I often get questions about the Pure Storage®  vision for cloud and our recently introduced Pure Cloud Block Store. Usually, the first question users and analysts ask is, “Why now?” 

My answer always begins by describing our effort to understand what our customers truly need. In today’s hybrid world, organizations are looking for consistency of experience. (It’s a key reason why Amazon Web Services introduced Outposts, Microsoft has Azure stack, and Google introduced Anthos.) Looking beyond hybrid adoption, organizations are also looking to embrace a multicloud strategy. According to a Gartner report, 81% of organizations are already working with two or more cloud providers.

Pure Cloud Block Store Does Much More Than Just Check the Boxes

Given today’s realities, rather than build a solution that merely checked the boxes, we took the time to research how you actually use cloud products.

  • What are the relevant cloud use cases?
  • What critical capabilities do they require?
  • What choices would help you solve real problems?

We found was a huge divide between on-premises and cloud capabilities. And the most apparent gaps involved the lack of storage capabilities. This divide is what led us to our cloud vision and, ultimately, to the products Pure introduced last year, including Pure Cloud Block Store (CBS).

Vision for Cloud Block Store for a Hybrid Multicloud World

As we designed our new products, we challenged ourselves to bring consistency across on-premises and cloud. This allows you to develop and deploy your applications according to your business needs and without compromise. We focused on four key product goals:

  • Highly available and predictable storage
  • Located within a single availability zone (AZ)
  • API and functionality consistent with on-prem Pure FlashArray
  • Cost comparable with all the alternatives (native cloud storage and other third-party solutions)

We looked at our competitors’ AWS Cloud implementations and found that their architecture was built on Amazon’s Elastic Block Store (EBS) storage. While there is nothing wrong with EBS storage, it lacks two key capabilities that are very important for us to provide the same experience in the cloud, based on our product goals.

  • Multi-attach with persistent reservation or shared writer. This capability allows high availability within the context of a single AZ, because it has the ability for two compute instances to attach to a single disk 
  • Anti-affinity (cannot guarantee data placement will be on fault domain isolated hardware)

Our competitors force their customers to make compromises. To get high availability, customers had to deploy across AZs, which increases cost by doubling the storage footprint and adding significant latency. Secondly, the lack of anti-affinity led to lower durability and reliability.

In comparison, Pure’s software runs on a variety of storage platforms/mediums, including commodity flash, purpose-built flash, and QLC. Cloud platforms are just another evolution. The AWS platform offered the building blocks for innovating with a unique approach to product design. 

Cloud Block Store Hybrid Platform

So we looked to answer that challenge with a very different design/approach. The AWS platform offered a great set of building blocks to innovate on. 

The key design decision for Pure was the introduction of a virtual drive which is an EC2 instance with an NVMe-enabled instance store. This allowed us to provide a highly available solution within a single AZ as both the EC2 instances (where Purity software runs) can see all the virtual drives. We also intentionally utilized seven virtual drives to adhere to AWS’s best practices of leveraging spread placement groups. A spread placement group places instances on distinct hardware which provides higher levels of resiliency. We weren’t done though. We took it a further step and mirrored all of the data to Amazon S3 , providing the highest levels of durability — 11 nines.

The design decisions we made with Pure CBS led to recognition as a “Well Architected Review” on AWS. This is a significant honor, and it signals that you can be confident that you’ve made a great choice deploying CBS for your applications and/or use cases in the cloud. 

Best of all, our new CBS architecture allows component upgrades in the stack without any application or business interruption. As AWS introduces new instances and storage options, you can be confident that Pure will look to embrace cost-effective options that provide great performance

The good news is we can incorporate those innovations in our solution in a non-disruptive manner. How cool is that? It may be worth asking your cloud vendor how they provide high availability, reliability, and non-disruptive upgrades within a single AZ – without doubling costs?

Pure Cloud Block Store: Cost-effective and Versatile

So we checked all the boxes on product goals. But now you must be thinking, “How costly is this?” That’s where our industry-best storage efficiencies come in. (It’s good to have the best software in the business.) Our superior data-reduction capabilities ensure we can provide the highest levels of availability/durability in a cost-effective manner. 

Today, we’re seeing Pure Cloud Block Store used for: 

  • Disaster recovery: Use cloud as the DR target and spin up applications in the cloud with the same Tier 1 capabilities identical to FlashArrays on-premises
  • Test/development: Create multiple test/dev environments in the cloud for space-efficient snapshots and clones;
  • Migration: Once you have your data in the cloud, you can migrate applications to the cloud because you have the same storage capabilities now in the cloud
  • High availability across AZs: With ActiveCluster capability, you can build a HA solution across AZs within a single region.

As-a-Service Pricing for a Hybrid Environment

Pure Cloud Block Store can help you address all your use cases in the cloud. Phew… we are done …. No wait … what about the commercialization piece? Once we built a hybrid technology framework (with the same software running on-premise and in the cloud), we needed to deliver a hybrid commercial solution too … enter Pure as-a-Service™. 

Today, you can leverage Pure as-a-Service across on-premises and cloud. So you enjoy one subscription for both on-premises and cloud. Now, you can de-risk your on-premises investment knowing that you can use any of the commitments you make on-premises in the cloud. Plus, you can move any of your capacity and term commitments to the cloud without signing a new subscription or making any modifications to your existing subscription. 

Cloud Block Storage as Subscription Storage

The result: You get a “true” hybrid technology and commercialization framework. 

Data Protection and Multicloud, Too

What about data protection in the cloud? You can leverage our CloudSnapcapability to snap your CBS data to Amazon S3 (in a different region) or even to Azure blob storage. It’s another layer of protection built natively into the Purity software at no extra cost. (Neat, eh?) It’s just how we do things at Pure. 

Providing multicloud capability is key as you move to the cloud. Because Pure Cloud Block Store is an abstraction layer that sits on top of native cloud infrastructure, you can provision and manage applications to that abstraction layer. And, in the future, you can bring some (or all) of those applications back on-premises or migrate them to another cloud platform. 

Today, Pure Cloud Block Store on the Azure platform is in beta and is built on the same principles as CBS AWS. You’ll be able to replicate data between on-prem and CBS AWS, on-prem and CBS Azure, and CBS AWS and CBS Azure for migration and/or DR purposes. 

Plus, we can deliver a close-to-zero recovery point objective (RPO) between on-prem and cloud platform(s) and/or across cloud platforms with our replication technology. The result is truly multicloud: You get the same software with all the tier-1 capabilities on all platforms and the ability to have close-to-zero RPO replication between on-prem and cloud platform(s).

Finally, after delivering CBS on AWS and Azure, we will look to extend our offering to other cloud platforms as well as provide capabilities beyond block. 

Cloud Block Store with Cloud Data Management and Storage Software

Thanks for your interest in CBS. What are your experiences supporting your organization’s transition to a hybrid world?