Pure Storage moves into hardware with its next-gen FlashArray

In a trio of announcements, Pure announces its next-gen array, which features its first custom built hardware, as well as Pure1, an integrated cloud-based management and support offering, and Evergreen Storage, which is both a vision and a new upgrade model.

FlashArraym 400All-flash player Pure Storage has made several related announcements. First, the company announced its move into the hardware space with FlashArray//m, their new flagship all-flash storage array. The company also announced Pure1, a new cloud-based offering which adds management to the support offering it has always provided through CloudAssist. Finally, they announced Evergreen Storage, a rearticulation of the strategy Pure has always had, which pledges a more frequent refresh cycle that take advantage of the applicability of Moore’s Law to flash, and eliminates the need for forklift upgrades.

FlashArray//m is the fourth generation of Pure Storage’s flagship FlashArray product, and the first to deliver an end-to-end integrated hardware and software innovation.

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Matt Kixmoeller, vice president, Products, Pure Storage

“We saw two distinct camps of innovation in the flash market,” said Matt Kixmoeller, vice president, Products, at Pure Storage. “One was makers of software built on commodity components, which included us. The other is hardware vendors architecting flash. We saw an opportunity to be the first to innovate on both sides of the wire.” Two years ago, they built a new team internally to facilitate this, and the result, with FlashArray//m, is the first in-house integrated design platform for Pure.

The M in the product meaning has four distinct references, Kixmoeller said: Mini Size; Modular Scale; Mighty Performance and Meaningful Simplicity.

The Mini Size refers to the array’s ability to consolidate racks of spinning disk into a single 3U, 120 TB enclosure, while cutting power consumption down to one kilowatt. Pure is touting it as the equivalent of shrinking storage arrays that were once the size of multiple refrigerators down to the size of a microwave, while reducing the power usage of ten residential homes down to one toaster oven.

“This comes in part from moving to an integrated chassis, as every component inside an array takes power and takes space,” Kixmoeller said. “It also comes from the advantage of moving to our own custom hardware.” In addition, new dual-drive flash modules and Purity’s FlashReduce data reduction software combine to deliver up to 40TBs/U density, and enable mixing and matching with modules of higher density.

Three controller options are available, to cover use cases from a single application to data center consolidation. The //m20 controllers have up to 120+ TBs usable storage and 150,000 32K IOPS. The //m50 controllers have up to 250+ TBs usable storage) and 220,000 32K IOPS, and the //m70 controllers have up to 400+ TBs usable (44-136 TBs raw storage) and 300,000 32K IOPS.

The Mighty Performance is the delivery of up to 300,000 32K IOPS at less than one millisecond average latency – 10 times faster than traditional disk-based storage.

“The power efficiency is up 2.5x over the last generation and 10x over traditional ones, and there is about a 50 per cent improvement in performance,” Kixmoeller said.”

The increased Modularity is designed to enable Pure to deliver both processor and flash upgrades approximately every nine- to 12 months, and to let customers adopt these advances within their existing FlashArrays without data migration, downtime or performance impact. The new design allows customers to scale from accelerating a single application of 15 TB up to nearly ½ petabyte usable storage, capable of running an entire rack, business, or cloud. In addition, even though the new offering is completely new, it is fully upgradeable from Pure’s previous 400 series.

The Simplicity aspect is designed to juxtapose against the complexity of much of the competition.

“The single unit comes out of the box, like an appliance, and takes six cables to connect,” Kixmoeller said. “All the software is included in the base price, with no separate management software needed.”

Because this is Pure’s first product with their own hardware, it has had a large beta, which has been underway since Q1. Directed availability is scheduled for July and full general availability in Q3.

Pure also announced Pure1, a single platform for cloud-based storage management and support. It is built on the foundation of the Pure1 Cloud, and is an expansion of Pure’s existing CloudAssist technology.

“This is the next generation of CloudAssist,” Kixmoeller said. “The traditional storage management process became super complicated, and a very reactive support experience where the customer has to call. With CloudAssist, we have had CloudAssist calling home for support, and it is amazingly proactive, with 83 per cent of tickets opened by us before the customer calls, but we wanted to look at the whole management model and rethink it for SaaS, where the line between management and support really starts to blur. We wanted a single platform for management and support and SaaS was ideal for this. We think it will make standalone storage management tools go away.”

Pure is marketing Pure1 as consisting of four elements: Manage, Support, Connect and Collaborate. Manage is storage management simplicity. Instead of requiring storage management servers, only a web browser is needed to monitor globally distributed FlashArrays on a single screen from anywhere, and a connection through their firewall enables full administration.

“Pure1 Manage is new with this release,” Kixmoeller said. “Previously, the customer couldn’t actually use the CloudAssist data at all. This takes the CloudAssist information and makes it useful for the customer in the form of a managing portal. CloudAssist previously provided visibility and monitoring, not active management. Now Pure1 does, and over time, all management functions will be in SaaS, including things tied to the data services array that aren’t there yet.”

Those things aren’t far off, Kixmoeller added.

“In SaaS, things can be iterated very quickly, and we expect to add features on a monthly basis,” he said.

The other three elements are not new. Support is what CloudAssist has always done, deliver a proactive support experience by using automation to monitor customers’ arrays, and alert them proactively of potential problems. Connect is pre-built integration and extensible automation, integrating Pure Storage FlashArrays with existing software and hardware in their data centers. Collaborate is a community site which provides resources and discussion forums to build connections between customers, technology and channel partners, and Pure Storage employees.

The final part of the announcement, Evergreen Storage, is a model for how Pure intends to eliminate the three- to five-year rip-and-replace storage lifecycle with one in which customers deploy storage once and upgrade it in-place for generations. Kixmoeller said that while it is a vision, it is much more than marketing.

“It is our vision for both the architecture and business model,” he said. “The 3-5 year replacement model is wasteful and also didn’t fit flash very well, because flash gets better every year, and benefits from a much more frequent refresh cycle, where they can be independently upgraded when denser flash comes out.”

Evergreen Storage is delivered by combining FlashArray’s modular, stateless and software-defined architecture with Forever Flash, the company’s standard maintenance program.

“Our Forever Flash model last year has been seen as just a maintenance program, and this is a combination of hardware plus that,” Kixmoeller said. “We are also introducing Upgrade Flex Bundles, which let customers receive a trade-in value for their existing FlashArray controllers when they upgrade.”

All software features provided with Pure1 are available today and are automatically included with all FlashArray purchases, while on an active maintenance and support contract.

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