The Value of Pure Storage and the Future of All Flash Part 1 [Interview]


May 31, 2016

In May 2016, the Mindsight Blogging Team connected with Joe Ferguson, a senior sales engineer with the all flash storage developer Pure Storage. Joe has been with Pure for almost four years and worked in the storage industry on both the end user and the vendor side for over fifteen years. He is an expert and has excellent insight into what makes all flash and Pure Storage extremely valuable to today’s IT departments.


Interview with Joe Ferguson


Mindsight Blogging Team: Thank you for joining us today. To start, would you give a quick introduction as to who you are and your role at Pure Storage?  

Joe Ferguson: Sure. My name is Joe Ferguson. I’m a sales engineer with Pure Storage. I have been here for approximately four years, so I joined the company right after we went [general availability] with our first product.

My role here at Pure is to essentially meet with prospects to help better understand their environment, their goals and objectives, the challenges they face, and help educate them about Pure Storage. [I talk to customers about] what the technology does, what it can provide, how it relates to their goals and objectives, and how we might be able to solve for some of the challenges that they’re seeing. Additionally, if they buy into the idea of using Pure Storage in their environment, I also handle installation implementation services as well as all the care that comes after the fact.


MBT: Oh so you handle the account from beginning to end?

JF: Correct. Not all companies do it this way, but we tend to own everything from start to finish. I think that’s a nice thing, because it makes us much more responsible in how we’re architecting solutions.


MBT: Certainly, it shows a level of commitment.

JF: Correct. And I think it keeps us honest.


TBT: There are a lot of storage vendors in the industry today. From traditional storage companies to competing all flash vendors, how does Pure Storage differentiate itself in a crowded industry?

JF: At the very heart of what we do, Pure Storage defines itself as a software innovator. The goal for how we built storage architectures is to make the hardware transparent. Software is the key.

When you’re working with flash storage, it’s a new medium or a newer medium—certainly different than spinning disk—you need to design from the ground up an architecture that optimizes for all flash.

Now the advantage of focusing on software first is that it makes all the underlying hardware elements, not irrelevant, but completely interchangeable. Meaning, it gives us a lot of flexibilities and options on what we can do. In some ways, the idea was to take the cheapest—even just throwaway hardware components—and be able to effectively make them enterprise-worthy or enterprise-ready through very intelligent software implementation.

One of the things that we’ve seen even over the course of the last four years at Pure is that we’ve actually swapped out hardware components across the entire array architecture. Whether it’s through the drive types that we use, the chassis they’re housed in, CPU, memory, and our controller architecture, they’ve all transformed themselves. It’s because the one thing maintaining consistency is the software component.

It allows us to seamlessly transition through hardware revisions and take advantage of all the development work that’s being done in the world around advancing hardware, CPU, memory and different all flash technologies. We can effectively incorporate these advancements much easier into our design, because we’re not locked into anything specific from that perspective.

At the core of everything is software.


TBT: Okay, great. Beyond methodology and business strategy, are there other ways you would describe Pure Storage as different?

JF: I think there’s some other things that we definitely do from a differentiation standpoint. We would identify the pillars we stand on as three basic points.

First, we want to offer the best designed and built technology on the market today. Second, we want to offer our customers the best support experience possible. One of the things that is well known is that any customer who makes a decision to invest in any technology—once they’ve rolled that out on the floor—the day-to-day relationship becomes very dependent on the support organization of that vendor who supplied the technology. So we’re very focused on building a support organization that provides the best level of service a customer can possibly have.

Technology is not flawless. No technology is, right? But, any vendor’s ability to effectively support an existing customer and exceed the expectations that they would normally have around what support should be, provides a great experience. When it comes time to make a decision for a new project, they fall back on the experiences that they’ve had with support. It definitely helps to grow and maintain that relationship we already have.

The third way that we are really differentiating ourselves today is through a business model ultimately defined by the technology we have developed in-house. This is unique in the industry. We are setting the trend in this space, and we’re seeing other companies try to adopt similar models that we have put in place. The challenge they have is that they are adapting an existing technology to try to fit a new business model, whereas, the main difference is that our business models are fundamentally defined by capabilities of the technology.

A typical buying cycle for storage is to purchase hardware with three to five years of maintenance. At the end of year three or five, customers will start to see these “out years” of maintenance where it becomes much more expensive to maintain the existing hardware. It’s a model that effectively encourages these customers to buy new because it’s cheaper to buy something new.  It costs less for the vendor to support new hardware as opposed to maintaining older, depreciated hardware. So the customer buys new but it creates a situation where now you’re swapping out assets; you’re migrating data; you’re introducing risk; you’re managing multiple assets for months that are both depreciating at the same time. It’s very ineffective.

What we’ve done at Pure to change that paradigm is essentially build a technology that allows itself to upgrade in place, non-disruptively. To us, non-disruptively means application transparency around availability and performance.  Every component of the technology can be upgraded inside of the framework of what exists today. We want our customers to envision if they buy a Pure Storage array, they can use that array for 10-15 years, and over that course of time, the array is only going to get better, they will never have to migrate data and they get a very predictable maintenance run through that lifespan. Maintenance over time with Pure never increases. It always stays the same or in some cases it can actually become less. 

The upgrade-in-place philosophy allowed us to create the following model.  If you buy Pure Storage and get three years of maintenance, at the end of that three re-up for another three years of maintenance and we’ll guarantee that [the maintenance cost] will be the same or less than it was the prior three years. It’s like a subscription or leasing model.

By renewing 3 years of maintenance, we’re also going to upgrade or swap out your controllers for that year’s current controller models. So simply by maintaining that subscription-based maintenance payment, you’re getting a faster array, one that can maintain expanded capacity – all of the advancements in CPU, memory and controller architecture that we’ve implemented become yours simply by maintaining your status as a supported customer with Pure.

It‘s all defined by the fact that the technology can update in place, and it all goes back to being driven by software.


Join us for Part 2 of Our Interview with Pure Storage

In the second half of our interview with systems engineer, Joe Ferguson, we cover the shifting landscape of the storage industry, how all flash storage became competitive with hard disk storage, and the future of all flash storage. Joe also gives us a few Pure Storage success stories detailing how flash can transform a business from top to bottom.

Continue the interview with “The Value of Pure Storage and the Future of All Flash Part 2.”   

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