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Thin provisioning is a storage area network (SAN) management process where the storage capacity for a device is reserved and allocated on demand through a shared storage pool.
Thin provisioning is also known as virtual provisioning. However, thin provisioning relates to physical computing environments.
Thin provisioning is used for flexible storage planning, greater control of storage utilization and continuous storage provisioning. Rather than allocating upfront storage space, thin provisioning provides a SAN's connected devices with storage on an as needed basis. Upon complete storage utilization or exhaustion, a query is sent to the thin provisioning software utility, which releases and allocates additional storage, as required.
With thin provisioning, a connected device appears to have more than the actual storage capacity. For example, a device is presented with a total storage of 10 GB, which may be the SAN pool's unreserved collective storage capacity, but when the device requires further storage, it is allocated only the exact amount of required storage from the unreserved pool.