All-Flash Arrays: The New Tier-1 in Storage


Just under a year ago I joined Pure Storage and shared, “the flash-enabled datacenter is the next seismic shift in IT infrastructure technology.” At that time, some questioned the departure from a large storage industry leader to Pure, an innovative start-up. Those who asked why cited a number of reasons ranging from the miniscule size of the tier-0 market to a view of Flash as a commodity hardware component available to all storage arrays to economically friendly hybrid architectures, be they array-based, comprised of host side caches or a flavor of converged infrastructure.

That was Then…

Flash-forward to today (2014) and you’ll notice a strikingly different storage landscape. Industry leaders like EMC & HP have launched capacity efficient All-Flash Array platforms that are available around the price of disk. In less than 12 months, the storage market has innovated and pivoted to position All-Flash Arrays as the new form of tier-1 storage.

Be it through acquisition or retrofitting, these products validate the innovation Pure Storage brought to market in 2012 wherein data reduction technologies radically change the economics of NAND flash. Ironically flash was originally brought to market by pioneers like Violin Memory, Texas Memory Systems and Fusion-IO, who sought to establish a new high performance (and priced) form of storage called tier-0.

The market has simply moved. Customers seemingly overnight stopped saying, ‘I don’t need flash performance’ and began to understand how AFAs are superior on every measurable metric – latency, throughput, operational simplicity and data center requirements (rack units, power and cooling).

Redefining Tier-1 Storage

Innovation never sleeps but sometimes storage vendors like to nap. Flash is fast, so do yourself a favor and skip the barrage of speeds and feeds that the storage market promotes. In all seriousness, how does a 4KB, aligned, 100% read IO load benchmark help you size an array? While the big storage vendors focus on ‘lab queens’ in an attempt to blow your socks off with numbers that you’ll never see with your application (aka the real world), we set out to redefine tier-1 storage.

With the release of Purity 4.0, Pure Storage remains the innovative leader in the flash storage market. In addition to the most advanced data reduction capabilities, the FlashArray uniquely provides…

Storage vendors likely will dismiss these features in lieu of an emphasis on the performance of flash. Why not it’s fantastic, but why would you limit your datacenter to only the performance of flash?

Reviewing Tier-1 in Today’s Data Center

IT departments are being retooled to operate more like a service provider and as such must stop to consider what elements in an AFA will make them successful. Consider virtual infrastructures – these systems account for at least half of the systems operating in the vast majority of today’s data centers.

IT departments have lost control of the end point (AKA the VM). In virtual infrastructures IT supports unknown file system block sizes and application page sizes. They lack insight into the IO read/write mix, number of and size of IO streams (transaction vs queries), and the business processes associated with the application (like batch processes, backups and clones).

All-Flash delivers consistent performance to support the unexpected changes from unknown workloads. Adaptive-IO sizes optimize the performance capable from the AFA and multiple data reduction technologies allow AFA platforms to be universal adopted and not limited to a single-point solution. Non-disruptive modular scaling of capacity and performance allows one to adopt flash today with the assurance that they can grow when they need to and without any drop in performance, availability or changes to the environment.

These benefits are huge. They provide real world benefits to operation teams above and beyond the performance flash provides the application.

Flash Market Evolution 2014


The Market has Moved

Whether it’s EMC proclaiming ‘the orange line in as fast as a floppy’ at EMC World or more recently HP stating ‘yellow is the new orange’ it seems Pure has set the bar for success with both industry leaders. They dismissed the market, have begrudgingly entered and immediately claim superiority. This is a significant change in perspective and one that reminds me of this quote:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” — Mahatma Gandhi

I love what we are doing at Pure Storage – helping customers make tremendous gains in their ability to deliver better user experiences, gain more insight from their data, differentiate themselves in highly competitive markets, and begin their journey towards a greener, more sustainable datacenter.

This is a seismic shift and there’s much more to come. Soon All-Flash Arrays will emerge in the tier-2 storage space. This market will build off of today’s innovation and will require significantly more above and beyond flash economics. We suspect these datasets will be measured in new ways like petabytes managed per administrator, gigabytes available per watt and usable capacity per rack.

Until then…. cheers!


1 Comment

  1. I’m happy for you that you enjoy working for Pure Storage, but, really, Pure Storage is not in a position to criticize other storage companies. Maybe someday they will be, but that time is not yet.

    For example, since you brought it up, let’s talk about flash performance. For years Pure Storage published an 8k number just like almost every other all-flash vendor. But as more competitors entered the market, it turned out Pure’s numbers weren’t so good. So what’s a start-up to do? Well, change the game and start publishing numbers based on 32k chunks, and at least leave some doubt in customer’s minds whether the competition would do as well in that sized increment. Fact is, Pure is fast compared to a spinning disk array, but as far as I can tell, it’s the slowest all-flash array on the market. Okay, maybe customers don’t have to buy the fastest AFA, but do they really want to buy the slowest? And why is Pure so slow? I’m sure you know why, so why point a finger at competitors.

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