June 1, 2016
We return with the second half of our interview with Joe Ferguson, sales engineer with Pure Storage. In the first part of our interview, we covered what distinguishes Pure from its competitors and the rest of a crowded storage industry. Joe has been with pure for about four years and possess over fifteen years of experience working on both the end-user as well as the vendor side of the storage industry.
Below, our conversation in the second half revolved around the rise of flash storage, the future of the medium, and Pure Storage success stories.
Check out part 1 of “The Value of Pure Storage and the Future of All Flash.”
Interview with Joe Ferguson (Cont’d)
Mindsight Blogging Team: For years there’s been obstacles for flash really taking hold at the enterprise level, especially with all flash arrays. What barriers has Pure been able to overcome to make flash marketable and successful for its clients?
Joe Ferguson: I think there have been two basic barriers. One has been cost and two has been the reliability, the resiliency, and the enterprise-readiness of the architectures themselves. Both of those elements have historically moved flash to corner use cases. They may solve for a specific need, but it has never been incorporated as a general-purpose storage array.
We’ve seen architectures that are a mix of spinning disk and flash, but even in those designs, the arrays are built around the geometry of spinning disk. When simply inserting flash into that equation, there’s no optimization. There’s no intelligence around the flash, so you’re taking a medium and putting it into an architecture that’s not designed for that medium. Ultimately, it’s not optimized.
What we set out to do was simply build the best general-use Tier 1 storage array out on the market.
A lot of people talk about flash from the performance perspective, and it’s certainly true that it’s a performant medium. But, when you think about a customer’s decision criteria around why they select a Tier 1 storage array, there’s a whole list of requirements. Data integrity is essential. Reliability, resiliency, and uptime are extremely important. Feature functionality is also very important. Flexibility, ease of use, and all of these things play into the decision making process. So I think that [the storage industry] really started to shift when we introduced Pure as an all-flash architecture that was built from the ground up. We built an array that solves for all those considerations. All the things that were historically table stakes for a Tier 1 enterprise-class storage array, we were able to incorporate into the design for Pure, and in many ways improve the experience.
It is an array that really solves for the bigger picture, not just for performance.
Second is cost, and there are two things helping with cost today. One, the introduction of data reducing techniques within the array helps drive down the cost per effective usable data capacity.
Pure Storage does in-line deduplication. We anchor segments at a 512 byte chunk size. Essentially, that is the most granular level of deduplication in any primary storage array on the market today. We also include compression in-line as well. We are effectively reducing the amount of storage required to hold data, and we get a lot more usage out of our raw terabytes of flash by three, four, five times. It’s very efficient and helps drive down the cost.
The second component is the adoption rate of flash overall and specifically our choice to use consumer-grade flash inside of the design of the array. Globally, we are seeing manufacturing prices decline. Flash in the consumer market is everywhere. It’s in all of our phones and iPads. Every device that we are using from an end-user perspective is using the same flash that’s in our array. I’ve seen a big shift even over three or four years where the cost per gig with flash is continually getting driven further and further down. The industry as a whole is moving to flash and the level of manufacturing overall is driving cost out, and when we can add even more efficiency with data reduction techniques, it further accentuates our ability to make it a cost effective solution.
MBT: If you cannot afford to completely replace your T1 storage with flash, how can a small business take advantage of a smaller investment?
JF: I’d answer that question in two ways. I think that cost is no longer going to be that barrier. Affordability of flash architectures is so much better than it was even last year— certainly more than it was five years ago—so that consideration is no longer a factor. If you replace your storage array today in full, you’ll find that the full effective cost of an all-flash array is going to be equal or better than other options you are looking at.
In the situation that a customer only has the ability to move some of its workloads over, one of the things we focus on at Pure is what can create the biggest business transformation for any customer. We take storage out of a commodity role and put it in a much more strategic role within any business today. You think about data growth, and you think about analytics and what we can do to drive new business and new innovation. You think about time to market. You think about the difference between real-time reporting and reporting on things that happened yesterday and how much more efficient a business can become.
We are having many conversations with customers in which we are the catalyst that provides 3-5x growth from a business perspective, because they’re getting information faster. They’re making better decisions. They’re making real-time decisions, and this has a specific and direct correlation with the success of the business itself.
Part of the reason we can have so much success there is because of the maturity and the reliability of the technology that we provide. Even our largest customers today have the confidence in the architecture to run mission-critical databases and workloads on Pure, so there’s a lot empirical evidence that we can run the lifeblood of a business.
We move storage from a commodity to a hero role.
MBT: In terms of moving storage from a commodity to a hero role, do you have an example of a success story that showcases that transition?
JF: I have a hundred. The hard part is not trying to find one, it’s trying to find which one. One of the greatest things is that, more than with any other, I’ve seen our customers are willing to talk and share. You can see on our website the amount of customer reference cases where they map out the effect on the business after their transformation to Pure.
MBT: How does Pure see the future of Flash Storage?
JF: Ultimately, we see flash as becoming ubiquitous. The cost is going to continue to decrease, the density is going to continue to increase. It’s already gotten to the point where flash is no longer going to be just a performance play. It’s also about the efficiencies you gain in cost, from a power, space, and cooling perspective. One of the things our founder says is that he cannot wait for the day when you walk into a data center and cannot hear a thing, because the world is driven by mediums that hardly require any level of cooling. There will be no fans anymore. It’s a quiet data center. That would be an amazing thing to see.
At the end of the day, flash is the technology moving forward. The shift has already happened. It’s no longer the outliers using flash. Everybody is using flash. What’s nice about Pure is that we make flash affordable for everybody. So it’s not just in your Tier 0 or Tier 1 workloads, it’s available for all use cases and all budgets across the board.
That was one of our original mission statements, flash for everyone, and I think we’re doing a good job of executing on that.
The Value of Pure Storage
Flash storage will be, as Joe said, ubiquitous throughout the industry. It vastly outperforms spinning disc in several metrics and is now available at a competitive price point. Contact Mindsight today to start a flash conversation that could transform your business.
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