Pure Storage FlashArray and Re-Examining VMware Virtual Disk Types

A bit of a long rambling one here. Here it goes…

Virtual Disk allocation mechanism choice is something that was somewhat of a hot topic a few years back with the “thin on thin” question almost becoming a religious debate at times. Essentially this has cooled down and vendors have made their recommendations and end users have their preferences and that’s that. With the true advent of the all-flash-array such as the Pure Storage FlashArray with deduplication, compression, pattern removal etc. I feel like this somewhat basic topic is worth revisiting now.

To review there are three main virtual disk types (there are others, namely SESparse but I am going to stick with the most common for this discussion):

  • Eagerzeroedthick–This type is fully allocated upon creation. This means that it reserves the entire indicated capacity on the VMFS volume and zeroes the entire encompassed region on the underlying storage prior to allowing writes from a guest OS. This means that is takes longer to provision as it has to write GBs or TBs of zeroes before the virtual disk creation is complete and ready to use. I will refer to this as EZT from now on.
  • Zeroedthick–This type fully reserves the space on VMFS but does not pre-zero the underlying storage. Zeroing is done on an as needed basis, when a guest OS writes to a new segment of the virtual disk the encompassing block is zeroed first than the new write is committed.
  • Thin–This type neither reserves space on the VMFS or pre-zeroes. Zeroing is done on an as-needed basis like zeroedthick. The virtual disk physical capacity grows in segments defined by the block size of the VMFS, usually 1 MB.

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