Pure Storage CEO Dietzen sees strong momentum in new Pure announcements and metrics

Pure has announced an expansion of its relationship with Cisco, and its new (very high) Net Promoter Score, and sees a strong outlook both in Canada and its business generally.


Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen

Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen was in Toronto on Wednesday to meet with the company’s customers and partners. He also found time to sit down with ChannelBuzz and discuss Pure’s momentum in both the Canadian market and the overall storage sector, as well as Pure’s most recent news.

While Pure entered the market six years ago, their Canadian presence is more recent.

“We’ve had customers in Canada for two and a half years, and now have 25 across the country, many of which are newer,” Dietzen said. “The Canadian business is ramping nicely, and we have offices in Toronto and Vancouver.”

Dietzen identified Long View Systems and Softchoice as key Canadian partners, who “have been moving the needle for us,” as well as the Canadian branches of SHI and Dimension Data.

Dietzen acknowledged that Canada, like many international markets, is more conservative than the U.S. when it comes to new technology and embracing new vendors.

“Pure’s ease of use does resonate in Canada though,” he said. “One customer I spoke with said he couldn’t remember the Pure login. He goes months without logging in because the technology is self driving, and takes care of itself.”

Globally, Pure is now over 2300 customers, and Dietzen said that they have broken out of their original SMB mold.

“We are enjoying great success in the Fortune 500, with north of 100 customers there,” he stated. “These deployments run from a single array to arrays in triple digits. Our Flashblade [scale-out system for unstructured data] is helping us here, because it is more relevant for larger data sets of a petabyte and up. 25 per cent of all our businesses come from cloud customers. Some of these are small. Some are large like Intuit and LinkedIn. Over time we see the public cloud having the biggest impact downmarket, as SMBs who aren’t tech-intensive will be less inclined to run data centres.”

Pure’s most recent quarterly numbers were well received by the market. Their quarterly revenue of $163.2 million beat analyst expectations. The company also lost less money (USD $0.16 per share) than expected ($USD 0.24 per share). Dietzen said that profitability will arrive soon.

“We could have been profitable already, but to do so, we would have had to slow growth,” he said. “We grew 93 per cent year over year. No one has ever grown at the pace we grow. We take cash from the business and invest it in engineers and support people to continue that success. The last four quarters were 30 million cash flow negative, but that drove $600 million of revenue.”

Dietzen mocked the flash growth numbers posted by the legacy storage vendors, which he said was just selling flash upgrades to their install base.

“If Pure’s goal had only been to get flash into 25 year-old storage, we didn’t need to start a new company for that,” he said. “The cost of flash has been dropping profoundly quickly, so they sell flash to their existing customers. But they are still selling more flash into a shrinking pie.

“Our goal was never just to do a media swap. That was going to happen on its own. The goal was always to reinvent storage. Flash was a catalyst for that, but not the goal. The goal was always smart storage. One of our customers used to have to pay for 15 consultants to manage 50 storage arrays – and now their VM admin does it in their spare time.”

Machine learning is driving this further, Dietzen said.

“The opportunity around storage is to use machine learning to better support customer workloads. We already have a rich analytics framework, which lets us take this off customers’ arrays because they can mine the Pure1 cloud for insights. This has allowed us to get to 6 9s of uptime. As far as we know, we are the only vendor who can do that without maintenance windows. That kind of consistency has not been delivered before in storage.”

Dietzen said their Evergreen Storage program has been another advantage for Pure. Originally a combination of FlashArray’s modular, stateless and software-defined architecture with Forever Flash, the company’s standard maintenance program, it was enhanced this summer with Right-Size Guarantee and Capacity Consolidation features. The idea is to let customers to take advantage of consistent flash density improvements without having to re-buy storage.

“Evergreen is based on a cloud business model,” Dietzen said, “Storage has required you to rebuy the same storage every four years and it has horrific impact on the business, which is continually disrupted with long migrations. With cloud, this isn’t a factor. With Evergreen, we provide this on-prem. Customers need never rebuy the same technology from Pure as long as they are happy.”

Pure has just released data – their latest Satmetrix-audited Net Promoter Score (NPS), showing that they are indeed happy. The metric has increased to 83.5, up from 79 last year. That’s in the top one percent of Satmetrix audited scores across consumer and enterprise businesses.

“Most storage companies have scores in the 20s,” Dietzen noted.

Pure has also announced an expansion of its relationship with Cisco, with new validated designs for Pure’s FlashStack Converged Infrastructure Solution line. FlashStack combines Pure Storage FlashArray//m storage with Cisco UCS servers, and mission-critical and business-critical applications. It can also include Cisco Nexus or MDS Series Switches. Cisco tests and validates the designs and provides one-call support.

The new validated designs are FlashStack with Cisco UCS and Pure Storage FlashArray//m for 5000 VMware Horizon View 6.2 Users, and FlashStack Data Center with Oracle Database 12c on Oracle Linux.

“There will also be another one for SAP coming shortly.” Dietzen said.

“Cisco is the number one vendor of servers in North America, so this a tremendous opportunity for us,” he said. “Cisco was the pioneer of converged infrastructure and their relationship with EMC is clearly not what it was.”

These solutions go to market though Pure and Cisco’s joint channel partners.

“The vast majority of our partners are also Cisco partners,” Dietzen said. “This makes the Dell acquisition of EMC an especially strong opportunity for us. The channel is concerned about the future of Dell EMC because Dell doesn’t just sell servers. They also sell networking gear, and will naturally try to include this in sales. This is bad news for channel partners who have a Cisco switching business they want to protect.”

Dietzen noted that just as Pure had refused earlier entreaties by EMC about joining them, they would be unlikely to look favorably on a similar offer from Cisco, which has no storage component of its own since it mothballed the Invicta product line from its ill-fated Whiptail acquisition.

“We think we think we are in a better position alone to reach our goal, which is the number one position in storage,” he said. Cisco right now seems more focused on other areas – the Internet of Things, security, and analytics, as higher priorities than storage. That leaves partnership as a great path for us, and for them.”

The Cisco relationship, Dietzen said, is one element of am environment that he said augurs a bright future for Pure.

“I believe ultimately Pure will be disrupted because that’s the nature of technology – but I don’t believe that company that will do that has been founded yet,” he said. “We are playing with the top legacy players, but we are growing faster. None of the smaller ones are growing as fast as us, and that’s not a recipe for success in the marketplace.”