Pure Storage Releases All-Flash Array Priced More Like Disk Array

The release of Pure Storage's arrays comes after trials by customers of over 100 of its beta units, said Matt Kixmoeller, vice president of products for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

Kixmoeller classified the arrays now being released for sale to the channel as the second-generation product, as they employ a new version of the company's Purity operating system as well as features not found in the trial units, some of which have been running for over a year.

[Related: EMC Acquires XtremIO, Becomes First Top-Tier Vendor With All-Flash Array ]

Kixmoeller said the Pure Storage FlashArray 300 series with 2.0 is a full-fledged array. "It's not a Flash-based appliance, which is expensive and cannot scale," he said. "And it is not a Flash cache or Flash storage tier, which feature unpredictable performance and are complex and expensive to use."

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Pure Storage in August came out of stealth mode with funding of $55 million, including a stake held by Samsung, one of the world's largest providers of Flash memory chips.

The release of its Pure Storage FlashArray 2.0 comes a week after EMC said it acquired all-Flash array developer XtremIO. That acquisition, which makes EMC the first top-tier storage vendor to offer an all-Flash array, has generated much buzz in the storage industry about the future of Flash arrays in the enterprise.

The storage industry is moving to adopt Flash, but for the time being, most established storage vendors are starting by adding Flash to existing arrays, which is not an optimized solution, Kixmoeller said.

"EMC has come to that realization," he said. "It's no surprise. EMC has done more with Flash than any other vendor has done. I won't be surprised to see the others follow."

The Pure Storage FlashArray 2.0 is intended to operate like standard disk-based arrays, Kixmoeller said. "At Pure Storage, we wanted to best of both worlds," he said. "We wanted something like a disk array in how it works, but based on Flash technology for the performance."

While the Pure Storage FlashArray 2.0 offers ten times the performance of a disk array while being smaller and easier to install, it is priced similar to a disk array, Kixmoeller said.

Next: Pricing Flash Arrays The Same As Disk Arrays

The ability to bring pricing down to that of disk-based arrays stems from a couple of technologies developed by Pure Storage.

The first is the fact that Pure Storage designed its arrays from the ground-up to work with the multi-level cell (MLC) Flash technology, which when compared to more robust single-level cell (SLC) or enhanced MLC (eMLC) technology is much lower priced, Kixmoeller said. The company uses software to ensure the reliability of data on MLC Flash technology.

"We don't use any Flash, but the low-end of the MLC Flash technology," he said. "Most companies use SLC or eMLC Flash because their architectures are not designed for the economics of MLC. And it's not just MLC for us, but future, less robust technology like TLC [triple-level cell]. We follow the consumer market, and TLC will be the dominant Flash technology next year."

The Pure Storage FlashArray 2.0 also features both in-line and global data deduplication in combination with a non-volatile RAM (NV-RAM) cache that runs continuously, Kixmoeller said.

"Competitors often tell their users to turn their data reduction technology off in order to increase performance," he said. "With our arrays, you can't turn data reduction off. Dedupe and compression are absolutely critical for enterprise-class Flash arrays. If you dedupe and compress the data, it cuts down on the number of writes, which helps significantly improve Flash memory reliability."

As a result, the Pure Storage FlashArray 2.0 is slated to meet a price of between $5 and $10 per GB, which is similar to the prices for a high-end disk array with a Flash-based cache, Kixmoeller said. In fact, during the trial period, prices were actually in the $4 to $8 per GB range, he said.

The company's Flash-based arrays also come with other features to provide enterprise-class reliability and scalability, Kixmoeller said. These include a clustered controller with InfiniBand connectivity, an active-active controller, hot swap components, global RAID protection across the entire array, and no single point of failure. They also encrypt 100 percent of the data stored in the array, he said.

Next: VAR Sees Big Potential In All-Flash Array Market

Al Chien, vice president of sales and marketing at Dasher Technologies, a Campbell, Calif.-based solution provider and one of the Pure Storage partners who seeded one of the vendor's beta Flash arrays with a large customer, said that the beta test enabled his company to already drum up business for the vendor.

Dasher, which Chien said has a robust and growing storage practice as well as relationships with several tier 1 vendors, had been trying to break into a target account for several months to no avail until the concept of positioning Pure Storage Flash arrays was presented. "We thought it would be interesting for them given their existing infrastructure, pain points, and objectives, and it was," he said.

The customer looked not only at the performance and efficiency of the FlashArray but also the cost, Chien said. "But Pure Storage came in with Flash at the cost of spinning disk," he said. "In the opportunity we won with Pure Storage, and three other opportunities we are now working on, pricing to the customer was comparatively the same as traditional hard drive storage. Part of that is from the software included with the FlashArray. It helps mitigate the cost by being blended into the price."

Chien said he expects the Flash-based array market to grow in the future. "Is this a 'Flash-in-the-pan? No," he said. "This is an indication of what will come. There will be a place for traditional spinning disk in tier 2 and tier 3 storage applications. But as Flash gets more cost-effective, it's here to stay."