This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Pure Storage Accelerate 2019 conference and news guide

Pure Storage all-flash revamp accelerates and consolidates

The Pure Accelerate conference kicks off with an NVMe-enabled FlashArray refresh and upgrades to all-flash Pure AIRI and FlashStack-Cisco UCS converged infrastructure for Oracle.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pure Storage is going all-in on nonvolatile memory express flash. But don't refer to the new systems as all-flash arrays.

The Pure Accelerate annual user conference kicked off today with a refresh of the Pure Storage all-flash FlashArray portfolio. The five new models are part of the FlashArray//X platform for nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) flash.

Executives at the Mountain View, Calif., company referred to the new NVMe-based systems as "shared accelerated storage." Analyst firm Gartner coined that term to describe rack-scale NVMe flash arrays that consolidate legacy and emerging DevOps applications on one platform.

Matt Kixmoeller, Pure Storage's vice president of strategy, said the enterprise market has reached a point where NVMe can be a mainstream use case.

"The all-flash array is being replaced with a new category that we call shared accelerated storage for every workload," Kixmoeller said. "Applications are changing pretty dramatically, from scale-up and virtualized apps to scale-out and web-scale apps. It turns out that has a big impact on storage."

Other Pure Storage all-flash hardware news at the show included an entry-level AIRI analytics array and FlashStack converged infrastructure, combining Pure FlashBlade with Cisco servers and networking.

Changing the face of flash

Pure Storage FlashArray is a block and file system natively designed to manage flash via the massively parallel software architecture in the Purity//FA operating system. The latest FlashArray versions use Pure Storage DirectFlash NVMe modules or traditional solid-state drives.

The NVMe-based FlashArray//X platform replaces the SSD-based M series as Pure's flagship product. Pure introduced two X series building blocks and three high-end systems in varying capacities. All models come with a dual-mode controller to support NVMe flash and traditional SAS and SATA SSDs.

Pure Storage requires FlashArray customers to buy drives in minimum 10-pack increments, although they can mix and match drive capacities and SSD interface types. The smallest NVMe configuration is FlashArray//X10, which is available with 22 TB of raw storage based on a pack of 2.2 TB drives.

The entry-level FlashArray//X10 and FlashArray//X20 can scale from 15 TB to 50 TB of effective capacity. Customers can upgrade to denser FlashArray//X50, FlashArray//X70 and FlashArray//X90 arrays and pack up to 3 PB of usable storage in a 6U form factor.

Pure claimed the latest FlashArray//X delivers twice the performance as FlashArray//M, with latency as low as 250 microseconds. Enhanced compression in the Purity//FA operating system is rated to yield a 20% boost in data reduction. Performance metrics are based on Pure Storage bench tests involving Epic emergency medical records, Oracle and SAP HANA database applications.

Pure doesn't disclose list pricing for FlashArray//X.

NVMe gathers momentum

NVMe is an industry protocol that eliminates the iSCSI-related latency associated with SAS and SATA drives traditionally used in enterprise networked storage. NVMe deploys a Peripheral Component Interconnect Express interface connection that lets applications talk directly to storage and bypass the CPU.

Industry observers expect NVMe to emerge as the de facto storage protocol for device connectivity, leading to NVMe-over-Fabrics transport mechanisms that connect via Fibre Channel and iSCSI networking protocols. Systems designed with back-end NVMe and a host-based flash fabric are classified as rack-scale flash.

The Pure Storage all-flash rollout continues a trend of NVMe array launches from storage vendors. Dell EMC, NetApp and Hewlett Packard Enterprise launched NVMe upgrades to their arrays this month, and a handful of NVMe-focused startups are vying for a slice of the hot market. By 2021, NVMe-based systems will account for more than half of all external storage revenue, according to analyst firm IDC.

NVMe is suited for DevOps and web-scale applications that demand extremely low latency. Most companies, to date, have addressed the performance requirement by implementing NVMe SSDs as direct-attached storage, which limits scalability and sharing. The adoption rate of NVMe shared storage systems will rely largely on how much of a premium vendors charge for NVMe.

Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst with IT analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said Pure is trying to keep the price down with its enhanced data compression.

"The proof is [going to] be in what the actual dollar per usable data is. Pure has been one of the leaders in flash for a while. The fact they are going all-in on NVMe leads me to think they are either able to get price parity now, or they have a plan to get there quickly," Sinclair said.

AI demand extends Pure Storage all-flash storage

Pure Storage AIRI Mini was introduced as a seven-blade building block for organizations starting to dabble in AI- and machine-learning-related analytics. AIRI Mini scales to 364 TB, with linear scaling up to the 75-blade NAND flash maximum on the largest configuration. The Pure Storage AIRI preconfigured stack combines Pure's highly dense FlashBlade with Nvidia DGX-1 deep learning supercomputers.

The AIRI Mini follows a 15-blade AIRI system launched in April.

"The goal is to bring AI infrastructure within the reach of all companies," Kixmoeller said.

Pure's NVMe-based FlashStack converged infrastructure is an extensible AI platform for Oracle database warehouses. The new FlashStack integrates FlashBlade arrays with Cisco Unified Computing System Servers and Cisco Nexus switches.

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