Optimization of primary storage can save thousands of dollars for the enterprise. The cloud presents a great opportunity for primary storage optimization, such as thin provisioning, snapshots or clones.

Thin provisioning is the process of allocating capacity on the fly. The storage manager specifies a minimum volume requirement and no maximum, to facilitate storage expansion on demand. This eliminates the need to maintain hard allocated capacities resulting in excess provisioning and costs on inactive resources that cannot be released to other activities on the system.

Snapshots are enabled by thin provisioning and are the foundations on which clones are built. This is a data protection technology that takes snapshots of the active blocks. Like photographs, the snapshots are frozen in time and set to read only. Modifications on the data will have to be tracked in a separate snapshot. However, snapshots are space saving and time efficient.

Clones are writable snapshots. The volume that is represented is real, but it can be changed and modified. Virtualization and cloud computing have enhanced the value of clones and there is a dawning realization that this technology can help enterprises reduce storage footprints, improve performance and load n-numbers of virtual machines into the cache.

Deduplication technology identifies redundant data segments and removes them from the primary storage. This provides volume efficiencies in storage systems and is an extremely popular method of ensuring that the primary storage contains only one copy of the data element.

Compression is an optimization technology that reduces the data footprint. It modifies the file by removing duplicate elements and storing only one copy of a data element. A special reader is required for reconstructing the file to match the original.

Cloud backup service providers use all the above techniques in varying degrees to ensure that primary storage is automatically optimized with little or no effort on the part of the customer or data owner. While each strategy has its own strengths and weaknesses, they all contribute effectively to primary storage optimization. The end-user must intelligently evaluate the impact of each of these technologies on their data and select the service that matches their data needs.  Ultimately, the technology must provide the necessary “bang for the buck” and help the enterprise store more data in the same space.