On 10 June 2020, Pure Storage announced Purity 6 – a software solution to complement its FlashArray storage portfolio – announcing it as “agile data services provide customers with an efficient way to store, safeguard, manage, access and mobilize their data with strategic consumption models custom-tailored to their needs.”
In the press release, it said:
“Engineered with the modern organization in mind, these new agile data services provide customers with an efficient way to store, safeguard, manage, access and mobilize their data with strategic consumption models custom-tailored to their needs.”
You can see it is targeted as a sales pitch for the digital enterprise, or at least those with ambitions for one, as it carries keywords like “agile data services” and “strategic consumption models” – the last bit being a reference to “utility” or cloud consumption model.
As a press briefing, I asked Pure Storage spokespersons, Hock Leng Chua, managing director, ASEAN and Mark Jobbins, vice president & field chief technology officer for APJ, on a few things about the announcement.
You spoke about a utility model for the solution. Exactly how does that work? When does it start?
Hock Leng Chua: The start date is a mutually agreed start date of the contract, which means that already includes the time required to look at your environment, do the required sizing, so that from a performance and capacity standpoint.
We address all those concerns and then we say okay, let us agree on a start date. Typically, it will be one or two months after we have concluded everything. That also includes that shipment to be on the floor today. And then we agree to do that start date.
Utility storage models have been around for nearly two decades, what’s different about Pure-as-a-Service model?
Hock Leng Chua: Our Pure as-a-Service is different from what the other vendors are offering today in the market. Most of the vendors are offering more like an operating lease or a financial lease, which means that they pay per month, based on the capacity you use. But like what you mentioned, you cannot scale down - you can only go up.
With Pure as-a-Service, we are a true utility model. That means, basically we will take an average of the utilisation every day. And then we look at it in either monthly or quarterly payments.
There is a reserve rate. The customer agrees on a minimum commit on that reserve capacity. But over the three years you can decide to bring it down if you need to based on the business requirements.
In cloud utilisation model, there is this thing called on-demand.
Most of the customers, they have a certain time, a couple of days or a week that they have a spike in terms of the capacity requirements. If you were to follow the traditional way of doing it, like the legacy vendors are providing, they typically cater for 20% of buffer capacity onsite. If you use that buffer capacity, you need to pay for that whole entire capacity that is onsite.
For Pure, our utility basis will be based on that utilisation within that week. We only charge you for that week. The on-demand rate versus a reserve rate will be slightly different. Because for the on-demand, there will be a certain premium you pay for it.
Is there a minimum term commitment on the customer side?
Hock Leng Chua: The good thing about Pure as-a-Service is that you can start off with a minimum contract commit of 12 months, at a minimum of 50 terabytes. To help the customers out during this period, we are giving the first three months for free.
The three months is just to improve the customers’ cash flow and to really get them to try that technology.
In terms of infrastructure, the as-a-service offering that you have, where is the actual storage is physically hosted or installed?
Hock Leng Chua: The arrays will be shipped to the customer on-prem site. That is what we offer. Not to forget that we are also working very closely with AWS. If the customers choose to have a hybrid cloud strategy, that means some on-prem and some with AWS. They can also buy Pure as-a-Service via our Cloud Block Store with AWS at the Marketplace.
What is Pure Storage’s definition of software-defined? Is it being hardware agnostic?
Mark Jobbins: I think that has probably been that more traditional sort of interpretation of software-defined, it’s provided that sort of abstract.
Pure and Purity is simply a software environment that runs on the database. Its got a keystore database that sits underneath. It has a series of micro services that are provided from that database. Now one of those simulates a storage array.
Ultimately what we are seeing is, as our portfolio built out, we're really sort of providing the ability to segment the hardware platform.
The first example of that was Cloud Block Store. What we have done there is the Purity operating system. The database is holding the actual data. We just happen to use a virtual hardware platform from Amazon to create that storage layer. We are seeing more of our services being provided as a software interface.
Using an API to call micro services from the Purity operating system, which means theoretically, it could be abstracted far more from the hardware layer.
At the moment we believe that we've got the best hardware platform for Purity to sit on, from a FlashArray perspective, FlashBlade, and then we've extracted that across the public cloud in AWS, Azure.
I think that's why we sort of see more of that software-defined as being those micro services and how people access the data.
If you ever have a chance to read Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Primary Storage (2019), head over to the section about Pure Storage. Gartner listed among the vendor’s strengths is simplicity. Gartner wrote: “simplicity is a foundational attribute of Pure Storage’s product and support strategy, reducing complexity, administration and maintenance, and underpinned by creative business programs.”
At a time when technology complexity continues to escalate enterprises need to find a balance between using complex technology and simplified but engaging customer interactions.
Rajnish Arora, vice president, enterprise computing at IDC Asia/Pacific commented that customers are increasingly looking to build a data platform layer in their environment that enables them to seamlessly orchestrate the right data services – block, file and object depending upon the workload profile, business SLAs and technology KPIs defined by data services such as replication, inline compression, and de-duplication among others.
“It is less about a specific hardware platform or system and more about how customers can create a seamless pool of storage resources to address their myriad requirements of their traditional mission critical as well as web scale modern workloads driving many of the digital outcomes that organizations are looking to achieve,” he elaborated.
He acknowledged that businesses may continue to seek best of breed storage platforms for very specific workloads that require the highest levels of IO performance and lower latency features and as a result deploy platforms that specifically power block, file or object storage workloads.
“Majority of heterogenous workloads are being consolidated on to platforms that support different data structures which has led to the strong growth in demand for unified storage platforms. This enables organizations to optimize the acquisition and deployment of storage resources and deliver higher levels of agility, responsiveness and resilience, powered by SW stack for orchestration, provisioning and management,” concluded Arora.
So, is there a value for on-prem storage delivered as a utility model? In my opinion, I think there was 18 years ago. It took years for companies in Asia to accept cloud as a viable storage repository for them, despite lingering security concerns.
The opportunities for on-prem storage will likely come from those businesses that will opt for hybrid storage strategy driven by regulation, and just maybe the need for better performance and reliability.
But that’s just my opinion.