Pure flash storage evolves, puts HDD investments in question

Innovations in flash storage driving down cost might make it more difficult to justify investments in hard disk drives moving forward, Pure Storage CEO and others claim.

At this year's Pure Storage Accelerate event, CEO Charles Giancarlo made the provocative prediction that "in five years' time, there will be no new hard drives sold."

Emboldened by new innovations in the density of its Direct Flash technology and the new FlashArray//E, which complements the FlashBlade//E, Pure is driving down the cost of flash to a raw-capacity acquisition price at or near that of 7,200 rpm hard drives.

For more than a decade, Pure has been on a mission to eliminate the need for spinning disks, intending instead to deliver an all-flash data center. With the price points that Pure is targeting for the FlashArray//E -- in the $0.15-$0.20 per GB range today for raw flash capacity, and with guidance targeting the range below $0.10 per GB in a couple years -- the rationale for retaining HDDs in the data center diminishes significantly.

In other words, when it comes to new technology deployments, hard drive-based storage now bears the burden of proof to justify its value.

Insights from Pure Accelerate 2023

Taking a step back, Pure has delivered more than an HDD alternative. Nearly every organization is working to rationalize and modernize its data center infrastructure and operations, with the goal of reducing risk, reducing operational burdens, eliminating technical debt and reducing power consumption -- all while optimizing agility and mobility to the public cloud.

With the //E series system's lower cost points, Pure is extending its accessibility to a wider variety of applications, enabling organizations to improve their density and energy efficiency. Pure Storage claims that Pure FlashArray lowers energy use up to 85% compared with competitive all-flash systems, further extending its value versus traditional flash storage. Then, with its energy efficiency service-level agreement (SLA) guarantee announced earlier this year, Pure is further reducing risks related to power consumption and planning.

At the event, a spokesperson for Virgin Media said Pure Storage helped the company reduce its data center footprint by an astonishing 96%.

Businesses want smaller, more efficient and more agile data centers that require far fewer people to manage and maintain them. When these density benefits are combined with innovations such as non-disruptive hardware upgrades, storage as a service with Evergreen One, Pure Fusion's API-driven automation capabilities and Pure's operating experience, the outcome is data center environments that require a fraction of the people, space and power.

When it comes to new technology deployments, hard drive-based storage now bears the burden of proof to justify its value.

Ultimately, though, will the hard drive die? Probably not. Tech has a way of sticking around. For Pure, it doesn't matter. Data centers are showing no signs of going away. Instead, our research revealed that the vast majority of organizations expect to maintain or grow their environments.

We as an industry, however, do not have the people, budget or power to keep operating the way we have been. An environment built on a foundation of highly dense, cost-effective, incredibly simple flash storage offers an opportunity to free up budget, people and power to do more, which is what nearly every organization needs.

Other notes from Pure Accelerate include the following:

  1. FlashArray//X R4 and //C R4. According to Pure, this new hardware release offers roughly double the performance, thanks to the use of newer hardware technologies such as PCI Gen 4, newer generations of CPU and memory, along with an architecture designed to scale to 3PB+ raw. With Pure's Evergreen service, users get access to this hardware as part of their subscription without new investment.
  2. Ransomware recovery SLA. Added to Evergreen//One, this ransomware recovery SLA provides a next-business-day SLA to ship clean recovery arrays in North America, Europe and the U.K., plus 48 hours to finalize a recovery plan and an 8 TiB per hour data transfer rate for recovery.
  3. Cloud Block Store and PortWorx. Pure didn't announce updates on these at the event, but it is worth noting that the benefits of these technologies came up in multiple customer conversations.

Scott Sinclair is practice director with Enterprise Strategy Group, a division of TechTarget. Enterprise Strategy Group analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.

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