Research Note: Pure Storage Accelerate Take Aways

By Patrick Moorhead, Matt Kimball - July 13, 2023

Pure Storage held its annual Accelerate conference in Las Vegas a couple of weeks back. And while I could not attend, I wanted to share some perspectives on what the company announced. Also, as I am new to covering the storage industry (and have never written about Pure), I will offer some thoughts on why the company has found so much success.

A quick overview of Pure Storage

While many of us think of Pure as the new kids on the storage block, the company was founded in 2009 by storage veterans looking to deliver high performance and simplicity through an all-flash storage architecture. Replacing hard disk drives with solid-state drives allowed the company to deliver both of these and increased reliability to a market that had become used to incremental innovation.

Since then, the company has grown into one of the true storage innovators with a portfolio that continues to drive performance, simplicity, efficiency, and reliability. And while storage is the category, the company seems to align its designs, development, and focus on data – capturing, moving, transforming, storing, and protecting

As you can see in the above graphic, Pure’s platforms align nicely with different ways data is used and stored in the enterprise. Starting on the left, you can see how FlashArray scales in the performance-capacity spectrum to deliver extreme speeds, the lowest latency, and the largest scale. The FlashBlade products focus on delivering lots of capacity (and speed) for organizations with lots of unstructured data that needs to be analyzed.

While the letters following the product name (e.g.,//XL) are a t-shirt size, it’s important to distinguish the Pure//E family. These products represent offerings via Pure’s Evergreen program. Evergreen is Pure’s subscription-based storage as a service (STaaS) offering.

What exactly is this? Let’s set up the challenge first – IT pros and storage administrators are forever challenged deploying, maintaining, and refreshing their storage environments. It’s hard to anticipate the organization’s needs today and tomorrow, and it’s hard to keep up with the fast pace of innovation. So, what if an org could enter into a consumption agreement with their storage vendor where all these concerns go away? This is what Pure has provided with Evergreen.

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I believe what Pure has done with Evergreen is the future of the storage market – and the company is very well positioned as the leader. We can take a step back and say that what Pure has done in being an all-flash provider is the future of the storage market. Multiple consumption models are a further differentiator.

One last thought on Pure’s portfolio before covering the company’s recent announcements. The hardware platforms are just one element of Pure’s portfolio. The innovation it has built into its software portfolio is what separates the company from others. From AIOps-driven management (Pure1) to delivering the cloud operating model (Pure Fusion) to its acquisition of Kubernetes data services (Portworx) and everything in between, Pure has invested a lot of time in the “simplicity” part of its value prop.

The above investment from Pure is most compelling, as these hardware platforms extract every bit of value from the architecture. As a hardware guy, it’s hard for me to admit this, but without Pure’s software portfolio – these platforms are, well, platforms.

What was announced at Accelerate?

The biggest news out of Accelerate for me are upgrades to the FlashArray//C and FlashArray//X products. In these latest R4 models, Pure has delivered a 40% performance boost, an 80% increase in memory speed, and a 30% inline compression boost. The customer benefit is better-performing workloads at a 74% TCO savings.

If you’re wondering how Pure can deliver these improvements – a lot of the performance can be tied to Intel’s 4th Generation Xeon CPU, codenamed Sapphire Rapids. In this CPU, DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen4.0 accompany CPU cores that perform significantly better than the previous generation. Xeon is complemented by Pure’s Direct Compress Accelerator, an off-chip acceleration engine that works with Pure’s unique compression algorithm.

What does this mean for customers? Speed and savings. Pure claims a 74% TCO savings relative to previous generations and improved workload performance.

FlashArray//C portfolio
Pure Storage

FlashArray//C (portfolio shown above) will ship with the 75TB of Quad-Level Cell (QLC) DirectFlash Modules (DFM) to deliver the best capacity and price/performance. The FlashArray//C ships in a form factor of between 3U and 9U. If you are running business-critical workloads that are less latency-sensitive (i.e., sub-millisecond), FlashArray//C is the right solution.

FlashArray//X (portfolio shown below) will ship with the 36TB Tri-Level Cell (TLC) DFMs to support unified block and file storage for mission-critical applications. The high end of the //X lineup is the //X90 – with up to 3.3PB of storage in up to a 6U form factor. Mission-critical workloads that are more latency sensitive (e.g., real-time analytics) are good candidates for the FlashArray//X lineup.

FlashArray//X Portfolio boasts increased performance and capacity
Pure Storage

Sidebar: If you read the above and are wondering what QLC and TLC are, let’s take a couple of sentences to explain. TLC and QLC represent different types of NAND flash memory. In TLC, three bits of data are stored per cell. QLC? You can probably figure it out, but in case not – it’s four bits of data stored per cell. Because of this, QLC demonstrates higher capacity but lower performance than TLC.

Pure also announced FlashArray//E as a way for customers to replace legacy storage systems with all Flash. As any IT person knows, these legacy systems are exceedingly expensive to acquire and maintain.

When thinking about a product like FlashArray//E v some disk-based data storage systems: If I could increase my reliability 20-fold, reduce my space and power by a factor of five, and lower my overall TCO by 40% – why wouldn’t I? This is precisely what Pure is proposing with Flash//E. And while storage admins may be slower to adopt newer technology, this is the inevitable future for IT.

All flash storage drives higher capacity, lower cost
Pure Storage

My analysis

Before I give my take, I want to say I wish I could have been at Accelerate to take in all of this news along with the Pure culture and the excitement of its customers. While the team was gracious enough to invite me, I could not make it – so hopefully, next year.

Pure Storage understands the pulse of the market. The storage game is different from what it used to be. In today’s world, everything is about the data. How I can gather, transform, use, and store it as quickly and securely as possible – all while paying less. And all while removing complexity.

In my limited time covering the storage market, I have spoken with Pure folks a few times. And I’m amazed at how focused the company seems on business outcomes and how its technology is used within an organization. I’m willing to be. This has been the secret to the company’s success and leadership position.

Stay tuned as I’ll track Pure’s progress over the next few quarters.

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.

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.