Pure Storage And VMware On Azure: Easy, Performant, Cost-Effective

By Matt Kimball, Patrick Moorhead - September 11, 2023

Pure Storage seems to be everywhere in its market, and it is continuously pushing boundaries—in a good way. At this week’s VMware Explore event (still known as VMWorld to me) in Las Vegas, the company has leveraged its strong partnerships to deliver what should be a high-value solution to enterprise IT. Working with VMware and Microsoft Azure, the company announced Cloud Block Store for Azure VMware Solution (AVS). Initially available in Preview in 16 Azure regions, this solution will eventually be generally available across all Azure regions. It’s another strong move from Pure Storage that complements the announcements from its Accelerate conference several weeks ago, which I covered here.

What exactly is Cloud Block Store for AVS, and why should enterprise IT care? Read on, and I’ll explain.

VMware in the cloud: Good, but it could be better

Pardon the pun in advance: VMware is used virtually everywhere. Every enterprise IT executive I speak with not only talks about maintaining their current VMware environment, but also views VMware as a strategic piece of the puzzle for the future of their IT deployments. Because of this, VMware spans the enterprise environment, from the datacenter to the edge and the cloud(s).

Expanding the VMware estate from the on-premises datacenter to the cloud has been happening for some time. VMware delivered its first solution for driving a hybrid environment back in 2013. AWS partnered with VMware to launch VMware Cloud on AWS in 2017, and Azure followed suit with AVS in 2020

The use cases for expanding the VMware environment to the Azure cloud via AVS should be no surprise. Because VMware is so often regarded as strategic to the enterprise, it serves as a foundational part of all enterprise IT operations. As such, the expansion to AVS mirrors what sits on the premises. To put it another way, AVS customers want to span all operations seamlessly from the datacenter to Azure in a cost-effective manner.

AVS has a proven track record for delivering seamless integration of environments. Microsoft has done an excellent job of enabling the on-prem-to-cloud movement of most apps and data. However, I do hear a few challenges from customers, especially around cost and complexity. Specifically, migrating database environments can be challenging, and costs can escalate due to the inability to scale storage separately from compute. Some of the challenges on the database side can prevent users from deploying their dev/test environments to AVS.

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If only a storage software solution could enable more seamless integration. Especially if it were a solution that decoupled storage from compute. If only.

Pure Cloud Block Store for AVS: Good becomes great

Cloud Block Store for AVS is designed to drive greater balance for hybrid VMware environments while reducing costs. According to Pure Storage, the design goals of the solution are to:

  • Optimize cost by decoupling storage from compute, deduplication and compression technologies
  • Speed up and de-risk migrations by decoupling storage from compute, because now organizations won’t be required to make those tradeoffs—or refactor applications
  • Increase resiliency thanks to the multiple tools Pure has developed such as CloudSnap, ActiveCluster and Safemode for snapshotting, storing and providing ransomware-free, zero-RPO images.
  • Simplify storage using a single data management platform from on-prem to the cloud

One of the keys to the success of Pure’s AVS approach is all the work the company did with Microsoft to optimize Pure’s data management solution for Azure. This has meant much more than simply deploying Pure’s data management software in the Azure cloud; it has required years of understanding how AVS supports VMware and which areas can be improved, along with a sustained joint development effort to achieve the design goals mentioned above.

For example, the work between Pure and Azure to enable Pure’s software to fully exploit the recently launched Premium SSDv2 storage environment delivers both performance gains and considerable cost savings. So, not only can customers decouple this storage-compute relationship that leads to wasted cost (and wasted compute cycles), but they can do so on high-performing storage.

The cost savings Pure Block Store delivers speak for themselves
Pure Storage

The above graphic highlights just how big the savings are that Pure can deliver. If I’m an IT executive facing increased demand to drive digital transformation projects—while also seeing my budgets slashed—deploying Pure should be one of my top priorities.

The other area I find compelling is how Pure’s Cloud Block Store has enabled database migration. “Data drives the enterprise” is a line I’ve written too many times to count. But this statement has become a truism because it’s actually true, and in practical terms it is rooted in an organization’s database environment. The challenges around managing database environments prevent many IT organizations from fully leveraging the cloud.

With Pure, a couple of specific functions remove the challenges IT organizations face. First, the company’s solution for copy data management (CDM) takes the existing process of database snapshots, which typically takes hours in a VMware environment, and delivers it . . . instantaneously. It’s not often that any vendor is able to completely remove a headache like this.

Second, Pure’s software enables the real-time cloning and restoration of a database environment—a task that typically takes somewhere between hours and days. Even better, Pure offers this with dedicated database professionals working to support the process. Think about what this means for dev/test environments in organizations that are looking to iterate quickly. DBAs and database pros are freed up, and dev/test cycles are shortened to minutes versus days.

What this means for enterprise IT

When considering the challenges enterprise IT faces, I see Cloud Block Store for AVS as enabling IT to further drive the cloud operating model organization-wide. Pure delivers the final mile of the Microsoft-VMware partnership that led to the creation of AVS in the first place. Every IT executive I speak with talks about the challenge of fully realizing the promise of the cloud while controlling costs. This includes direct costs tied to instances, data, and so on as well as indirect costs arising from operational inefficiencies around people and processes.

If I were still managing enterprise IT operations and saw a solution that promised to drive down costs considerably while improving my ability to deliver better-performing services, I’d be tempted to think it was too good to be true. But Pure has been telling this story—and delivering on the promise—for as long as it’s been around.

My take

If my views on Pure’s announcement weren’t clear before, let me be clear now: I think it has a clear winner with Cloud Block Store for AVS. Like all storage companies, the company is moving from a pure (pardon the pun) storage play to more of a data management solution. And this makes sense—the lines between storage, data and compute are blurred, and collective IT thinking is shifting to account for focusing on data first.

The benefits for Pure customers are both evident and significant. Beyond that, advances like this make Pure more compelling for non-customers, too. In an ever-competitive market for storage and data management, I’m optimistic about adoption of Pure Block Store for AVS—and beyond.

Matthew Kimball
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Matt Kimball is a Moor Insights & Strategy senior datacenter analyst covering servers and storage. Matt’s 25 plus years of real-world experience in high tech spans from hardware to software as a product manager, product marketer, engineer and enterprise IT practitioner.  This experience has led to a firm conviction that the success of an offering lies, of course, in a profitable, unique and targeted offering, but most importantly in the ability to position and communicate it effectively to the target audience.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.