SaaS Eats Data Center Management
The title for this opening section is a riff on an essay that the entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen published in the Wall Street Journal. It is a great read and you can find it here.
The essay argued, five years ago, that software was the heart of innovation across a wide range of companies and swaths of the economy, and is essentially a key ingredient fueling growth. Since the essay’s original publication, the onslaught of software has only continued, perhaps nowhere more evident than the manner in which the SaaS (software-as-a-service) software delivery model continues to break into nearly every corner of the software world.
The proliferation of smart phones and tablets has made everyone aware of SaaS delivered applications in our consumer lives. Even in the enterprise, many line of business applications have moved to SaaS over the past couple years. SaaS for enterprises was popularized a decade ago by SalesForce.com and many employees are familiar with online tools for Human Resources and other functions. Even the “traditional” software goliaths like Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft have pivoted to a cloud first model.
The IT operations space is next up in this revolution, and when you start to look around the signs are everywhere. A few simple examples:
- ServiceNow is no longer a “startup” in the IT service management space. With a market cap of more than $11 billion (ticker: NOW), they are worth 1.5 times more than most well known incumbent BMC Software’s Remedy. BMC was taken private for just under $7 billion in 2013.
- Just like the larger application providers pivoted, the larger data center infrastructure providers are starting to pivot as well. A great example is Cisco’s acquisition of cloud managed wireless company Meraki, which has been on a tear lately.
Security is often brought up as an objection when SaaS for data center management is discussed, and it is a serious topic. A company’s user authentication system is one of the most critical parts of their IT infrastructure, and even authentication is moving into the cloud. Take a look at a new raft of startups such as Okta, OneLogin, Ping Identity and others taking on Microsoft Active Directory (as Microsoft themselves move AD into an Azure integrated as-a-Service model). If your user authentication system is in the cloud, why not enterprise storage management?
More than a year ago, Pure Storage came to the conclusion that enterprise storage management and support should be cloud-first as well, and hence we began the journey to build Pure1. What can a SaaS-based management experience be like? Like this:
Can We Create a White-Glove Storage Ownership Experience?
Beyond re-inventing the model with SaaS, our second goal was to fundamentally change the level of proactivity in storage support, re-define the vendor/customer relationship for the better. In the past the “divide” between storage products, storage management software, and the storage support process was enormous. Each designed and delivered by different organizations within the “big storage” company, they didn’t integrate particularly well with one another, causing a raft of complexity and disconnected experiences that the user was forced to sort-through on their own.
We, at Pure, had a desire to start doing more for the customer, and we felt like the line between storage management and support was blurring. If we started to actively monitor arrays, to call the customer and even login to arrays to mitigate issues, were we performing management or support tasks? We also realized that management and support were inherently global problems: customer staff at multiple sites, Pure employees, and maybe even partners all needed to collaborate to provide a great support experience, and a global SaaS platform was ideal for that.
We felt the other opportunity was to better-leverage technology and data. Since our inception, 1,000s of FlashArrays have been shipped and are constantly cloud-connected, sending rich telemetric data back to Pure Storage (note that Pure1 and our staff only have access to usage meta-data – not to any customer data on the array). We use that information to build better products by understand IO patterns and user behaviors to optimize our product experience. But we realized that we could also use that data to provide smarter and more proactive support. With both automated and human analytics, we could look for potential issues, and if one customer encounters a problem, we could fingerprint it and quickly analyze the rest of the user base to ensure we connect with other potentially-impacted customers, ideally preventing issues before they happen.
And so these are the ingredients that came together to form Pure1: Cloud/SaaS, big data, analytics, mobility, and an undying desire to provide the most proactive, white-glove support experience possible. If you’d like to meet the people behind Pure1, and hear more about our vision, you can watch a short introduction here:
Today we’re excited to unveil our first generation of Pure1 – Pure’s new cloud-based management and support platform.
Pure1 brings together four key modules:
- Pure1 Manage – cloud-based management, enabling customers to monitor their arrays globally from anywhere, and perform FlashArray administration with just a web browser.
- Pure1 Support – a proactive support experience, where our goal is to call you before you call us. In fact, Pure Storage opens 83% of our support tickets, and can resolve many of these tickets without customer intervention. If interacting with your array is required, our secure RemoteAssist technology allows us to connect to your array (with your authorization) and perform maintenance tasks.
- Pure1 Connect – sometimes management means automation and integrating FlashArray with everything else that’s in your data center. Pure1 Connect features an extensive set of APIs, automation toolkits, and application plug-ins to make it easy to integrate FlashArray monitoring and management within your tools of choice.
- Pure1 Collaborate – our active user community, where users, partners, and Pure Storage staff meet to solve problems, share ideas, and inspire one another.
Our Pure1 journey is just beginning. We’ve now on-boarded 100s of Pure Storage users onto the beta version of Pure1, which is officially GA as of today. We plan on rapidly iterating the Pure1 experience at SaaS speed, so please, be vocal with your feedback!
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