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Is thick provisioning better than thin?

There's some doubt about whether there is an advantage to using thin provisioning over thick when setting up virtualized storage; our expert weighs in.

Is there any performance difference, even when using workloads like SQL, between thick provision eager zero and...

thin provisioning?

While it has been said that thin provisioning has some performance disadvantages compared to thick provisioning, that may not be the case.

During "Virtual Server Fleet: A Dream Comes True," his VMworld 2014 session with co-speaker Denis Larocque, David Gallant said it does make a difference -- if you are using an intelligent storage array.

The session detailed the numerous challenges associated with moving the Molson Coors infrastructure to a more virtualized environment. Larocque, the infrastructure architect at Molson Coors, said his company had about 50% of its servers virtualized and occupied four data centers. The company wanted to cut costs and shrink its infrastructure footprint. The company was running SAP on expensive UNIX hardware and tasked Larocque with finding a cheaper way to handle those critical workloads.

With Gallant's assistance, the company switched to x86 blade servers in a HP 3PAR storage system. When the project was complete, Molson Coors consolidated from four data centers to two, and went from 50% virtualized servers to 94%, gaining as good or better performance at a much cheaper hardware cost.

One consideration was the format to use on the storage. According to Gallant, he's done extensive testing and it shows thin provisioning has gotten a bad rap.

"If you have intelligent storage that does predictive writing and that type of thing, there's no real need to use thick eager zero. In fact, most modern arrays in the tests we've been running tell us that thin provisioning in a lot of cases is faster than thick eager zero," said Gallant, who works as a practice solution architect for VMware.

Next Steps

Choosing a provisioning format for vSphere Storage Motion

Learn about the benefits of storage thin provisioning

This was last published in August 2014

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