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Pure Storage SSDs Address VDI, Database Challenges, But Is Focus Too Narrow?

Pure Storage, an all-flash enterprise storage vendor, is upgrading its FlashArray with new software to deliver higher resiliency via active/active high availability, FlashCare Technology and an enhanced Data Integrity Fabric. Purity Operating Environment 2.0 also features always-on encryption with zero-key management, a new Web user interface and command-line interface, and VMware vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) support.

The company has been keeping a low profile for the last two years, shipping more than 100 units to financial services, manufacturing, Web/high tech, government and cloud service providers as part of its Early Adopter Program, which is now ending. Customers run a variety of mixed workloads--including virtualized servers and desktops, and Oracle and SQL databases--achieving, on average, 5.8-to-1 reduction in their data from the FlashArray’s deduplication and compression algorithms.

Pure Storage officially unveiled its initial product offering, the FlashArray FA-300 Series, last August, calling it more than 10 times faster and 10 times more space- and power-efficient, at a lower per-gigabyte price, than disk-centric arrays. The 100% multilevel cell (MLC) flash-based array is game-changing, says Matt Kixmoeller, VP products. Customers achieved data-reduction ratios that ranged from 4-to-1 to 7-to-1 for Oracle, 6.8-to-1 to 9.2-to-1 for Microsoft SQL, and 15-to-1 to 17-to-1 for VMware, along with reducing the number of servers and improving query times.

Kixmoeller says the two primary use cases are database and virtual server/virtual desktop. Databases tend to be about speed, and disk can't cut it, he says. Pure Storage is also seeing a nice pickup in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). "The [VDI] ROI case is fragile at best and often gets destroyed by storage." In addition to solving the storage cost problem, customers are also seeing a great end-user experience--much faster than legacy desktop PC experience, he says.

VDI has an unusual problem, says analyst George Crump, founder of Storage Switzerland. To satisfy users you have to provide persistent desktops, and persistent desktops require the use of golden masters and linked clones. These two features put a heavy write load on the hypervisor because it has to dynamically allocate disk space before it can perform the write.

In addition, the storage I/O blender is even worse in virtual desktops because there are significantly more virtual machines per host than in virtual server environment, he says. "The combination of all of these wreaks havoc on mechanical disk drives, so solid-state disk systems are a great fit until you have to pay for them."

This is where Pure Storage has an advantage, says Crump. It combines thin provisioning, compression and deduplication to lower the cost of the SSD investment. Also, deduplication eliminates the need to do golden master/linked clones. Deduplication will provide a better overall storage effectiveness than will golden masters and linked clones without burdening the hypervisor with the task of management.

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