A rare thing is happening at Pure Storage. The company, founded on the strength of one product and set of technologies, enterprise flash storage, has quietly become much more than simply another storage company. Instead, pure today is about delivering and managing data with a simple cloud-like operating model. While storage is critical to this process, it is just one element of a much larger and complex software-driven solution.
At the same time, Pure is operationally outperforming its much larger competitors across nearly every critical metric. While the industry continues to struggle with supply chain issues, Pure is growing at a rate we don’t typically see in the enterprise infrastructure market. Its most recent quarter yielded top-line revenue growth of 50% year-over-year. The analysts who count these things say that Pure is outgrowing the overall storage market by a factor of three.
Pure isn’t taking time to sit back and enjoy its continuing success. Instead, the company is aggressively expanding its portfolio in ways that will increase its overall addressable market. These new products and services also build onto the framework for supporting Pure’s long-term vision of helping organizations extract value from their data.
This week, all of this was on display at the Pure Accelerate Techfest event in Los Angeles. It was there that Pure laid out its vision for simplifying how IT manages data. Pure also announced a new QLC-based FlashBlade, a rebranding and expansion of its Evergreen offerings, and highlighted recent updates to its Portworx products.
Pure Storage’s answer to the high-performance unstructured data problem is FlashBlade. Pure’s FlashBlade does not resemble a traditional NAS in most respects. FlashBlade, as its name implies, pairs all-flash storage with a blade architecture that allows users to achieve whatever level of multi-dimension performance is required for their workloads. Pure released its first FlashBlade product in 2017.
FlashBlade’s bladed approach allows for near-linear scale-out performance. Blades, which include both flash storage and the compute required to manage that storage, can be added to increase the device's overall capabilities.
While adding more hardware can increase capacity and performance, the real magic of what Pure has delivered is in its software, PurityFB, which exploits the parallelism inherent in a blade architecture by distributing state and protocol handling equally across all available resources.
Pure expanded its FlashBlade offerings with the new FlashBlade//S. The new offering leverages QLC flash to enable much greater storage densities at a lower cost. QLC, however, arrives with some baggage. The devices are generally a little slower than the more traditional TLC NAND that is found in most enterprise storage. QLC also has less endurance than TLC. These issues are exposed in most off-the-shelf QLC-based SSDs. Pure Storage, however, is doing something a little different.
The new FlashBlade//S utilizes flash storage modules, DirectFlash, designed explicitly by Pure to overcome the typical concerns of QLC. DirectFlash solves QLC's issues by aggressively managing endurance and performance with intelligence on the module, all driven by logic within the array's operating system. DirectFlash gives Pure Storage much finer-grained control of its storage media.
The performance characteristics of FlashBlade//S make it an excellent solution for workloads such as rapid recovery and ransomware mitigation, modern analytics, DevOps, healthcare imaging and genomics, and artificial intelligence. AI and machine learning are particularly attractive use cases for FlashBlade. Pure updated AIRI, a joint solution combining Pure Storage with Nvidia’s DGX computer, with the new FlashBlade//S as part of a rebranded AIRI//S.
This is an exciting product and innovative use of QLC flash technology to deliver the power of flash storage into markets traditionally served by mechanical hard drives. FlashBlade//S is Pure’s next step to enabling the all-flash data center.
A New Evergreen
Pure Storage this week has both simplified the messaging and broadened the capabilities of its Evergreen service offerings. Evergreen is Pure’s promise to deliver its customer a storage solution that seamlessly upgrades and scales over time.
Evergreen removes the need to experience another painful data migration or forklift upgrade for those invested in Pure Storage solutions. Pure Storage's Evergreen enables this with offerings that span different levels of hardware and software subscriptions.
Pure has rebranded what was its Evergreen Gold program as Evergreen//Forever. This offering allows for traditional array ownership with a subscription to hardware and software upgrades at regular intervals.
Pure as-a-Service, which is Pure’s consumption-based storage-as-a-service offering, has been folded into its Evergreen program and renamed Evergreen//One. Evergreen//One allows IT organizations to purchase storage capabilities with a purely OpEx model.
New to the Evergreen program is Evergreen//Flex, which combines both a CapEx and OpEx operating model. Evergreen//Flex allows customers to buy a storage array at a much-reduced price while enabling a consumption-based subscription to the software on the array. This brings much of the goodness of a consumption-based usage model to organizations that must own their own hardware for compliance or regulatory reasons.
The rebranding and expansion of Pure’s Evergreen program simplify the message while increasing the choices available to IT organizations. As a result, Evergreen brings increased flexibility and power to IT.
Portworx’s Expanded Capabilities
Pure Storage’s Portworx offerings have nothing to do with storage, at least not directly. Portworx is Pure’s decoupled data management solution that brings data management and related capabilities to the cloud-native world, with no Pure Storage array required.
As containers are increasingly used for stateful applications in production environments, IT administrators find that deploying and running applications under Kubernetes can be very complex. This is where Portworx steps in and simplifies things for those administrators.
Portworx, last month, expanded its offerings with the introduction of Portworx Data Services, the industry’s first database-as-a-service platform for Kubernetes. Portworx Data Services allows one-click database deployments with high availability, data protection, and security.
The new solution supports the deployment of Cassandra, Kafka, PostgreSQL, RabbitMQ, Redis, and Zookeeper today. Pure promises that more databases are coming soon.
Portworx Data Services is available through a consumption-based model, where organizations pay as they go or through pre-purchased hours.
This is a critical expansion of capabilities for the Portworx portfolio. It takes Pure up the stack from storage to data-centric workload management. This is key to Pure’s vision of simplifying data wherever that data might be used. It's a strong play.
The Analyst’s Take
It’s rare to see a small company that begins in a niche corner of a mature market manage to survive into a successful second act. Rarer still is finding a company that, in its second decade, is outgrowing its market by a factor of three. Charlie Giancarlo and his team have done that with Pure, and it’s been fun to watch.
The first time I met Charlie, not long after he took the reins at Pure, he told me that he didn’t see Pure Storage’s job as delivering storage. That’s boring, he said. Instead, he described a vision where data is a utility, delivered where and when it’s needed with the right SLAs for the workload it’s supporting. That vision enables simplicity and flexibility for IT.
Pure delivers some of the most performant and scalable storage solutions available. It would be a mistake to say that it isn't a storage company. But Pure Storage is rapidly becoming much more than that. Pure’s Evergreen offerings and the expanding footprint of Portworx move Pure up the stack. It begins to enable the vision that Charlie described to me back in 2017.
The company is relentlessly focused on execution. At the Pure Accelerate event, Charlie told me that he allocates 20% of his budget to R&D. Compare that to the 5% that most of his competitors allocate. Pure’s recent explosive growth expands those budgets, allowing the teams to move much more forcefully. I'm excited to see where this all leads.
My big takeaway from Accelerate isn’t the product announcements, solid as they are. It’s that Pure, while nobody was paying attention, put the pieces in place to enable a coherent, scalable framework for managing data at a very high level. Perhaps it's time for them to drop the "storage" from Pure Storage.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.