Last week at Pure Accelerate 2022: TechFest, Pure Storage CEO Charlie Giancarlo called out the rest of the storage industry. He claimed that Pure's differentiation stems from its belief that innovation in storage still has value. While competitors may be reducing investment in research and development, Pure is reinvesting 18% to 20% of its revenue back into R&D.
At the event, we saw the fruits of that innovation. Pure made several announcements, including:
- FlashBlade//S. This is a denser (2PB+ usable in 5U), more modular version of its all-flash unstructured storage system. More importantly, FlashBlade//S joins Pure's FlashArray in its support for the Evergreen subscription portfolio. With the ability for in-place online upgrades, Pure expects the FlashBlade//S system to remain modern enough for its users for at least the next ten years.
- Evergreen//Flex. This new Evergreen model offers fleet-level flexibility designed to eliminate the pain of stranded storage capacity. Evergreen//Flex enables an IT organization to procure capacity with consumption-based pricing. That capacity can be allocated and, as necessary, reallocated across any Pure system. This is important because application environments are unpredictable. Pure storage offers the ability to adjust capacity where and when needed.
- Portworx Data Services. This database-as-a-service platform helps simplify the DevOps and SRE activities associated with deploying and managing new databases within a cloud-native application environment. This platform should help accelerate operations by reducing burdens on valuable personnel.
In addition to having thoughts on those announcements, I had a few other thoughts following the event.
Sustainability is important and beneficial to business
Giancarlo spent a significant portion of his keynote address focusing on Pure's commitment to sustainability. Over the past couple of decades, the concept of "being green" has shown up in IT vendors' messaging periodically. If you have been in the industry as long as I have, at this point you might have a cynical view about IT-related sustainability. But from what ESG is seeing this year in its research on the costs of power and space -- as well as heightened concerns over the supply chain -- the other ESG (environmental, social and governance) should now be a key pillar of IT strategy conversations moving forward.
Pure's approach to sustainable IT is straightforward and logical. Flash storage technology offers a natural way to reduce the energy and tech waste of spinning disks. The ability of Evergreen to allow IT to continuously upgrade existing hardware rather than ripping and replacing everything after every three years further reduces that waste. In addition, Pure is making a continuous effort to reduce or remove components from its systems, which again will reduce costs, simplify the environment and reduce environmental impacts.
Pure's software prowess is underrated
Pure's legacy reputation is centered on being "all flash and only flash." When you think "Pure Storage," you think "hardware." While Pure does have some pretty impressive hardware, the full value of its software value could -- and should -- be unlocked in the next couple years.
For example, the Portworx Data Services technology that Pure acquired a couple of years ago continues to improve in an effort to simplify the management of application and data services in persistent storage environments for Kubernetes-based workloads. The Portworx side of the house does not get enough visibility for the value it offers. I expect that to change -- and soon. Meanwhile, on the flash side of the house, Pure has made considerable strides in simplifying the automation of data storage between Pure's Evergreen architecture, Pure Fusion and Pure1.
The highest praise for Pure Storage's in-house software capabilities may stem from a conversation I had with a Portworx team member. When I asked what it was like developing software in a hardware company, he immediately corrected me: "Pure isn't a hardware company. It is a software company that just happens to make hardware." Some readers might dismiss that statement as an employee keeping to the company line, but I can tell you that I have never heard that sentiment in this context. Normally, when cloud-native startups are acquired by a larger hardware-centric firm, they are left alone entirely or notice a distinct change post-acquisition.
As-a-service without an architectural approach -- like Pure Evergreen -- in place will ultimately become cost prohibitive
In recent years, there has been a massive upswing in interest in putting as-a-service solutions on-premises in data centers. However, this approach requires the vendor to manage and maintain the environment within your data center. Without an architecture that makes it insanely easy to upgrade, update and scale, those vendors are forced to throw money, people and professional services at it as adoption increases. That seems as if it would be incredibly costly at scale.
There is a lot to like in Pure's announcements and new capabilities, yet there is still an opportunity for Pure to do more. I am trying to resist the temptation to recommend that Pure spread its precious innovation capabilities across lots of shiny new objects. I know that excellence requires focus, and Pure should be commended for its ability to stay focused. But, in coming quarters, I would like to see Pure extend its strengths in making IT operations insanely easy to use to its hybrid and multi-cloud capabilities, too. Portworx looks like it could be a foundational technology for multi-cloud, and I am interested to see how far Pure can take it.
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