Pure Storage makes all-flash storage iSCSI snappier

All-flash storage startup Pure Storage adds iSCSI support, space-efficient snapshots and VMware integration to its FlashArrays.

Recognizing it will take more than pure performance to make all-flash storage arrays mainstream, Pure Storage is adding iSCSI support, space-efficient snapshots and greater VMware integration to its FlashArray systems.

Pure Storage has added those features with its Purity 2.5 operating system, which is in beta. The startup will not make any hardware changes to its FlashArrays.

FlashArrays were Fibre Channel-only when they became generally available earlier this year. They now support Gigabit Ethernet and 10-Gigabit Ethernet iSCSI, which means customers don't have to buy FC connectivity to install a FlashArray.

Matt Kixmoeller, Pure's VP of product management, said the vendor will support additional file protocols down the road.

"Fibre Channel has been great for hitting the sweet spot of the data center, but Ethernet is good for emerging areas," Kixmoeller said. "We designed our systems from the start to be unified, and you'll see us add more protocols over time."

Pure Storage is also introducing ZeroSnap snapshots that take advantage of the inline deduplication that FlashArray has supported from the start. Kixmoeller said a FlashArray can instantly snap any volume with no performance impact or need to reserve space. The arrays treat snapshots as new volumes with no dependencies on other snaps. Pure claims 1,000 snaps can be taken in a minute with full read/write capabilities, and they are deduped and compressed. Customers can recover any volume from any snapshot on the array.

"Performance impact on traditional arrays comes from snapshots being tied to one another through metadata," Kixmoeller said. "Every snap on our system has its own metadata. And with a traditional array you have to copy data to a new volume byte for byte when you do a snap, but you double the storage you consume. Our snapshots are always on the back end, deduped or compressed."

The VMware enhancements include a vCenter Web client plug-in that lets customers manage FlashArrays through vCenter. FlashArray is also now vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI)-enabled.

"VM administrators don't want to deal with the SAN," Kixmoeller said. "They're not SAN administrators. We have a set of wizards in vCenter that automate the provisioning process. Instead of going onto the array to create LUNs and RAID and all that, you go into our wizards screen, give the LUN a name and size, and hit go."

The competition for all-flash arrays is getting hotter almost by the day, with new players popping up and established vendors getting into the game. IBM acquired all-flash vendor Texas Memory Systems last week, following EMC's acquisition of XtremIO in May. Other startups selling all-flash include Violin Memory, Nimbus Data, Kaminario, Whiptail, Skyera, Tegile Systems and SolidFire.

Ben Woo, managing director of storage consultancy Neuralytix, said the new features can help Pure Storage move flash from high performance applications to more mainstream storage needs.

"By adding iSCSI, Pure has recognized this is not just a pure performance play in large enterprises, but there's also a huge need in the mid-market that comes from VMware," Woo said.

Woo estimates no more than five of the startups selling all flash arrays will be around in three years. But he gives an advantage to newcomers who designed storage controllers for flash rather than spinning drives.

"Pure wasn't the first to market, but it has data efficiencies," Woo said. "It's a contemporary system, which means it hasn't been upgraded from a legacy system or bolted on or patched."

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