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Pure Storage Expands Artificial Intelligence Capabilities

The company's new AI Data Hub, working in conjunction with a newly expanded capacity point for its FlashBlade all-flash storage array for file and object storage, targets customers looking for a simple path for prepping and moving data for AI applications.

Pure Storage Tuesday unveiled two expansions to its artificial intelligence offerings the company said will enable businesses to take advantage of its high-performance flash storage technology as part of an overall AI offering.

The first, a new AI Data Hub, builds off the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's FlashBlade all-flash file and object storage offering to provide a complete pipeline from the storage of data to the AI applications.  

The second, AIRI as a Service, turns the joint Pure Storage-Nvidia AI-focused AIRI platform into a service for customers not ready to host the hardware on their own.

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

The expansion of Pure Storage's AI-focused technology was unveiled at the company's Pure Accelerate 2019 conference, being held this week in Austin, Texas. Pure Storage also used the conference to introduce additions to its FlashArray all-flash array family and an expansion of its cloud capabilities to multi-cloud environments.

The AI Data Hub expands the AIRI, or Artificial Intelligence Ready Infrastructure, which was introduced in 2018. 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 Pure Storage software for scaling the system.  

The FlashBlade array itself received a significant increase in scale, said Amy Fowler, vice president of strategy and solutions at Pure Storage's FlashBlade business unit.

Prior to this week, FlashBlade supported up to 75 blades in a multi-chassis configuration, Fowler told CRN. The new version supports up to 150 blades with up to 8 Petabytes of capacity, all within ten 4U chassis, she said.

"The value of the new FlashBlade is it scales but maintains the same level of management and the same IP address," she said.

The original AIRI and its smaller version, the AIRI Mini, are focused on standing up the data pipeline for artificial intelligence and provide a platform for AI training, which is the main part of the process, Fowler said.

However, she said, the data that can be used for AI often exists in multiple silos, but combined can be used to streamline AI. "There are different data profiles that support different parts of the AI pipeline," she said.

The new AI Data Hub works with FlashBlade to combine data ingestion, cleaning, labeling, resizing, exploration and training, making the data ready to roll out to the customer's AI application, Fowler told CRN.

"Until now, the data pipeline was not consolidated with other parts of AI like data warehousing to take advantage of AI technologies like orchestration with Kubernetes," she said. "Now customers can do it with the AI Data Hub."

Pure Storage this week is demonstrating the AI Data Hub, and will soon make reference architectures available to customers, she said.  

Also new is AIRI as a Service, a new offering from Core Scientific, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Pure Storage partner that provides infrastructure and software solutions focused on AI and blockchain.

Core Scientific is setting up AIRI as a Service for mutual partners of the company and Pure Storage, Fowler said.

The new scalability of Pure Storage's FlashBlade is a huge deal, said Mark Gonzalez, regional vice president of sales at ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider and Pure Storage channel partner.

AI requires high-performance storage to feed the compute provided by technology such as Nvidia GPU-based systems, Gonzalez told CRN.  

"These are huge data sets, and customers need to move data between storage and the CPU," he said. "Flash storage is the best way to do it."

Outside AI, FlashBlade is important as part of a data backup and restore solution, with emphasis on the restore side, Gonzalez said.

A lot of companies are worried about data security and ransomware, and being forced to pay in Bitcoin to get their data back, he said.  

"Now imagine an environment with the quick restoration of data," he said. "Traditionally, it could take weeks to get their data back. If you are a hospital or a city government, you can't afford that. FlashBlade is positioned as a backup and restore solution. But in my mind, it's more of a security solution. It's a use where people can easily see the value."

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