The average data center has a storage problem. At times, seventy-five percent of its available storage capacity remains unused. The data center has to allocate large amounts of free space to applications, which can create or delete a lot of data at any time. While this system prevents users from ever running out of storage space, it is also costly and inefficient. Certainly, most data center managers would compromise higher costs to guarantee the reliability and availability of applications. But they would still prefer to be able to utilize the vacant three-fourths of their infrastructures without negatively influencing the stability of their applications.
A technology called “thin provisioning” provides a solution to the 75% problem. It allocates storage to applications on an as-needed basis. With thin provisioning, each application does not require its own dedicated physical storage device. Neither does thin provisioning require the same amount of hands-on management and oversight as a Storage Area Network. Explains George Crump of Storage Switzerland, “The challenge is that even though the tools and OS support exists, the process of expanding a volume is a multi-step manual process which risks application disruption and cannot keep pace with the rapidly changing data center.” In contrast, a thin provisioning data center provides applications with storage automatically and intuitively during the process of data creation or “writing.”
Thin provisioning not only maximizes available computing resources but also lowers the hardware requirements of applications. For example, a program that formerly required its own 1 TB storage device would be able to share a 500 GB unit with multiple other applications, resulting in exponential savings.
Some experts warn about the technology’s possibility of overprovisioning. An unexpectedly large amount of users can access all the applications of a thinly provisioned data center at once, quickly exhausting the capacity of its storage devices. However, Crump of Storage Switzerland says that the odds are against such a scenario. He compares thin provisioning to the insurance business. While it is technically possible for every insured person to break their legs or crash their cars all at once and bankrupt the insurance company, usually only a small percentage of subscribers will file an insurance claim in a given year. Similarly, not every user will access an application at the same time or simultaneously execute processes that require large amounts of storage. Crump adds that system administrators can further protect their data centers from overprovisioning by monitoring capacity and usage rates closely and reserving extra hardware as emergency “stand-by” storage.
IronOrbit, a leading private cloud, hosted application, and virtual desktop provider, employs technologies such as thin provisioning, SAN, and virtualization in order to provide the most powerful, reliable, and cost-effective cloud-based solutions. Though we aren’t the only hosting company to utilize these data center technologies and strategies, only IronOrbit combines these and other industry-best products into customized solutions that we build according to the exact specifications, requirements, or preferences of our customers. We don’t stop with just designing and building great solutions, either: IronOrbit oversees, manages, and repairs our customers’ clouds with around-the-clock monitoring and technical support. We ensure that your solutions continually perform as well and as reliable as possible; we also protect your infrastructure from threats such as malware and overprovisioning. Like thin provisioning, IronOrbit always gets what you need from your IT infrastructure, how and when you need it.