The storage industry is in a moment of continuous disruption. This current period of innovation and change is unique because it's no longer all about the hardware. Where we once gathered quarterly, eagerly awaiting bigger, faster, denser storage technologies – I want my NVMe – we now pine for something much different.
Cloud has changed the way that IT architects and administrators build infrastructure. Cloud has also changed the expectations of both IT practitioners and, more importantly, the internal customers of those IT shops about what an IT experience should be. The world now expects a consistent management plane, push-button deployment, global resource views, and on and on. It's about the simplicity of manageability, whether in an actual cloud or an on-premises data center. And, let's face it, every enterprise today is a hybrid-cloud shop.
Cloud isn’t without its issues. Repatriation is a real thing. Keeping data close to the applications, and users that rely on those applications, often means that data needs to live on-site. Cloud has also changed expectations of what that should cost. The rise of as-a-Service technologies from nearly every single IT infrastructure provider isn’t an accident. Cloud economics now drives the IT economy.
Pure Storage was famously built on the idea that storage should be simple. I spoke once with Pure's co-founder John Cosgrove who told me that, beyond the disruption that flash storage would bring, Pure wanted to disrupt the experience. Storage administrators shouldn't need to worry so much about what's happening under the hood. It was a little piece of cloud-experience thinking before cloud was the force it is today.
On Pure's tenth anniversary, I asked Pure's CEO Charlie Giancarlo a few years ago why a networking guy like him (Charlie's an ex-Cisco executive) should be running a storage company. He told me that his vision is that storage should be a utility, much like networking had become. You should tell the network what data you want, and it would deliver that data. Simple to manage. Simple to use. Maybe not so simple to build, but that's Pure's problem to solve.
That singularity of vision continues to drive Pure Storage forward. Indeed, Pure Storage continues to evolve its storage arrays and the stellar technology within those arrays. Still, the real impact Pure is making is in continuing the simplify the user experience. Today Pure Storage made several announcements that solidify its commitment to this strategy.
The cloud guys got it right: the IT world wants a single management plane and portal from which they can configure, deploy, tune, and monitor the resources that they’re responsible for. It makes life easy for these administrators but, more critically, it allows them to spend more time focused on higher-value activities.
I spoke with Pure’s chief product officer, Ajay Singh, a few days before the announcement. Ajay understands multi-cloud as few do. Before coming to Pure earlier this year, he was the SVP and general manager of VMware's Cloud Management business. Ajay told me that, more than the capabilities of storage hardware, IT administrators want better control of their environments. More hardware is coming, he assured me, but right now, it's all about the experience.
Pure Storage today announced Pure Fusion. I hesitate to call it a product. As Ajay let me know, Pure Fusion is really a management experience. It’s created from a collection of under-the-cover elements, allowing you to pool the entirety of your Pure Storage resources and treat them as a single whole. That's a straightforward concept. It's also quite potent.
Pure Fusion’s SaaS-based management plane exposes storage as an infinite pool of bytes, allowing storage administrators to scale beyond the capabilities of more traditional cluster-based storage management. It integrates push-button deployment of resources, delivers storage-as-code capabilities, and includes intelligent workload management. It does this across on-premises customer-owned storage, storage delivered via Pure-as-a-Service, and supports Pure's Cloud Block Store.
Pure's new Pure Fusion is Pure's first foray into what it's calling active management. Its existing management tool, Pure1, is primarily used for monitoring. However, Fusion goes beyond this, providing a cloud-based management experience.
This is an essential step for Pure. Pooling resources across cloud and as-a-Service boundaries is what will define modern multi-cloud architecture. The tools for doing this must evolve as, if not more, quickly than the storage technology that’s being managed.
Portworx Data Services
Cloud didn’t just shift expectations around manageability, it gave birth to a whole new set of technologies for modernizing the application stack. Cloud-native underpins modern application transformation. It’s driving the future of application architecture. Cloud-native also enables a richer, simpler, user experience.
Pure Storage acquired Portworx almost precisely a year ago. Portworx focuses on simplifying how data is managed in cloud-native environments. Its Portworx Enterprise offering provides an end-to-end storage and data management solution for several Kubernetes-based as-a-Service and disaster recovery solutions.
Today Pure announced Portworx Data Services, designed to simplify the delivery of database services in a cloud-native environment. An IT administrator needs only select the database and parameters to be delivered, and Portworx Data Services handles the rest. It finds the correct container, manages the installation, and integrates with a Kubernetes operator to enable the solution. It's a push-button deployment.
Portworx Data Services, or any Portworx offering, does not require that Pure Storage's storage solutions be part of the equation. This all goes back to the idea that data should be a service – and this is a crucial part of why Pure acquired Portworx – and delivering data as a service in modern application architectures looks different than it does in more traditional architectures.
It's unusual to see a set of software-only announcements from a company like Pure Storage, though it makes a tremendous amount of sense. The future of IT services is software-based. IT administrators demand a flexible cloud-like experience. Pure Storage was founded on the idea that storage could be easier to deploy and manage. Today's announcements play directly to that vision.
The enterprise infrastructure providers who play the long game understand that the conversation has shifted. We see investments across the industry into increased levels of manageability, flexible as-a-Service options, and public cloud integration. Some vendors do this well, and some do the bare minimum. Pure Storage, with its consistently high NPS scores, clearly understands its customer base and places the customer experience front-and-center.
I don't know that there's a name yet for the era that we're in where every infrastructure is hybrid-multi-cloud with a smattering of edge and, maybe, AI. But we're clearly in a new era. It's one that is defined by the experience of consuming IT resources. Pure Storage was here early.
Pure Storage's execution is anchored by a cadence of innovation singularly focused on simplifying the modern data experience. Pure continues to deliver that with today's introduction of Pure Fusion and Portworx Data Services.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.