There has been an interesting change in the enterprise storage world as the increasingly affordable and high-performance world of solid state drives has gradually but inexorably increased penetration into an area formerly the domain of spinning disk drives.
Of course, the value proposition for solid state drives is obvious: the fact that almost everyone is toting a mobile device that has its entire storage made up of flash has increased the awareness of the approach. That and the rapidly improving economics of actually delivering flash storage into enterprise customers has meant that vendors such as Solidfire and Pure Storage have managed to grow rapidly.
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So, when NetApp announced it was acquiring Solidfire last year, it was always going to be interesting to see what they would do with it and how other flash vendors would position themselves in the market.
And here we go, as expected, we have some announcements from Pure Storage designed at cementing their position in the marketplace. Pure Storage now calls itself the "market's leading independent solid-state array vendor." That's an impressive title, made slightly less so by the fact that all the large storage vendors have their own solid-state offerings. Of course, those large vendors are also somewhat conflicted by wanting to eke out the last opportunity from their legacy platforms, so maybe, after all, Pure Storage has a credible story to tell around its independence.
Future-proofing storage investments
Pure Storage is expanding its Evergreen Storage model. Evergreen is a novel offering, at least compared to traditional storage go-to-market models in that it allows customers to routinely upgrade the performance and scale of their solid state arrays with modern controllers. The idea being that organizations can, at least to an extent, "future proof" their storage investments.
Pure Storage is adding Capacity Consolidation to its offering in an attempt to help customers who are expanding their storage capacity to simultaneously consolidate older, less-dense flash storage and receive trade-in credit for that older storage.
Additionally, with the Right Size Guarantee, customers can bypass the risk of buying an array that doesn’t fit their needs and instead purchase directly on an effective capacity basis, just as their requirements indicate. The idea is to give customers, who are often loathe to embrace new platforms for fear of being trapped in a world of diminishing returns and increasing costs, to feel more comfortable. And customers seem to be responding, making all the right noises:
“With the new Evergreen Storage, Pure has taken another significant step in making the lives of its customers easier, which translates to direct benefit for our guests,” said Matthew Morgan, vice president of information technology at Red Hawk Casino. “The expanded Evergreen model eliminates the risky and expensive hardware upgrade cycle, and also means we’ll never have to worry about our capacity requirements not being met. That’s transformational for both our operations as well as our bottom line.”
The economic case for Evergreen Storage is pretty simple and straightforward: Pure Storage customers purchase every terabyte once, whereas with other vendors there is the tendency towards monetization models that see customers pay for storage on multiple occasions. According to Pure Storage, the result of its approach is significant and ongoing savings: a minimum of 33 percent, assuming the same initial purchase price for competitive arrays. While other vendors would argue about these points (indeed, Solidfire, before it was acquired, offered some similar future guarantees to customers), it is fair to say it is a novel approach compared to the norms a few short years ago:
“The Evergreen Storage model represents a positive and much-needed shift in the industry because it offers a way to reduce the pain and cost of the perpetual treadmill of storage hardware upgrades and data migration,” said Tim Stammers, senior analyst at 451 Research. “By adding Capacity Consolidation and the Right-Size Guarantee to the model, Pure is extending the potential to improve customers’ experience.”
One thing is for sure: Flash is here to stay. Whether an independent flash vendor like Pure can be the important player in the market remains to be seen. NetApp, for one, is pretty confident that flash as a component part of a wider storage story is the better approach. Time will tell.
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