Purity//FA 5.0 software announcement highlights Pure Storage Accelerate event

Pure Storage makes the biggest software release in its history, with new features and enhancements designed to increase their credibility in the enterprise.

SAN FRANCISCO — 2017 has been a big year for Pure Storage hardware. In January, they announced the general availability of FlashBlade, their new product for high-performance unstructured workloads, and in April they announced FlashArray//X, an all-NVMe, enterprise-class all-flash array. Today, however the company kicked off its Accelerate customer event here making its big news on the software side of the house, with the announcement of their Purity//FA 5.0 software.

“Our year has been big around FlashArray//X going GA, and FlashBlade, and those are the core products we will continue to innovate around,” said Jason Nadeau, Director, Product and Vertical Marketing at Pure Storage. “We are now using Purity as the brand for the operating environment in both. It used to be Elasticity in FlashArray//X and that is now being changed. But most of this Accelerate show is software.”

Purity//FA 5.0 contains several clear quantum leaps, which Pure Storage is emphasizing will provide them with clear differentiation in the market. Among the 25-plus new features, Purity ActiveCluster seems the most significant, but the new elements also include CloudSnap native cloud integration, Policy QoS, a 100 percent NVMe DirectFlash Shelf and a version of VVols that Pure says is geared to get the market acceptance that has largely eluded the technology to date.

“We are looking to create a New Tier One storage for the cloud era,” Nadeau said. “Traditional Tier One has had the availability enterprises need, but it doesn’t have the new functionality needed for cloud applications, and the ability to do fast innovation. This gives us a chance to go upmarket and take on users who thought flash wasn’t there for them yet. We want to define a new Tier One storage with the best of both traditional Tier One and the innovative new functionality.”

The key new feature here is ActiveCluster.

“ActiveCluster is a multi-site active-active metro stretch cluster, which provides the pinnacle of availability,” Nadeau said. It lets application workloads on clustered Oracle, SQL Server, SAP, VMware Metro Storage Cluster and Hyper-V continue to run transparently with 99.9999 per cent availability, even if an unexpected issue causes the array, network or data center to fail.

“This is huge for us,” Nadeau said. “Availability has been the challenge, something where we needed to prove ourselves in order to get seats at the enterprise table. This is a missing link to let us to do that. Active Cluster takes away any concern about Tier One availability.”

Nadeau said in addition to the core availability, Active Cluster has other elements enterprises will find attractive.

“It also comes at no extra charge,” he said. “When you buy our flash array, the stretch clustering comes with it. It’s not an extra offering. It also features Cloud Mediator, which comes into play when organizations need to decide on and manage a third recovery site. This lets them set up a site for three datacenter clusters, and it’s all auto-configured. It takes about five minutes, as opposed to a multi-week services engagement.”

Nadeau said another important differentiator is Pure Storage’s new implementation of VMware VVols. VVols provides automation and compliance for VMware-based clouds.

“VVols is something that VMware has pushed for a while,” Nadeau said. “It’s a great concept, but we haven’t seen a lot of adoption, and complexity has been the barrier. Our implementation of this, in contrast is very simple, and a full implementation can be done in less than five minutes.”

The simplicity comes from Pure Storage hosting the VASA provider right on the FlashArray, which enables accelerated VMFS to VVols conversion.

“It can be used for physical to virtual migrations, and test/dev as well,” Nadeau said. “It really helps support VMware’s vision for cloud automation.”

The 5.0 release also significantly enhances the Pure Storage Snap Snapshot technology.

“We have had Snapshots for a while, but what we have built here is a Portable Snapshot technology that lets us snap to multiple targets,” Nadeau said.

By encapsulating recovery metadata within the Snapshot, Purity Snapshots can now be easily snapped to FlashBlade or any NFS target for long-term retention. Snapshots can also now be made to the public cloud with what Pure is calling CloudSnap.

“CloudSnap is native cloud and maps to cloud,” Nadeau said. “You can snap to AWS or S3 in native format, and customers can recover from any of those places. We will eventually add automation capabilities to help do a recovery into AWS EBS and EC2 to automate disaster recovery into the cloud, if that’s what they want to do. Nadeau said to look for those capabilities in early 2018. 2018 is also the date scheduled for additional public clouds – Azure and Google.

Another new feature is Purity Run, which provides an open platform to run custom code, extend interfaces, and enable analytic processing to happen where data is stored – meaning that customers can now host VMs and Containers on the FlashArray itself.

“Enabling third party applications and processes to run on our array is something that we have never done before,” Nadeau said. “Allowing VMs and containers to run right on Purity will help us build more data services quickly that benefit from these being right on the array.”

The first thing enabled by Purity Run will be Windows File Services for Purity.

“Most customers are mainly block storage but have some file storage on the side,” Nadeau said. “Until now it has been a challenge to standardize on Pure Storage because of that little bit of file. The latest incarnation of Windows File Services is a good fit for Purity. Before, customers would put a gateway in front of our flash array to do the same thing, but this makes it easier.”

The integration of Purity Run with Windows File Services brings the SMB 2/3 and NFS 3/4 protocols onto FlashArray.

“We will be doing the first call support for this,” Nadeau said. “They just have to bring the license. It is discovered and plugged in automatically into the Microsoft stack.”

An enhancement likely to be of most interest to Service Providers is a much broader set of Quality of Service [QoS] capabilities. Purity’s Always-On QoS has been extended to include sophisticated policy management.

“This creates new Gold, Silver and Bronze performance classes to prioritize workloads, and also lets service providers put limits on certain workloads to enable differential billing,” Nadeau said.

Other new features of note include an integration with the Microsoft Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) API for automatic data copy and movement of services for files and VMs onto FlashArray. A new Certified Docker Volume Plugin for FlashArray facilitates persistent storage for containerized applications Purity//FA 5.0 also boosts Purity’s compression effectiveness by 25 per cent, and increases write performance by up to 2X.

One hardware announcement relevant to Purity//FA 5.0 is the new 100 per cent NVMe DirectFlash Shelf, because of its impact on the NVMe technology. The new DirectFlash Shelf enables the expansion of FlashArray//X beyond its base chassis, and provides NVMe expansion over a dedicated 50 Gb/S RoCE v2 NVMe/F fabric.

“This expansion Shelf will provide up to 512 TB of raw flash, and more density and capacity for FlashArray//X,” Nadeau said.

The new features will be phased in as part of the Purity//FA 5.x release train, with multiple releases planned throughout 2017. Purity Run, Compression 2.0, 2X write rate, Microsoft ODX, and Docker Persistent Volumes are available now. ActiveCluster, Policy QoS, VVOLs, Snap to FlashBlade and NFS, and Windows File Services are planned to be available in Q3. CloudSnap and the new DirectFlash shelf are scheduled for Q4 release.