This is a guest post by Eric Burgener, Research Vice President, Enterprise Infrastructure Practice, International Data Corporation (IDC). Mr. Burgener’s core research coverage includes Storage Systems, Software and Solutions, quarterly trackers, end-user research as well as advisory services and consulting programs.

As a market matures, the products of the leading providers often become more alike.  In the All-Flash Array (AFA) market, IDC has noted that among the top market share leaders, base product functionality is becoming increasingly similar, and most customers can meet their functional requirements with a number of different external storage platforms.  When this occurs, savvy vendors will come up with new ways to drive differentiating value from their offerings for their customers. In the enterprise storage industry, the focus on driving a strongly positive Customer Experience (CX) has become a meaningful differentiator.

CX goes far beyond just customer satisfaction.  It actually represents the entire customer journey, from initial contact with a vendor through system sizing, purchase, training, deployment, ongoing management, expansion, support requirements, technology refresh, and ultimately retirement.  IDC has researched CX as it applies to enterprise storage and published a primer: Net Promoter Score (NPS) Becoming an Important Metric for Enterprise Storage Managers to Understand (IDC #US43896818, June 2018).  IDC encourages their end-user clients to actively evaluate CX as a differentiator when choosing among different enterprise storage suppliers. (Note: See more information on Pure’s NPS.)

In IDC’s view, Pure Storage has been successfully differentiating themselves from their competitors for years through its ability to deliver a consistently positive CX that has reset customer expectations in the enterprise storage industry.  One of the key value drivers for the Pure Storage CX is the Evergreen™ Storage Program, first released in mid-2015.  The vendor has evolved the program over time as they have continued to innovate to their customers’ benefit, with the most recent enhancements to the program made available in calendar Q419.  This program has had a significant impact not only on Pure Storage’s customers (who benefit directly from it) but also on all enterprise storage customers. As Pure Storage’s competitors have been forced to respond with similar programs of their own, the CX for all enterprise storage customers has gotten better.

Evergreen Storage: Delivering a Consistent Customer Experience

What customers who are thinking about buying a new enterprise storage platform should realize is that the best of these types of programs are not just updated “technical support” programs.  They provide product features, guarantees, and programs that improve the performance, availability, capacity utilization, manageability, technology refresh, and total cost of ownership on enterprise storage platforms.  They also improve the predictability of the storage ownership experience – upfront guarantees ensure that customers know exactly what they will be getting and that there are no surprises, that the systems will perform as advertised, and that the systems can be non-disruptively upgraded with minimal risk. Finally, the best programs include hardware upgrade subscriptions that provide real economic benefits for routine modernization and expansion.  They also have a history of delivering demonstrable customer value, in addition to the above CX improvements, for years.

If this all sounds a bit “touchy-feely,” a quick read through an IDC white paper on the Evergreen Storage program will help to quantify the program’s differentiating features.  It will help the reader understand the product architecture and features Pure Storage has implemented that underlie and support the CX that the Evergreen Storage Program delivers.  It also explores how other aspects of the program impact cost, the length of the storage product life cycle, and the overall perception of value Pure Storage AFAs deliver. If nothing else, it provides a strong foundation from which prospective enterprise storage customers can explore CX as a differentiator among enterprise storage vendors.  Pure Storage has continued to innovate in the CX area even as their competitors seek to copy certain components of the program, and this has helped to keep them on the leading edge of CX in enterprise storage. The white paper is Pure Storage’s Evergreen Storage Continues to Be the AFA Market’s CX Program to Beat (IDC #US45761920, January 2020).