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Pure Storage CEO Giancarlo: Storage Industry Disruption Only Just Starting

Giancarlo says that while Pure Storage has lead the industry in disrupting how data is stored and managed, that disruption is only getting started as the company plans to lead the way in turning everything about data into a service.

All-flash storage pioneer Pure Storage, which is celebrating its 10th birthday on Oct. 1, has plans to make its second decade in operation as disruptive as its first, the company's CEO told a gathering of its channel partners and customers.

Charlie Giancarlo told attendees of the Pure Accelerate 2019 conference, held this week in Austin, Texas, that while the Mountain View, Calif.-based company has had more than its fair share of disruption in its first 10 years of operation, it plans to be the leader in helping define the modern data experience that will turn storage into a resource that can be shared seamlessly when and how needed.

Pure Storage developed the first and most successful all-flash storage array, Giancarlo said. "But frankly, more importantly, it's the other innovations that we've delivered that we think are actually even better," he said.

[Related: Pure Storage: Innovation, Channel Partners Key To 28 Percent Revenue Growth Year Over Year]

For instance, he cited the industry's first non-disruptive upgrade, which means customers no longer need to do forklift upgrades every four to five years or be threatened with higher maintenance costs.

Pure Storage has over the decade also led in the development of full cloud management for all the company's products, the use of AI to diagnose problems before they occur, cloud-based data protection, always-on QoS (quality of service), and always-on encryption, he said.

Those developments were important in an industry which has gone from application stacks, including the operating system, security, drivers, and so on being built specific to an application which was essentially immoveable to today's completely virtualized environments where applications can be moved as needed, Giancarlo said.

Now, he said, the challenges today include trying to create digital experiences for customers, create a cloud-like environment for operations, and find more value out of data that is growing exponentially with AI and analytics.

"What is becoming increasingly clear is that data has become a bigger and bigger part of your challenges," he said. "Whether the use of data, the storage of data, the management of data, it's becoming increasingly important. And what is the one environment that has not really become virtualized, has not been made able to be moved between different environments? It's largely data."

Data today is still tied tightly to the application stack or the rack even as that data is being used for multiple applications and is replicated to other stacks, Giancarlo said. For instance, he said, data in a data lake may not perform well for analytics, and so must be moved to higher-performance storage.

"So data is not flexible, is not easily moveable," he said. "It has not been virtualized. It's tightly tied."

Businesses want IT to be offered as a pool of flexible resources that can be use by any application or any environment in any location, and while the virtualization of compute and networking resources helps, virtualization of the data environment is lagging, he said.

"That means pools of storage with different characteristics, different storage classes, that could be called on-demand by API on an enterprise-wide basis, managed by policy and managed by AI," he said.

Pure Storage calls this concept the "modern data experience," and has three primary characteristics, Giancarlo said.

The first is that storage has to be simple, and in particular API-defined so that applications, management systems, and policies can run storage on a day-to-day basis. This also requires that applications can consume data as a service, he said.

Data also needs to be automated, either by making storage self-managing or by AI analytics, he said.

Second, data must be seamless with any protocol, with any class or tier of storage, and on any cloud, Giancarlo said. APIs should drive where the data is and what kind of class is delivered to an application, he said.  

Third, data must be sustainable, both in terms of on-demand consumption and non-disruptive upgrades, Giancarlo said. "Why do we focus on that so much?" he said. "Well, sustainable really should mean, if you think about it, that once you make a decision, once you buy storage, why should it ever get old and need to be replaced? When you buy a service in the cloud, you don't have to pay too much attention to how often they're upgrading their hardware or how often they're upgrading their software. They try to keep that very transparent from you."  

On-premises storage should be the same way, Giancarlo said.

"Shouldn't we be able to do in-the-background upgrading of our storage systems whether it's in the cloud or on-prem, where that upgrade does not take down your [internal or external customers in any way and where products that you buy today are still brand-new 10 years from now?" he said. "That's what we promise on delivery."

Sustainable also means storage should use less power and space and provide less waste over time, he said.

Pure Storage and its partners and customers has already delivered on the promise of accelerating the performance of data and data management and simplified customers' lives, and are now preparing to disrupt data management in the next decade starting with some new critical capabilities introduced this week to support the modern data experience, Giancarlo said.

Specifically, Pure Storage is enabling the hybrid cloud with its new Cloud Block Storage for AWS, which now allows the Pure storage operating system to run in AWS as if it were on the company's hardware, he said.

Pure Storage is also offering multiple storage classes, including the introduction of a high-performance server-class memory to FlashArray//X arrays and the introduction of a new capacity-optimized FlashArray//C line that next year will feature low-cost QLC flash, he said. The company is also adding new as-a-service capabilities to eventually deliver all of its technology as a service, he said.

"What we're promising you for our next decade, and actually it's gonna be much shorter than that, over the next several years, is delivering to all apps, all the different protocols, all the different storage classes, and every possible cloud as a service," he said. "Delivering it all as a service defined by APIs. And that's called the modern data experience."

In Pure Storage's first decade, the company delivered a different experience for traditional storage, Giancarlo said.

"In our second decade, we're going to transform traditional storage into a modern-day experience," he said. "And the best news of all is this is all provided with our Evergreen program, meaning that everything you bought from us yesterday, everything you may buy from us today, and everything you buy from us tomorrow, all lead to this modern data experience. None of it becomes obsolete. All of it is upgradeable to each and every feature and capability that we just talked about. So your investment is entirely protected."

Pure Storage in its first decade has proven itself to be a customer-centric organization that really understands what business users need from storage, said Sterling Fuhriman, systems consultant at Advanced Systems Group, a Denver, Colo.-based solution provider and Pure Storage channel partner.

When Giancarlo talks about Pure Storage moving to offer everything as a service, he is really on the forefront of where businesses are moving, Fuhriman told CRN.

"Customers may not yet be asking for it, but they are driving in that direction," he said. "This will be a big hit. Customers are not looking for capital outlays. They are looking for everything as a service, and the ability to shift subscriptions according to changing business requirements."

Pure Storage is already a leader in that kind of flexibility with the ability to transparently burst data from on-premises to the cloud as needed while only charging for the capacity used, Fuhriman said.

"This is great for test/dev," he said. "Pure knows customers don't need the capacity all the time. We have customers who are developing technology and need extra capacity now, and later don't. They don't want to purchase it."

Pure is expanding on that by letting customers burst to wherever they need it, either to the cloud, to on premises, or between clouds, Fuhriman said. "They can work in the cloud using the same tools they have on-premises, the work on prem, and them move the data to on-prem or the cloud," he said.

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