DataCore president George Teixeira has sent a letter to US media outlets setting the recod straight, as he sees it, about the invention of thin provisioning. It wasn't 3PAR.
It was DataCore which shipped the capability, called Dynamic Virtual Capacity (DVC) in 2001 and announced it in January, 2002. Teixeira says hundreds of HDS users took advantage of it back when HDS didn't have its own naive thin provisioning.
DataCore also talked about Network-Managed Volumes (NVMs) as DataCore's software managed the capacity allocation and not the storage array controller (as is the case with HDS now).
So DataCore's SANsymphony 5.0 had the capablity in late 2001. Teixeira says Gartner issued a research note late in 2002 and called the concept 'thin provisioning'. In the middle of 2003 3PAR, a May, 1999 start-up, shipped its first few systems and made much of their thin provisioning capability, and also gained product marketing ownership of the concept.
VMware says it had thin provisioning in VMware Workstation years ago. Version 3.0 of Workstation was announced in November 2001. Version 3 sounds like a pretty mature product and probably had the capability in it. Perhaps VMware introduced its version of thin provisioning before DataCore. But it was called something different and applied to workstation storage, whereas the DataCore technology applied to networked block-level storage for enterpriseservers.
Nowadays thin provisioning has made the jump to virtual servers in ESX.
VMware says its virtual machine technology was based on work at Stanford University. I daresay the DataCore implementation can be traced back to the same root.