Pure Storage Expands A.I. Play With AIRI Mini, New Cisco Networking Option

Pure Storage this week moved to bring artificial intelligence to businesses of nearly every size with the introduction of the AIRI Mini, an entry-level version of a joint offering featuring Nvidia's DGX-1 deep-learning system and Pure's all-flash storage.

The company also unveiled a new version of the AIRI featuring Cisco networking technology.

Both enhancements to the AIRI artificial intelligence platform were introduced at Pure Storage's Pure Accelerate conference, held this week in San Francisco.

[Related: Pure Storage, Nvidia Jointly Develop Channel-Only AI-Ready System]

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The AIRI Mini is an extension of the original AIRI, or Artificial Intelligence Ready Infrastructure, which was introduced in March.

The AIRI system combines Pure Storage's FlashBlade all-flash storage array for unstructured data, the Nvidia DGX-1 GPU-based platform for AI, Arista networking, and a new Pure Storage software for scaling the system to up to four nodes.

Going forward, customers also have a choice of integrated Cisco Nexus 9000 100-Gbit Ethernet switches as an alternative to Arista.

The AIRI is the most powerful A.I. infrastructure available for enterprises, and can replace 25 racks of infrastructure with a box that can sit under a desk, said Matt Burr, general manager for FlashBlade at Mountain View, Calif.-based Pure Storage.

The new AIRI Mini features two Nvidia DGX-1 systems with up to 2 petaflops of performance, the Pure FlashBlade all-flash array with up to seven 17-TB blades and 700 NFS-based IOs-per-second performance, and a converged networking fabric with two 100-Gbit Ethernet switches.

This compares to the original AIRI which features four Nvidia DGX-1 systems with up to 4 petaflops of performance, the Pure FlashBlade all-flash array with up to 15 17-TB blades and 1.5 million NFS-based IOs-per-second performance, and the same converged networking fabric.

Both come integrated with Nvidia's GPU Cloud Deep Learning software stack and Pure Storage's AIRI scaling software toolkit.

The architecture allows customers to actually start with a single DGX-1 server and scale to the AIRI Mini, the AIRI, and even to larger stacks, Burr said.

Roy Kim, A.I. lead and director of products and solutions for Pure Storage, told CRN his company got into the business of developing offerings aimed at artificial intelligence workloads purely by customer request. Pure Storage had used A.I. internally as a part of its storage software, as do many of its competitors, but hadn't originally built its storage for A.I. workloads until approached by customers, he said.

"It ended up being that it really was built for A.I.," he said. "That really kicked us into another gear of engaging customers with A.I. at scale."

The Nvidia relationship came about because of joint customers who were building racks of infrastructure featuring the Nvidia DGX servers and Pure Storage FlashBlade storage, Kim said.

"So after a while, we were saying, there's something here that customers are seeing that we need to follow up on," he said. "That's where the relationship started. Where we saw a lot of pull was, partners and prospects started asking us if we could build a reference architecture for them. … They just wanted to get started quickly."

The AIRI Mini is an amazing initiative by Pure Storage and Nvidia, said Mark Gonzalez, regional vice president of ePlus Technology, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider and partner with both vendors and one of the first channel partners to sign up to bring the AIRI to clients.

"A.I. is a unique space," Gonzalez told CRN. "It requires a lot of computational capacity, which Nvidia brings, along with a lot of storage capacity that Pure Storage brings."

ePlus has as part of its 2018 business plan to dedicate headcount specific to A.I., Gonzalez said. "This is an area where we can get thought leadership. We feel that, as a reseller, we need to be big in this business."

Ross Grover, converged infrastructure architect at Sirius Computer Solutions, a San Antonio-based solution provider and Pure Storage partner, told CRN that having both Cisco and Arista as networking partners will make it easier for customers to connect AIRI into their networking infrastructures.

"Artificial intelligence is a huge opportunity, and is no longer just a buzzword," Grover said. "This is a fantastic opportunity for us. We are looking forward to getting one in our lab."