Pure Storage tackles broad sub-$0.20 per GB disk market with FlashBlade//E

Pure says only the lack of a scale-out flash solution that is price compatible with disk has prevented the disruption of disk in the data centres, something the company says that they have now overcome with FlashBlade//E.

Amy Fowler, VP & General Manager, FlashBlade, Pure Storage

Today, Pure Storage is announcing FlashBlade //E, a version of their file and object storage Flashblade//S platform which is aimed more at price than at performance, to the point where Pure believes it can take disk out of the data centre entirely.

“Flashblade//S addressed changes in the data centre by providing even more benefits,” said Amy Fowler, VP & General Manager, FlashBlade, Pure Storage. “This hasn’t changed. FlashBlade//E is an incremental additional to our story around our file and object portfolio, which addresses the issue that until now, there has not been a compelling way to get flash into the price-sensitive part of the data centre.

Flashblade//S is still the best choice when performance and things like AI, which has always been its focus, are involved. FlashBlade//E is focused on the MB repository where until now, flash hasn’t been a factor because it hasn’t been price comparable with disk.

“Anyone in the enterprise has tons of databytes that disk is still servicing,” Fowler said. “Given the less expensive cost of disk compared to flash, there has been no compelling reason for them to pay the premium and acquisition cost of all-flash.”

At the same time, Fowler stressed that the evolution of both technology and market forces make the comparative disadvantages of disk more problematic than ever before.

“Disk requires too much space, which means that it requires too much energy, and uses too many resources,” she said. “Disk was also not built for modern AI and services.

Pure has been selling their FlashBlade scale-out file and object storage solution for years, targeting it at the AI and Big Data markets. Fowler emphasized, however, that Flashblade//E is really focused on a different part of the market.

“FlashBlade//S competes against other all flash systems,” she said. “FlashBlade//E is a disk replacement system. For the first time, it lets us go after that sub- $0.20 per GB part of the market where 90% of backup data exists. It is also  optimized well for technical computing.”

Fowler said that two factors now let Pure be price competitive in this lower-end space.

“First, for many years we have built our own flash drives,” she said. “Our most common one today is 30TB, while few of our competitors are over 15 TB. We have also been shipping 48 TB disks for several years. The result is that we greatly benefit from increased density.”

The second major change involves how compute is handled in the Flashblade//E’s modular design.

“When we introduced FlashBlade//S, we shifted to a modular design, where each blade has high or super-high compute power,” Fowler said. “With FlashBlade//E,  we have shifted things so only the first chassis has any meaningful compute. This means that unlike FlashBlade//S, FlashBlade//E is not designed as a high performance flash blade system. It is designed to be as good or better than disk for that bulk performance market. Customers who want performance flash will still want FlashBlade//S.”

Pure expects that this will be a strong channel product, and they are working on a set of enablement tools and programs which will not be ready at launch today, but which they do expect will roll out very soon.

“This is really poised to be great program for partners,” Fowler said. “We have four SKUs, and we are doing all we can do to ramp up the channel on this. We and the channel team are working through what we can do to make it all more seamless and attractive for the channel. We hope to have a whole set of programs a few weeks after today’s announcement.”