Pure Storage flash gets arrays bigger, smaller, cheaper

Pure Storage expands its all-flash array platform with an entry-level model, enterprise system and replication software.

Pure Storage today added entry-level and large enterprise models to its all-flash storage platform, along with policy-based replication across its arrays.

Pure said the software enhancements can reduce the cost of its arrays to $3 per usable GB, bringing it near the price range of high-performance hard disk drives.

Pure, which pulled in $225 million in funding in April, launched the 1U controller FlashArray (FA)-405 with from 2.75 TB to 11 TB of raw flash, and the 2U controller FA-450, which scales 34 TB to 70 TB of raw capacity and supports 16 Gbps Fibre Channel.

The new systems have the same architecture as the 35 TB FA-420, which has been on the market since 2013 and remains Pure's mainstream data center system. Customers can upgrade from a smaller Pure array to larger systems, adding either controllers to increase performance or solid-state drive (SSD) shelves for more capacity.

Matt Kixmoeller, Pure's vice president of product marketing, said the FA-405 is targeted for companies with remote sites and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) storage, while the FA-450 is for customers with a high volume of applications. "Customers typically bring us in to make some applications go faster. With the 450, we can support thousands of applications."

The Purity 4.0 operating system combines Pure's previous inline deduplication and compression and snapshots with new replication and data protection policies. FlashRecover Replication uses data reduction to reduce network bandwidth when moving data among FA arrays. It supports replication of data in a single volume, volume groups or entire arrays. It also supports one-to-many and many-to-one replication, with up to four arrays at launch.

Kixmoeller said replication was a missing piece from his company's flash lineup.

"Replication is the tipping point feature," he said. "Reasons for not bringing flash storage into a tier-one environment go away now."

Kixmoeller said Pure uses asynchronous replication and can replicate one snapshot per minute for a one-minute recovery point objective (RPO). Kixmoeller said Purity reduces the size of replicated snapshots by using metadata only.

Pure bundles all of its software in the base price of the array. The vendor said its arrays cost from $3 per GB to $4 per GB depending on the data reduction rate (it claims an average rate of 6-1), and projected that will come down to $2 per GB by 2015.

"We hope that will be quite disruptive to [the] whole storage business model out there," Kixmoeller said.

FA-405 pricing starts at less than $100,000 for 10 TB of usable capacity. The FA-405 and FA-450 are generally available, with Purity 4.0 expected to be available in June.

Tim Stammers, senior analyst at 451 Research, said Pure is making the right moves to stand out in a crowded field of all-flash array vendors. Along with the major vendors EMC, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and NetApp, all-flash systems are available from vendors who started specifically to sell all-flash arrays. They include Pure, Violin Memory, Nimbus, Kaminario, Skyera and SolidFire.

"It was important for Pure to add box-to-box replication," Stammers said. "And they made the box cheaper and bigger."

Stammers said if Pure hits its $2 per usable GB price goal next year, it will make it difficult for customers to resist all-flash storage. "Why not buy an all-flash array at $2 per GB? Companies will ask, 'If it's going to be cheaper than disk, why aren't we buying that?'" he said.

EMC 'guarantee' takes a shot at Pure

Pure's arrays have attracted EMC's attention.

During EMC World last week, EMC executives frequently showed a graphic matching IOPS performance of EMC's XtremIO against another flash vendor, which EMC reps confirmed was Pure. The graph displayed a straight line for XtremIO with lower IOPS performance that dropped off for the competitor. EMC said it provides more consistent performance because it never throttles or switches off its dedupe, which its competitor does.

EMC offered to pay $1 million to the first customer who can show XtremIO's inline data services are switched off, throttled back or defaulted to a system garbage collection. The offer is a gimmick because the XtremIO system does not allow those actions, but EMC is insinuating that other vendors do.

Kixmoeller said the numbers EMC showed for Pure are not from real-world customer performance, and he insisted Pure's data reduction is superior to XtremIO's.

"We're always flattered by EMC's attention," he said. "We see that as diversionary tactics to point away from our architectural differences. I don't know where the alleged performance testing results they showed come from, but we don't believe they represent what our customers see in their deployments.

"EMC does only one form of data reduction, and that's inline dedupe. We do five forms of data reduction, including compression. We see more value from compression, especially on databases, because they don't dedupe well."

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