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Pure Storage, Cohesity combine on all-flash backup appliance

Pure Storage's new FlashRecover appliance combines its FlashBlade hardware with Cohesity DataProtect backup software in response to customers' needs for faster restores.

Pure Storage's latest all-flash appliance is a high-speed backup device.

This week, Pure revealed its partnership with backup vendor Cohesity and launched FlashRecover, an appliance that integrates Cohesity's DataProtect software into Pure's FlashBlade hardware. Pure Storage promises up to three times faster backup and recovery from its all-flash backup appliance compared to disk-based hardware. The goal is to reduce recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives (RPOs/RTOs), especially for large-scale recoveries, by putting backup processes on high-performance storage.

FlashRecover is a Pure Storage product and is purchased and supported through Pure. If a support problem requires Cohesity's input, Pure will reach out so the customer won't have to contact two different vendors to resolve any problems they have with FlashRecover.

Pure FlashRecover is available only to a limited number of customers for testing, but Pure expects it to become generally available in the U.S. around October this year, and followed by launches in other countries.

There has been growing market appetite for putting secondary data use cases on high-performance hardware, and vendors have been catering to it. For example, in July, Catalogic ECX copy data management (CDM) software introduced support for HPE Nimble storage, allowing test/dev to spin up copies of data faster.

"We're seeing this move to flash," said Amy Fowler, vice president of strategy and solution of the FlashBlade business unit at Pure Storage, adding that some FlashBlade customers already use it for backup and recovery. "Speed has become extremely critical."

Fowler said the need for speed has been driven by increased ransomware attacks in the COVID-19 era. Restoring the occasional file after accidental deletion or corruption doesn't necessarily need the speed of flash hardware, but ransomware has increased the likelihood that a massive scale restore is necessary. Fowler said restoring terabytes of data from disk is arduous, and FlashRecover can make the process easier.

Chris Wiborg, vice president of product marketing at Cohesity, said FlashRecover also addresses other secondary data use cases that could go for a speed boost. Aside from rapidly restoring data for ransomware recovery, Cohesity software has copy data management capabilities, generating clones of data that can be used for DevOps, testing, analytics and any other workload that calls for a copy of the data. Cohesity also scrubs the data as part of its cloning process to remove sensitive information.

"The insurance policy and business continuity is just one use case. Creating zero-cost clones and letting people do more with their data, being able to do that at speed and at scale is also important," Wiborg said.

Pure Storage and Cohesity have a previous relationship; Cohesity DataPlatform native snapshot support was introduced for Pure FlashArray in March 2017. FlashRecover marks a deepening of that relationship, as it is a joint engineering and joint go-to-market deal. Unlike the integration between Cohesity and FlashArray, FlashRecover sets the Pure FlashBlade appliance up as a backup target. Wiborg said this doesn't remove any of the core functionality of the appliance, so customers can still use it for primary storage. He said part of the reason there's a seven-week gap between FlashRecover's launch and general availability is because he wants to see how customers use the device.

Eric Burgener, research vice president at IDC, said he considers FlashRecover a convergence of multiple trends. First, there is the trend of digital transformation, where more business models are becoming data-centric. This has made analytics more popular, along with other use cases that reuse copies of data for business purposes. In turn, demand for availability has risen, because the uptime of IT infrastructure is directly tied to business success. Ransomware, which has become more prevalent due to COVID-19, threatens that uptime. Finally, the cost of flash has gone down over the past decade, though it is still not cheaper than disk.

"The trends are all coming together," Burgener said. "I think going forward, we're going to see more of this."

Although it was already possible for organizations to put together an all-flash backup target themselves, this is the first time Burgener knows of that a vendor is offering it out-of-box with full support. From a purely performance perspective, putting backup, analytics and other secondary data workloads on flash makes sense because there's no need for multiple copies of the data. Burgener said even if one workload is asking for data while another workload is trying to back it up, the interfering I/O in a flash system wouldn't noticeably affect performance. But from a cost perspective, disk still wins. Burgener said quad-level cell flash storage costs around 10 cents per GB, while common hard drives are about two cents per GB.

Flash has lower latency and much higher throughput than disk, and more customers now consider the extra cost worth it. Burgener said for some businesses, the cost per GB is no longer as important as RPOs/RTOs, and this is a trend that will continue to grow. In the past, backup appliances were narrowly focused on the task of backing up data and restoring it -- putting that on expensive flash was unthinkable. Now that copies of data serve many other purposes, some of which are important for growing or accelerating the business, Burgener said organizations are willing to pay a little extra.

 "People will pay a little bit of a premium for some of these benefits," Burgener said.

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