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EMC finally puts Symmetrix line on thin provisioning diet

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Any magician worth his salt knows about distraction. A grand movement with the left hand while the right hand lifts your wallet and keys is Hocus-Pocus 101.

EMC issued a pair of announcements today, employing marketing shenanigans along the way. The company barked about flash-based storage for its Symmetrix hardware line - look over here! - while it rather quietly slipped under the door news of an overdue thin-provisioning feature for the arrays.

EMC calls its flavor of thin provisioning, "Virtual Provisioning," but it's mostly the same technology under the label. In a virtual environment, the traditional method of allocating storage is dedicating large portions of storage capacity to applications even if a good chunk of it goes unused. Thin provisioning makes it so that physical disk capacity is used only as needed for virtual volumes. The benefits of "streamlining" the capacity include better overall system utilization and power savings by having less disks spinning all the live-long day.

Good stuff, yes, and certainly a welcome addition to EMC's high-end Symmetrix arrays. But it should be noted that mainstream vendors such as 3Par, Hitachi, NetApp and HP already offer thin provisioning on their big boxes. EMC previously only offered thin provisioning with its Celerra line. It expects to add the feature to its Clariion arrays this summer.

EMC's director of storage marketing Bob Wambach says the slower start is all about implementation. Virtual Provisioning will work across all Symmetrix storage tiers, including the so-called tier 0 flash storage drives EMC announced today. It will also work on internal and external storage as well as replicated volumes. Wambach said rivals such as Hitachi didn't have that at launch. (Note: Hitachi added external support last November).

Wambach said some of elements for the new technology were implemented in last year's annual Symmetrix update. While certain speed-up elements were available, other features such as capacity utilization and over-provisioning were in the code but couldn't be turned on.

That changes in March, when thin-provisioning is expected to hit. Pricing is dependent on the amount of provisioning in the box — so you'll need to give EMC a ring to get the pricing dope. ®

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