storage vendors like 3PAR, HDS, HP and others lining up to take advantage of these latest features within the Veritas Storage Foundation and we see no reason for this trend of storage vendors adopting this technology to do anything but accelerate in the coming years.

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