Pure Storage Execs Commit To Leading Flash Storage Tech To Meet Cloud And Data Center Demands For Massive Capacity, Performance

Flash storage is becoming the centerpiece of the modern data center and the cloud as new IT applications require increasing levels of performance and reliability. That's the word from the executive team at Pure Storage this week, as the company hosts Pure Accelerate 2017 in San Francisco.

Pure Storage President David Hatfield used the conference venue as an analogy to show the shift from old storage infrastructure to the leading-edge storage all-flash storage. Built in 1883 as an iron manufacturing facility, Pier 70, located in San Francisco's Potrero Point neighborhood, is set to be demolished soon to make way for a new technology complex.

[Related: Pure Storage Aims For The Enterprise, Cloud Storage Business With Major Software Updates]

"Hopefully there will be some shiny new condos to house the employees of the future," Hatfield said.

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The location, near an old shipyard that had been in use since the Gold Rush, proved to be an obstacle for attendees, many of whom were late because of a shortage of busses prepared to bring them to Pier 70, Hatfield said. "When you set up an event like this in a crack area, it's difficult," he said. "I probably shouldn't have said that."

Hatfield said Pure Storage could not experience the growth it has without the help of channel partners and technology partners. In particular, he called out data protection software vendor Veeam which this week said it will include Pure Storage APIs in the new version of its software in order to provide easy native protection of data on his company's all-flash storage arrays.

He also said that the FlashStack converged infrastructure, which combines Pure Storage storage and Cisco UCS servers and networking, already has over 1,400 customers. FlashStack sales are seeing a 70-percent year-over-year growth, he said.

Hatfield also said that Pure Storage and Cisco will shortly offer high-performance NVMe flash storage over fabric in conjunction with Cisco UCS servers, and that the two are planning to develop a full utility-based offering using FlashStack.

Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen (pictured above) then addressed the audience noting that while Pure Storage has made several advances with its FlashBlade and FlashArray//X systems, the company this year is focused on bringing the full set of enterprise features to its software.

"We've been holding out on you," Dietzen said. "We have two years of software innovation we want to show you."

Pure Storage expects to cross the $1 billion revenue threshold this year, the company's sixth year of shipping, and will be cash-flow positive for the year, Dietzen said. "And we're the first new storage company to cross that threshold in 20 years," he said.

Pure Storage this year commissioned its first survey of the storage industry, and forecasted that businesses and consumers would be generating over 50 zettabytes of data a year by 2020, Dietzen said.

He cited the case of one current Pure Storage customer with 4,000 video cameras creating 5 petabytes of data each week at one facility which signed with Pure Storage to offer local storage performance because of the high cost of bandwidth to send all that data to the cloud. A researcher working with Pure Storage generates tens of petabytes a day, he said. "WAN bandwidth is simply not keeping up with data growth," he said.

In the survey, Pure Storage found that, while businesses are increasingly moving data to the cloud and 40 percent of users in North America are actually moving data back from the cloud to on-premises infrastructures, Dietzen said. Pure's survey found that 59 percent of companies now say that data is more valuable than their employees.

Pure Storage has a number of differentiators that help customers handle the massive changes in how they are storing their data, Dietzen said.

Among those are the bandwidth needed to capture data from new applications such as big data and artificial intelligence, the performance needed for deep learning, "self-driving" technology to automate much of the needed functionality, six nines (99.9999 percent) of uptime, and investment protection, he said. "For Pure, the migration to NVMe is simple and non-disruptive," he said. "For our competitors, it's disruptive."

Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's computing systems product group, joined Dietzen on stage for a few minutes to introduce the joint Pure-Cisco FlashStack converged infrastructure offering.

Centoni said the two vendors are adding hybrid could capabilities to FlashStack vis the Cisco Cloud Center. She also said that the idea of bringing NVMe to Cisco UCS with Pure Storage will be important to helping eliminate a significant data center performance bottleneck.

"With NVMe, it has the potential to change things significantly … We are the leader in networking," Centoni said. "This puts us in the unique position to be a leader."

Matt Kixmoeller, Pure Storage's vice president of products then took the stage to introduce the company's storage enhancements, starting with the introduction of its Purity//FA 5.0 software, the latest version of the company's software for managing data and services.

The biggest addition to the Purity//FA software is ActiveCluster, a new active-active metro stretch cluster capability that allows an application to run synchronously in two data centers up to 150 miles apart, or on separate racks within the same data center, Kixmoeller said.

He also said the quality of service capability of Purity//FA 5.0 can now be assigned on a per-volume basis, Kixmoeller said.

Also new with Purity//FA is VMware VVOLs, or Virtual Volumes, implementation for VMware's Cloud Automation Suite. Kixmoeller said Pure Storage simplified the implementation of VVOLs by integrating the VMware APIs For Storage Awareness (VASA) into its arrays.

Pure Storage also expanded the snapshot capability of Purity//FA to allow customers to replicate data from one Pure Storage FlashArray to FlashBlade, to a generic array, or to Amazon S3 object storage, he said.

For developers, Pure Storage introduced PurityRun which allows applications including Windows File Services to be run in virtual machines or containers on a Pure Storage Array, Kixmoeller said.

Pure Storage also enhanced its Pure1 cloud-based monitoring, predictive analytics, and proactive support software with the addition of Meta, a new global predictive intelligence capability.

Pure Storage is bringing significant software enhancements to customers, said Joe Pena, senior solutions architect at Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and Pure Storage channel partner.

The ability to run container services on the FlashArray is huge, Pena told CRN. "There's so much machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) stuff that we're working with now," he said.

Pena cited GPU appliances from Pure Storage partner NVidia, which have a ton of compute power but no local storage. "That's a great story," he said. "You can throw a container on there and build little workloads to analyze some of your work cases for whatever things you are trying to find."

The other key change is the introduction of ActiveCluster, Pena said.

"That is going to be big," he said. "We have some customers who do [Dell EMC] Vblocks and will put a VPLEX in front of them. And Hitachi has its Global Active Device. The customers I'm dealing with have data centers that are typically four to five miles apart. So having an ActiveCluster with one image across two arrays is huge for them."

Those customers today may use synchronous replication with VMware SRM to do a push-button failover if a data center has an issue, Pena said. "But with an ActiveCluster, technically there's no failover," he said. "That's game-changing. That's making it simple."

On the hardware side, Pure Storage introduced a DirectFlash shelf to its FlashArray//X NVMe-based all-flash array, a move which will allow NVMe capacity to total up to 512 TBs, Kixmoeller said.

Pure Storage on Tuesday also introduced the ability to scale its FlashBlade array for big data and other cloud workloads to up to 75 blades for a total raw capacity of up to 4 petabytes, a five-times improvement over the prior limit of 800 TBs, Kixmoeller said. And because each blade includes both compute and capacity components, the performance of the FlashBlade increases as capacity increases, he said.

The company also introduced a new 17-TB blade for its FlashBlade all-flash storage arrays that fits between its previous 8-TB and 52-TB blades, he said.

Everybody is trying to figure out how to put data in the cloud, and what data to put there, said Ryan Sheehan, general manager for advanced solutions at SHI, a Somerset, N.J.-based solution provider which count Pure Storage as its primary flash storage vendor.

"This is very important to customers," Sheehan told CRN. "When you look at what Pure is doing with AWS, Google, and Azure, it's very impressive."

Even so, said Hal Jagger, vice president and general manager for Shi's corporate division, there's now lessening of the importance of on-premises storage.

"As more and more data is collected, there will continue to be a need for on-premises storage," Jagger told CRN. "Pure's solutions are well-positioned to take advantage of that. Look at the example Pure gave at the keynote. Four thousand cameras generating 5 petabytes of data a week? That boggles the mind."