Thin Provisioning – A Comprehensive Explanation

In today’s digital era, business file sizes and data requirements are expanding, which means managed service providers (MSPs) must find the correct storage solutions to meet ever-changing client demands. An ideal storage system can handle enormous volumes of data while avoiding extra capacity to be efficient and cost-effective.

Fortunately, modern technology effectively uses storage mediums, allowing more data to be stored in a smaller area. Thin provisioning is a fantastic method for doing this. This post will discuss how thin provisioning storage works, how it differs from thick provisioning, and how it may meet your customers’ storage requirements.

In this post, we’ll look at thin provisioning, how it works, and how crucial it is for enterprises. To further comprehend TP, we’ll compare it to conventional provisioning, often known as thick provisioning.

What Is Meant By Thin Provisioning?

Thin provisioning, also known as virtual provisioning or thin storage, is a technique of allocating storage on demand depending on user needs in storage area networks (SAN), centralized storage disks, and storage virtualization systems.

In this storage, users are allocated additional when they use their assigned storage space. Alternatively, when users free up space by deleting files or moving data, the idle space is recovered, repurposed, and allocated to other workloads that need storage.

Does Thin Provisioning Affect Performance?

A thin-provisioned disk has the same performance as a lazy-zeroed thick-provisioned disk. Lazy zeroing implies overwriting existing data (binary ones and zeroes) without first converting it to all zeroes. On the other hand, Eager zeroing cleans a disk by deleting data (converting it to zeroes) and writing new data on a fresh slate. A thick-provisioned, eager-zeroing disk writes data more quickly than a thin-provisioned disk.

Due to overprovisioning, thin provisioning may create issues when users approach their maximum storage capacity. It is helpful to compare disk provisioning strategies to those used by banks. A “thick-provisioned” bank has enough cash to cover all its deposit accounts. However, most banks prefer to function as “thin provisioned” storage disks, with just a percentage of their cash on hand.

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When too many depositors try to take their money simultaneously, the cash runs out, resulting in a bank run. A similar problem may happen with thin provisioning. If users attempt to write more data than there is physical storage space, the disk will overflow, and they will be unable to save anything. As a result, system administrators must constantly check storage use and provide extra capacity as necessary.

When selecting what storage is appropriate for their customers, MSPs must carefully analyze the differences between thick and thin provisioning.

Thin Vs. Thick Provisioning: What’s the Difference and How Does It Work

In contrast to thin provisioning, thick provisioning (also known as fat provisioning) distributes storage space in advance of future capacity needs. This technique of storage allocation resulted in idle store capacity, ineffective storage consumption, and wasteful infrastructure and maintenance expenditures.

In other words, although both thin and thick provisioning are storage allocation strategies, the difference is in the Logical Unit Number (LUN) configuration.

Thick Provisioned LUNs: Creation and Issues

Thick provisioning generates LUNs and allocates them to certain hosts or applications. The LUN allocates a certain amount of storage space for the designated host or application. As the process continues, the allotted storage space uses all available.

Consider a company with a total of 100 workers. Each employee needs 1 TB of storage. The firm must acquire a storage system capable of delivering 100TB of useful storage space to accommodate its personnel. Using thick provisioning, 1TB LUNs will be provisioned to distribute storage to each employee. It’s worth noting that workers will not instantly fill up the 1TB storage capacity since it is the entire capacity required in anticipation of future data expansion. In other words, huge sections of the dedicated storage capacity will remain idle until needed. As a result, the return on investment (ROI) will be less than optimal.

Furthermore, other issues will occur as workers begin to completely use the allowed 1TB capacity and request extra storage.

The issue with thick-provided LUNs is that they cannot be scaled up once supplied. A thick provisioned LUN must be rebuilt before more storage can be added. In other words, host applications and workloads must be suspended, data must be backed up, and new LUNs with more storage capacity must be created and assigned.

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Imagine the downtime and inefficiencies in the storage above after workers have used up their 1TB allocation.

Thin Provisioned LUNs- Creation and Operation

Unlike thick-provisioned LUNs, thin-provided LUNs may be set to be greater than the available physical storage capacity. Because of the thin provisioned pool idea, thin LUNs continue to run and spread data over the available storage space while the array maintains track of it.

In the preceding scenario, the corporation may acquire a storage infrastructure with 50TB of consumption capacity and assign 100TB to workers using thin provisioning. When the 50TBs are almost full, they may acquire more storage and scale up the specified thin LUNs.

The second distinction between thin and thick provisioned LUNs is that thin LUNs can readily scale up as needed. There is no need to interrupt host programs or workloads that use the allotted storage.

In other words, thin provisioning improves ROIs and allows for seamless future data expansion with minimal downtime.

Benefits of Thin Provisioning for Enterprises

Here are the benefits of thin provisioning:

  • Thin provisioning accelerates storage provisioning, simplifies administration, and lowers costs by increasing storage usage in IT settings with numerous hosts and applications.
  • Without thin provisioning, IT environments either experience interruption when dedicated storage capacity for a LUN is depleted or they overprovision their storage infrastructure. Both strategies could be more effective and affordable but could deplete resources. Thin provisioning allows available resources to be properly used, and when allotted storage is depleted, new storage may be provided without delay or disturbance.
  • Thin provisioning may be used with other data services to increase storage usage. For example, compression services work well with thin provisioning. Thin provisioning efficiently uses available storage space, while compression decreases the total footprint of the data.


Thin provisioning optimized available storage space, speeds up storage provisioning, and allows infrastructure owners to get the most bang for their money. Thin provisioning costs less than thick provisioning and is more adaptable to future data expansion, making it the clear option and a must-have for all SAN, centralized storage disks, and storage virtualization systems.