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There’s no question that the inaugural Gartner Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays (you can download a full copy here) is a watershed moment for the flash storage market. A great deal of innovation and hard work by Pure and our competitors went into creating this category, but of course it would have gone for naught if customers and partners hadn’t been prepared to bet on the technology early on. So it’s best to start with our sincere thanks—we are hugely grateful to those early customers and partners of Pure that were prepared to embrace new thinking and a new architecture for their performance storage needs.
With all of the free information flow on the Internet and social media one might think that Gartner matters less than it used to. Not in our view. Gartner has literally spoken to scores of our customers, and we get the impression they have done the same with our competitor’s. That anonymous aggregation and synthesis of customer feedback is still profoundly valuable to IT buyers, particularly when flash memory, hyper-converged and software-defined storage are fundamentally disrupting the industry landscape.
Which is why the Solid State Array MQ indeed represents an inflection point. Said Gartner in the report, “SSAs have matured to levels competitive with general-purpose storage arrays in all but scale.” Most all of Pure’s success to date has been in replacing Tier 1 mechanical disk arrays with all flash. We expect this trend only to accelerate with industry projections showing the cost of flash dropping below that of “fast” 10K and 15K rpm spindles in a couple of years (and that’s without the flash-friendly deduplication and compression that Pure introduced to the market in 2011). In Pure’s view, with all flash radically faster, more space and power efficient, more reliable and lower cost, why buy Tier 1 disk? Yet performance disk remains a huge market—estimated at $15B/year. No wonder the competition is fierce.
Pure welcomes that competition. Competition drives innovation, market growth, and customer and partner value. Competition makes us a better company, and we expect our own efforts make our competitors better. Nearly every deal in storage is contested for a reason—it’s the best way to maximize customer value. Without competition, new technology markets grow far less quickly.
Speaking of competition, it came as no surprise to us that EMC came out so close to Pure in the Leaders Quadrant. While there’s still a significant amount of upstarts contesting for attention and incumbent disk vendors striving to break into the category, the reality we see on the ground continues to be ferocious competition with EMC. In fact, we engage against EMC two and a half times more often than any other competitor. Give EMC credit for also seeing the market opportunity early. Five years ago, Pure’s founding thesis was that flash changes everything—that the storage controller software crafted for mechanical spindles would have to be rewritten for the solid-state era. While that was heresy at the time, the storage market leader EMC endorsed this view with two acquisitions—XtremIO and DSSD (each founded around the same time as Pure was). At least in the customer engagements that Pure is privy to, EMC is now leading with XtremIO rather than VMAX or VNX, reinforcing the scale of the disruption we are seeing.
While competition is essential for our market, let us add the caveat that it should be fair competition. We have seen competitors engage in unnatural acts—free all-flash arrays combined with maintenance forgiveness on existing storage in order to win business. Customers may want to keep in mind the old adage “you get what you pay for.” Vendors presumably would only engage in unnatural acts when they believe it to be in their long-term interest, such as if they are worried their products are behind a competitor’s, but they believe they can make up near term losses with future business at higher prices. It is also possible for competitors to use revenues from one customer to subsidize another, perhaps to try to hurt the competition more than themselves. If you are being offered such a deal, ask whether it is really in your best long term interest. How would you feel if you were the loyal customer that was inadvertently subsidizing someone else’s deployment, potentially one of your competitors? And if the vendor is that worried about a competitor, isn’t your leverage only going to go up by bringing the competing products into your data center?
No doubt we can expect our competition with EMC to continue to intensify, assuming the overall field narrows as we expect it to. Growth is key. Gartner predicts in the report:
By our reckoning these are conservative. Pure continues to average greater than 50% sequential quarterly growth, which is faster than NetApp, Data Domain or Nimble grew at their peaks, and faster than Cisco or Riverbed in their heydays. That may be why public market investors like Fidelity, T.Rowe Price and Wellington gave us a valuation of over $3B early this year, and we’ve had no slowing of growth since. 50% sequential quarterly works out to about 500% annually. If we are indeed growing well faster than the category itself, then we are taking share from the competition.
Looking forward, the Pure team could not be more excited about the opportunity in front of us. We believe we have assembled the best team in the storage industry and that we have an 18-month technology lead on the competition. The pace of our Tier 1 disk replacements continues to accelerate, even as the focus has begun to shift to cloud deployments, a sector we believe we have done well better than our competitors with many of the bellwether clouds now running some footprint of Pure Storage including LinkedIn, Workday and ServiceNow. We hope you will take a closer look at Pure to see if we fit into your future storage plans. At the very least we may be able to get you a substantial discount from your existing storage vendor(s) ;-).