One More For The Cisco Stable: Pure Storage Intros All-Flash Converged Infrastructure

Cisco Systems has signed up yet another storage vendor, all-flash storage array company Pure Storage, as a partner in developing converged infrastructure offerings.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Pure Storage Thursday unveiled the FlashStack CI, a new converged infrastructure offering that ties the Pure Storage 400 series of all-flash storage arrays with Cisco's UCS blade servers and Nexus switches and VMware software into a pre-validated solution.

Most major storage vendors including EMC, NetApp, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems, along with several smaller storage vendors including Maxta, Nimble Storage and now Pure Storage, have converged infrastructure partnerships with Cisco. A couple of major storage vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell are less likely to partner with Cisco at this level because of competing server offerings to Cisco UCS.

[Related: The Power Of One: New Converged Infrastructure Solutions]

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Pure Storage has had reference architectures for a while, but this is the first time the company has offered a complete end-to-end solution, said Matt Kixmoeller, the company's vice president of products and marketing.

"Partners have asked us to move up the stack to provide complete solutions, and provide a single point of support," Kixmoeller told CRN. "Our model relies on the channel and on solution providers who provide end-to-end support."

The FlashStack CI is available in two versions, Kixmoeller said.

The first is focused on high-density server virtualization, and includes VMware vSphere 5.5 to consolidate hundreds of enterprise-class virtual machines and quickly provision more than 1,000 virtual machines, he said.

The second is focused on virtual desktop infrastructures, and includes VMware vSphere 5.5 and VMware Horizon 6 to scale to up to 3,000 virtual desktops in a single rack with sub-millisecond response times, he said.

The Pure Storage FlashStack CI is launching with three initial channel partners, including Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Datalink. Other partners that demonstrate the ability to provide full end-to-end support and 24x7 customer support also will be eligible, Kixmoeller said.

Datalink COO Shawn O'Grady told CRN that the Pure Storage FlashStack CI will compete in some ways with other converged infrastructure offerings the company sells, including VCE Vblocks, EMC's VSPEX and NetApp's FlexPods, all of which feature Cisco UCS servers and networking.

However, the key differentiator in these and in all Cisco-centered converged infrastructure offerings is what customers want to do with their storage, O'Grady told CRN.

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"We feel that Cisco-centric solutions are really important for our customers," Datalink's O'Grady said. "But we also believe the storage associated with the solutions is workflow-dependent. Will our selling FlashStack disappoint NetApp? Maybe. Will it take away from our FlexPod sales? No. We'll sell FlashStack into environments ideal for it. We don't expect it will cannibalize our NetApp or EMC business."

O'Grady said any concerns about the converged infrastructure business becoming crowded in terms of offerings are overblown.

"You can say it's getting crowded," he said. "Or you can say it's becoming more acceptable in the marketplace. We prefer to say 'more acceptable in the marketplace.' We have looked at converged infrastructure since the beginning. It's easy to sell and easy to optimize. It's a key part of building hybrid clouds, and is becoming a more acceptable data center infrastructure approach."

Jim Sangster, director of solutions marketing at Pure Storage, said the Pure Storage FlashStack CI solutions will be defined, configured, tested, deployed and supported by solution providers.

The solutions were also designed for simplicity, Sangster told CRN.

"These are all-flash solutions, so customers and partners don't have to worry about different tiers of storage or different levels of I/O performance," he said. "And all the components -- Pure, Cisco UCS and Nexus, and VMware software -- have modules that let them plug directly into VMware vCenter, which serves as the central management solution."