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Pure Storage updates management tool, integrates Portworx

Pure launched its first Portworx container storage update since acquiring the startup last year and enabled management through its newly updated Pure1 management tool.

Pure Storage beefed up its SaaS-based management tool and integrated the first major Portworx software release since acquiring the container storage startup last fall to kick off its monthlong Accelerate Digital 2021 event.

The newly updated Pure1 storage management software gives customers expanded options for self-service procurement and AI-driven resource planning, problem resolution and ransomware protection. Pure also extended the tool's monitoring and management capabilities to Portworx and its Cloud Block Store for Microsoft Azure, on the heels of adding support for AWS late last year.

"We believe people aren't going to run and operate storage. They're going to move everything to a service," said Prakash Darji, vice president and general manager of digital experience at Pure Storage. "The service we're going to give storage managers is performance and capacity SLAs and self-service control to manage, monitor and ensure that SLAs are met."

Darji said the transition to self-service management would be a multiyear initiative across the industry, and he sees the latest enhancements to the newly dubbed Pure1 Digital Experience as a "step in that journey." 

Integrating Portworx

Another key area of focus for Pure is more tightly integrating its recently acquired Portworx software that enables customers to provision and manage storage for containerized workloads. Pure has provided a standalone service, called Pure Service Orchestrator (PSO), for container-granular volumes based on the Container Storage Interface (CSI) for Kubernetes. But Portworx now embeds the PSO functionality and becomes the primary mechanism for customers to provide storage for Kubernetes workloads. Pure plans to discontinue support for its PSO software layer in January 2022.

While Pure continues to sell Portworx as a separate product for use with any vendor's CSI-compatible storage systems, the company made clear that Portworx will go beyond CSI-level capabilities and support additional functionality when paired with its storage systems and management tools.

Michael Ferranti, senior director of product marketing in Pure Storage's cloud native business unit, said the Pure1 tool brings in Portworx container storage telemetry to give customers a single pane of glass to manage their applications. He said, over time, Portworx would be able to offer predictive, AI-driven problem resolution similarly to the way Pure does now with its flash arrays.

 Pure Storage SaaS-based Pure1 to monitor Portworx container storage
Pure Storage SaaS-based Pure1 management tool now lets customer monitor Portworx container storage environments.

Using Portworx with Pure's flash storage also enables customers to take advantage of features such as data deduplication to reduce their storage footprint and FlashArray's 99.9999% availability, Ferranti said. In addition, Pure certified Portworx PX-Backup software for use with FlashBlade, its unified file and object storage product, to protect Kubernetes-based workloads. 

Supporting cloud-native workloads

"It's been less than nine months since Pure Storage acquired Portworx, and this week they're demonstrating that not only is Pure Storage fully committed to supporting cloud-native workloads, but that they're making rapid progress integrating Portworx into their mainstream storage products," said Steve McDowell, a senior technology analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Cloud-native is an area with a lot of heat right now. It's also an area where storage has traditionally been an afterthought. IT shops are still figuring out best practices, and it's still anyone's game to win in terms of data management."

McDowell cited IBM and NetApp as the most aggressive players in this area, in addition to Pure Storage. NetApp based much of its work on its 2018 acquisition of StackPointCloud, and IBM is integrating its storage offerings with the OpenShift technology it acquired from Red Hat, McDowell noted.   

Customers who do not use Pure Storage arrays can also take advantage of the new capabilities coming in June with the Portworx Enterprise 2.8 update. Ferranti said Portworx uses the vendor's CSI driver to enable "cloud-like capabilities" such as storage volume provisioning on demand, volume deletion and new space-saving volume snapshots at the array level in an on-premises environment. Portworx can virtualize the volumes and enable container-granular capabilities such as synchronous replication, backup, disaster recovery and encryption at any vendor's storage layer, he said.

Portworx tested and certified the 2.8 release for use in Pure Storage flash arrays and VMware Tanzu storage environments, which both support the latest CSI 1.4 specification to enable the new capabilities. Ferranti said CSI 1.4 would enable Portworx to manage the underlying storage array "as if it was an API-driven cloud system."

In addition to Portworx Enterprise 2.8, Pure offers its FlashArray and FlashBlade customers a Portworx Essentials option on an unlimited number of Kubernetes nodes for free. Portworx typically limits the use of Portworx Essentials to five nodes and 1 TB of capacity.

"I think Portworx will treat Pure as a 'first' among equals but expect that there won't be a lot of non-Pure customers that will go with Portworx while there are still independent vendors that claim to address the needs of the heterogeneous market, including Rancher, OpenShift, etc.," said Eric Burgener, a research vice president at IDC. "Pure will, of course, make the argument that the integration they're doing with Pure Storage infrastructure makes it a better overall solution than, say, Rancher plus some other storage."  

Pure1 management updates

Pure Storage plans to complete the rollout of its new Pure1 SaaS-based management capabilities this month. Newly enabled assessments built into the Meta AI engine that Pure originally built for troubleshooting and support purposes can now make recommendations to customers.

"We've evolved the engine long enough by looking at enough simulations and machine learning to tell customers what they should do -- instead of saying, 'You could do this,'" Pure Storage's Darji said.

The AI-driven Pure1 tool can audit a customer's environment to determine the level of protection it has against ransomware based on criteria such as whether their snapshots are air-gapped or whether the target storage can quickly recover from an attack. Darji said Pure would offer additional assessment capabilities in the future.

The Pure1 tool can also give customers AI-driven performance and capacity recommendations based on their actual usage. Darji said Pure1 has storage profiles on popular applications such as Oracle, SAP, Epic and VDI to help customers simulate the storage impact of bringing in the application into their environments. A new AI-driven Pure-as-a-Service calculator could further help customers choose service tiers based on their application profile, Darji said.

"Customers have more self-service control in the digital experience for driving upgrades as well," Darji added. "They can choose their capacity commit, term commit, simulate pricing, and scale on demand by increasing their reserve commits over time. That's similar to what you would see in a cloud model."

McDowell said only HPE's InfoSight comes close to what Pure Storage is delivering with Pure1 in predictive analytics and intelligent storage management. 

"Pure's differentiation is the breadth and depth of its integrated management tools. While other storage companies expose elements of this through various portals, Pure is leading the way in providing the integrated experience," McDowell said. "Their strength, and differentiation, has always been the idea that storage should be simple."

Burgener said Pure's self-service catalog goes beyond what other vendors offer, although Dell and HPE offer some aspects through their respective Apex and GreenLake as-a-service options.

"Those two vendors in particular have a broader portfolio that covers more of the five enterprise storage consumption models -- appliance, software-only, converged infrastructure, HCI and as a service -- than Pure, which lacks an HCI option," Burgener said.  "Dell may offer better observability across consumption model options as long as the underlying infrastructure is based around VMware virtualization technology, but Pure is enabling that same level of observability -- which extends to both virtual machine and in some cases application-level visibility -- which VMware offers in their universe."

Carol Sliwa is a TechTarget senior writer covering storage arrays and drives, flash and memory technologies, and enterprise architecture.

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