Today’s an exciting day for Pure Storage, as we’re both announcing the fourth generation of our technology (new fourth-generation FlashArray hardware, as well as the Purity 4.0 software), and we’re hosting a global online end-user event called the Flash Visionaries Summit. But before we get into either of these, I wanted to provide a little market context on how technology is evolving, and the new bar it’s setting for organizations to stay competitive in the global economy.
Information technology is being interwoven ever more deeply into the fabric of virtually every human endeavor, from business to education to government to charity. Marc Andreessen eloquently describes this transformation in Why Software is Eating the World, albeit with a pro start-up bent. With every organization increasingly dependent on software, speeding up that software becomes a difference maker. We are frankly spoiled by the near zero latency of the consumer web experience. Google instant search sets the bar—with every keystroke, the world’s information is instantly customized and at your fingertips.
What if you could get the same kind of near instantaneous response from the software that helps run your organization? One technology that’s poised to help you close the performance gap with the consumer Internet is flash memory. Bloomberg recently covered the explosive growth of flash in the data center. Really fast applications leveraging flash memory, like Google instant search, can have a profound impact on a business:
- Faster software can, for example, leverage real time feedback to deliver a few percentage points of higher yield in operations, which can mean $10s to $100s of millions to the bottom line for manufacturers.
- Faster analytics can enable an order of magnitude more information to be processed between, say, U.S. market close and Asian market open, allowing financial firms to make better trades than its competitors.
- Faster software is essential for customer satisfaction and retention in almost any industry. How many more customers does a B2C site that’s twenty times faster than it’s competitors attract, retain, and convert?
- And Faster software leads to a more productive staff and higher quality work product. If faster software enables doctors and nurses to be 20% more productive, that is good news for both patients and profits.
What impact could faster software have in your industry and your business? My guess is that it’s profound.
We propose that there are four foundational tenants of instant infrastructure for your data center:
- Speed – Nearly fifty years on, Moore’s Law continues to deliver exponentially improving performance;
- Cloud economics – Efficiency of buying and operating the technology should improve with performance (as Moore’s Law provides);
- Resiliency – Fault tolerance and self-healing must be implemented at all levels in the architecture; and
- Simplicity & programmability – The software-defined data center (SDDC) of the future depends on simple underlying administrative models that can be easily abstracted within frameworks like OpenStack.
If we consider a broader data center score card, the industry is generally doing well on compute and networks. It is storage that is not keeping pace, and that is due to the dependency on mechanical spindles:
- Fails on performance – While the rest of the data center has improved 1000 fold with Moore’s Law, mechanical spindles have gotten dramatically slower as the ratio of I/O to data stored has plummeted. (That is, there’s more data per disk, but with only the single read/write head, it’s as if we made the bus exponentially longer without adding any new doors.)
- Fails on cloud economics – While individual disks are cheap, buying and powering the 100s of often short-stroked spindles that make up a performance storage array is expensive.
- Passes resiliency – Hard drives themselves are prone to failure (meaning there’s the headache of swapping disks), but storage software makes disk arrays resilient in the aggregate.
- Fails on simplicity and programmability – The associated complexity in storage array configuration, provisioning and frequent performance tuning is a millstone around IT’s neck. (Think airplane cockpit in terms of all the operating “knobs and dials.”)
Flash memory is poised to close this gap. Flash memory already defines the consumer tech experience, as it is the storage used in smart phones and tablets for its speed and power efficiency. Flash is similarly deployed at scale in leading consumer data centers like Google, Apple and Facebook for the same reason. But flash has been applied far less in the business world. Why? Because it’s (1) been too expensive and it’s (2) not been packaged in form factors that were out of the box compatible with existing applications and infrastructure.
Pure Storage was founded to fix this, to provide all-flash storage that’s plug compatible with existing applications and systems, yet realizes the promise of the instant infrastructure.
The new product announcements Pure is making today put instant infrastructure in reach for every organization. From now on, there is no reason for your business to purchase new performance (oxymoron) mechanical disk. Returning to our data center score card, the All Flash Array (AFA) recipe pioneered by Pure aces the criteria:
- A on performance – Each AFA eliminates more than one million hours of latency per year between the applications and underlying storage, bringing storage from mechanical age to the solid-state age.
- A on cloud economics – The Pure Storage typically costs less to purchase than the disk-centric hybrid arrays it’s replacing, and it will save the business enough in power, cooling and human operations overhead to pay for itself over it’s first four years in the data center. And as a result of our average of 6:1 data reduction and native HA (no need to keep multiple copies to protect against hardware failures), Pure Storage is also more cost effective than server PCIe flash cards or even vanilla SSDs.
- A on resiliency – Pure Storage supports all of storage software robustness afforded by its disk-centric predecessors, including high availability, non-disruptive upgrade & expansion, snapshots, encryption, and (new with our 4.0 release) native replication for disaster recovery. Moreover, Pure Storage’s careful management of the underlying flash yields device failure rates of below .1%, perhaps 40X better than mechanical spindles.
- A on simplicity and programmability – The entire Pure Storage command line interface fits on a couple of business cards. It’s REST binding is similarly concise. Installation, configuration, provisioning and migration are each a snap. In completely rethinking management for solid-state, Pure has managed to shed decades of accumulated complexity in shared storage.
Until now, organizations seeking instant infrastructure generally had to roll their own storage from piece parts. With Pure’s products fully interoperable with existing applications and systems, but lower cost than both traditional performance disk arrays and commodity SSDs, it’s no surprise we’re the fastest growing storage vendor in history.
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