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Pure Storage Aims To Close The Flash Price Gap

Startup says its flash storage is cheaper than high-performance HDDs by using deduplication and compression as standard features.

Pure Storage focuses on the scale-up midrange and enterprise market. That means that it does not focus on the service provider market where quality of service (QoS) software is important, such as “noisy neighbor” multitenancy issues where one user may try to hog resources. However, the company does need to focus on storage management software basics, such as replication technology.

Scale-up versus scale-out approaches to storage have been much debated, but practically speaking, scale-up meets the needs of many customers, and trying to be all things to all men may not be in the best interests of Pure Storage. One challenge for Pure Storage is the scale-up hybrid storage array that mixes flash and HDDs. Such products are available from many vendors, including large ones that have marketing and sales muscle, as well as an installed base of customers for whom switching costs would be an issue.

A second challenge is from competing all-flash array vendors. These may also be able to support deduplication and compression so that, in time, the data reduction claims that are Pure Storage’s bread and butter will become check-box items. However, Pure Storage argues that doing this with the necessary latency and reliability requirements is very difficult, and that its competitors may not be able to duplicate what it's already demonstrated.

Still, Pure Storage is not just about price, but also ease of use and other qualities that have attracted customers to the company. Moreover, the company feels it has an 18-month window to effectively deploy its $150M on development that can give its products a somewhat sustainable competitive advantage. In addition, the company plans to tighten its marketing and sales focus to build a stronger customer base to the growing number of new prospects that market forecasts suggest are receptive to the idea of deploying an all-flash array for primary storage.

Mesabi Musings

The topic of flash -- when, where, how much -- is probably the hottest storage topic today. Many flash configurations and architectures have proven to be quite attractive for many use cases. Still, there is a lot of untapped potential, and one means of capturing that potential is to overcome perceptions that all-flash storage arrays are too expensive relative to high-performance HDDs.

Pure Storage argues that the combination of deduplication and compression as standard functionalities on its all-flash storage arrays results in 6 TBs of usable storage for each 1 TB of raw flash storage, enabling it to compete economically with HDDs where 6 TB of raw and usable capacity are the same. On a level playing field, Pure Storage believes that it can win the case for why buying all-flash storage arrays is better than buying hybrid or traditional storage arrays. That should be an interesting conversation, but one where price difference is not the only or determining factor.

Pure Storage is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

[Find out how flash-based SSDs work and the various ways they can be deployed in Howard Marks' session "SSDs in the Data Center" at Interop New York Sept. 30-Oct. 4]

David Hill is principal of Mesabi Group LLC, which focuses on helping organizations make complex IT infrastructure decisions simpler and easier to understand. He is the author of the book "Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance." View Full Bio

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