When you create a virtual machine in VMware vSphere, vSphere creates a new virtual hard drive for that virtual machine. The virtual hard drive is contained in a virtual machine disk (VMDK). The disk format you choose for the new virtual hard drive can have a significant impact on performance.

You can choose one of the following formats when creating a virtual hard drive:

  • Thin-provisioned
  • Thin-provisioned lazy-zeroed
  • Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed



  • Fastest to provision
  • Allows disk space to be over-committed to VMs


  • Slowest performance due to metadata allocation overhead and additional overhead during initial write operations
  • Over commitment of storage can lead to application disruption or downtime if resources are actually used
  • Does not support clustering features

When vSphere creates a thin-provisioned disk, it only writes a small amount of metadata to the datastore. It does not allocate or zero out any disk space. At write time, vSphere first updates the allocation metadata for the VMDK, then zeros out the block or blocks, then finally writes the data. Because of this overhead, thin-provisioned VMDKs have the lowest performance of the three disk formats.

You can use thin provisioning to over-commit disk spaces to VMs on a datastore. For example, you can put 10 VMs, each with a 50 GB VMDK attached to it, on a single 100 GB datastore, as long as the sum total of all data written by the VMs never exceeded 100 GB. Administrators can use thin provisioning to use space on datastores that can otherwise be unavailable. If you are using thick provisioning, you have the benefit of less latency because all storage is allocated at once possibly reducing costs and administrative overhead.

Thin-provisioned lazy-zeroed


  • Faster to provision than Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed
  • Better performance than thin-provisioned


  • Slightly slower to provision than thin-provisioned
  • Slower performance than Thin-provisioned Eager Zero
  • Does not support clustering features

When vSphere creates a Thin-provisioned lazy-zeroed disk, it allocates the maximum size of the disk to the VMDK, but does nothing else. At the initial access to each block, vSphere first zeros out the block, then writes the data. Performance of a Thin-provisioned lazy-zeroed disk is not as good a thick provisioned eager zero disk because of this added overhead.

Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed


  • Best performance
  • Overwriting allocated disk space with zeros reduces possible security risks
  • Supports clustering features such as Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) and VMware Fault Tolerance


  • Longest time to provision

When vSphere creates a Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed disk, it allocates the maximum size of the disk to the VMDK, then zeros out all of that space.

Example: If you create an 80 GB Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed VMDK, vSphere allocates 80 GB and writes 80 GB of zeros.

By overwriting all data in the allocated space with zeros, Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed eliminates the possibility of reading any residual data from the disk, thereby reducing possible security risks.

Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed VMDKs have the best performance. When a write operation occurs to a Thin-provisioned eager-zeroed disk, vSphere writes to the disk, with none of the additional overhead required by thin provisioned or Thin-provisioned lazy-zeroed formats.

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