Thursday, 19 September 2019 07:35

Pure Storage moves up and down market

Pure Storage vice president of strategy Matt Kixmoeller Pure Storage vice president of strategy Matt Kixmoeller

New products from Pure Storage variously address customers' diverse requirements for higher performance and lower cost storage.

The new FlashArray//C, available immediately, is said to be the industry's first capacity-optimised all-flash array.

"Businesses in every industry today rely on data analytics to make critical decisions," said Pure Storage FlashArray general manager Prakash Darji.

"Modern business requires fast access to all data, affordably, whether it's mission critical or tier two and tier three workloads and applications. While this has historically been cost prohibitive for customers, FlashArray//C breaks down new economic barriers and enables faster access to data wherever customers need it."

FlashArray//C makes flash storage available for tier two applications at prices similar to disk storage.

This has been achieved by using a new version of the DirectFlash module that incorporates QLC (quad-level cell) flash memory.

QLC provides greater density at the cost of reduced endurance and reliability. However, Pure's Purify software and its Evergreen support offset those problems, delivering 99.9999% availability, 5:1 average data reduction and 10:1 total efficiency, according to the company.

Apart from the use of QLC, the only other significant difference between the //C and the //X is that the new model has less DRAM on the controller card, according to Pure Storage CTO Alex McMullen.

The FlashArray//C 60 comes in three standard configurations: 366TB (1.3PB effective), 878TB (3.2PB) and 1.4PB (4.2PB). These relatively large capacities are needed to achieve price parity with rotating storage, explained Pure Storage vice president of strategy Matt Kixmoeller.


5PB of //C storage configuration occupies just 9U of rack space, he noted.

Tested applications for the FlashArray//C include virtual machine tiering, tier two disaster recovery, dev/test, snapshot consolidation, and analytics.

Some VMware integrations are already provided, and a VM tier recommendation engine is under development.

Pure Storage ANZ vice president Michael Alp expects the FlashArray//C will appeal to customers currently using tier two storage from other vendors.

"We have a lot of customers wanting the C class now," he told iTWire.

The //C was originally planned for release in 2020 when QLC flash would be more readily available, McMullen told iTWire, but the customers and analysts given an early look at the product wanted it right away.

"Knowing we've got options... is great," said Pronto Cloud general manager Chris Dickinson. The //C could be a way to add storage more cheaply without sacrificing availability.

There are plans to diversify Pronto Cloud away from solely offering the Pronto ERP system, he said, and the //C could help with those efforts by reducing storage costs.

Fletcher Building IT operations manager Dale Field told iTWire that the //C"really does fill a gap" in terms of storage for non tier one applications. "It's going to lower our cost of expansion," he added.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation head of technology Clint Watson is also interested in the //C as a way of more affordably storing the organisation's growing digital media library. Such files – especially video – are large and relatively incompressible, so capacity-optimised storage makes sense.

For Pure customers requiring increased performance, DirectMemory Cache can be added to FlashArray//X70 and //X90 arrays.

Based on Intel Optane storage class memory, DirectMemory Cache requires no configuration. "It just slides right in," said Kixmoeller.

Once installed, it provides a 25 to 50% latency reduction which can as much as double the speed of certain applications. "Just plug it in and go faster," he said. "Every database transaction can benefit from 2x performance... plug it and your business goes faster."

A side effect is up to 25% lower CPU utilisation, potentially allowing savings in software licence costs.

DirectMemory Cache is available immediately. But don't expect it to get cheaper any time soon. Optane memory is likely to stay at the same price point for several years, McMullen told iTWire.

FlashArray with DirectMemory

A new FlashBlade (rack-scale flash storage) configuration with 150 blades providing 8PB of object storage in a single namespace is now available to selected customers ahead of its general availability, Pure Storage vice president of FlashBlade strategy and solutions Amy Fowler announced.

This larger namespace appeals to customers engaged in activities such as rendering and seismic data analysis. Some companies are looking for even bigger namespaces, but 8PB is enough for probably 99% of the market, said Alp.

In related news, Pure announced Cloud Block Store for Amazon Web Services and CloudSnap for Azure.

Cloud Block Store for Amazon Web Services is the block storage part of Purify, "deeply optimised for the Amazon infrastructure," according to Kixmoeller.

It provides consistent data services, resiliency and bi-directional mobility between AWS and Pure on-premises storage, with the same APIs. This is "unique in the industry," he claimed.

Cloud Block Store for AWS suits a wide range of use cases, Kixmoeller said, including migration to and from the cloud, disaster recovery to the cloud, dev/test (whether development is done in the cloud with production on-premises, or vice versa), and high availability across availability zones.

"Private and public cloud storage too often operate in separate worlds," said Pure Storage chief architect Rob Lee.

"As more and more customers adopt hybrid cloud, it’s critical that their infrastructure is optimised for data mobility. Pure's Cloud Data Services exist to bridge the divide for customers and deliver the full value of data across any project or initiative."

Cloud Block Store for AWS had some beta users in Australia, Alp told iTWire, adding that it appeals to 'cloud-first' customers who see how it helps with migration, as well as those who intend to keep a foot in both on-premises and cloud camps.

Furthermore, almost all of Pure's Australian customers are AWS users, so "they [AWS] are a perfect partner for us."

Pure's ability to run its storage software on AWS is a unique divergence from the rest of the industry, McMullen told iTWire, and allows it to aim at everyone with a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy.

Without making any specific commitments, Kixmoeller said Cloud Block Store will "proliferate to other clouds." Although he didn't mention any names, McMullen told iTWire that the company has software in alpha or beta testing for the other major cloud providers.

CloudSnap for Azure joins CloudSnap for AWS. It allows snapshots to be moved to the cloud for retention.

Purity CloudSnap allows rapid recovery on-premises or in the cloud.

CloudSnap is "really interesting," Fletcher Building IT operations manager Dale Field told iTWire. The company operates in a low-margin business, so it can't afford duplicate arrays, but CloudSnap provides another way to handle disaster recovery with the right balance between cost and time to recover.

"Pure has made a number of key product launches and acquisitions to fill out its vision around cloud, and create solutions that maximise the strategic impact of customer data across a diverse ecosystem of tools which makes today's environments difficult-to-navigate," said 451 Research research vice president Henry Baltazar.

"Consistent data insight and data movement continue to be major challenges for organisations today especally as they try to navigate between multiple public and private clouds to put their data to work. Pure's latest cloud services are designed to improve the resiliency and accessibility of this data in these modern multi-cloud environments which are becoming increasingly complex."

Pure also announced AI Data Hub. Developed with GPU vendor Nvidia, it is an end-to-end AI pipeline solution for enterprises.

"Enterprise organisations that have existed and done business one way for decades now find themselves working hard to build a business for the future," said Fowler.

"To truly compete going forward will require large-scale, multi-phase AI initiatives, and Pure has innovated with that particular set of challenges in mind"

AI Data Hub is based on Pure's FlashBlade file and object storage system and the co-developed Airi (AI-Ready Infrastructure), providing data scientists with an opportunity for major improvements in productivity, faster time-to-market, and more informed data-driven models.

It accommodates the entire AI pipeline rather than a single phase, and eliminates risk of failure when scaling from proof-of-concept to production, according to Pure Storage.

"With Airi powered by Nvidia DGX systems and Pure Storage FlashBlade, Nvidia and Pure have been making it faster, easier and more cost-effective for every enterprise to deploy and manage AI at scale," said Nvidia vice president and general manager of DGX systems Charlie Boyle.

"The AI Data Hub increases the value of our joint solutions by accelerating data science workflows, powered by Nvidia Cuda-X AI software and DGX systems for faster iteration, with greater developer productivity and accelerated time-to-insight."

When iTWire asked McMullen to peer into his storage crystal ball, he pointed out that QLC requires sophisticated software because the difference between each of the 16 states (four bits can take 16 different values) is so small that reading one cell can change the value of an adjacent cell. Despite that, Pure is staying with its lifetime warranty, and "I'll eat my hat if anyone else in the industry does that."

QLC will be the technology for capacity-optimised systems for at least the next three of four years, he said. McMullen expects that when penta-level cell flash comes to market in a few years it will be no faster than disk drives, at least initially, but it could be useful for the storage of cold data within an all-flash array.

Whatever storage technologies come along, they will be accommodated by Pure's NVMe lanes, he said.

Disclosure: The writer attended Pure Accelerate as a guest of the company.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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