Today’s an exciting day for Pure Storage, and a good day for deep and meaty blog posts.  If you have’t already, please first read our CEO, Scott Dietzen’s blog giving an update on Pure market traction, and introducing our new vision/mission – Flash for All.  On the product news side, this post is the second in a two-part post detailing our product announcements.  The first introduces the new FlashArray FA-400 Series hardware, and this post goes through the new Purity Operating Environment 3.0 Software.  As always, you’ll see tons of details and even demo videos below.  Purity is the core software IP that powers the FlashArray, and let’s not forget, its all about the software.

 

Purity 3.0 – More Resilience, More Performance, More Secure, More Interoperable, and More Supportable.

Yes, if there was a theme for this release, it was simply “more”.  Perhaps that alone is a good place to anchor this discussion – now entering our third generation of product maturity, the FlashArray delivered “the basics” of an all-flash array years ago.  This release is really about Pure Storage hitting its stride, and expanding aggressively in some important areas for customers.  If you’d like a video tour of all the new features, simply press play below, and if you’d like to go deeper, just scroll down.

So what’s new?  So much we almost couldn’t fit everything on one slide :).  Here’s a visual overview of everything that’s new in Purity 3.0, we’ll hit every box on this page:

More Resilience: Non-Disruptive Everything

Perhaps for first-generation flash devices, which generally were deployed to accelerate a single database application, getting an outage window from the DBA to do an upgrade was manageable.  But for true enterprise consolidation arrays like the FlashArray, when you host 100s or 1,000s of applications, taking an outage for an upgrade just isn’t an option.  The FlashArray’s stateless controller architecture and independent storage shelves enable us to deliver non-disruptive everything:

  • Capacity expansion: add additional shelves to expand the capacity of the FlashArray online.  Good luck expanding your flash appliance toaster!
  • Controller upgrades: move between controller generations completely online to add performance.  Our existing FlashArray FA-300 customers can non-disruptively double the performance of their arrays by moving to FA-400 controllers.
  • Software updates: the world of flash changes fast, and we update FlashArray features every 3-6 months.  Perform feature updates and maintenance updates online.
  • Flash or controller replacements: occasionally, hardware fails.  The FlashArray was designed with redundant everything, so flash SSDs, NV-RAM devices, fans, power supplies, and even controllers can be replaced online.
  • All without performance loss!  Non-disruptive doesn’t just mean hosts maintain access to storage, it also means no performance loss.  Since the FlashArray is significantly over-provisioned in every dimension, all the above maintenance can be performed without availability OR performance loss.

Seeing is believing?  We’ll here you go.  In these two videos Chas. Dye, database solutions architect, will demonstrate a software update under heavy load, and show the process for controller upgrades:

Read more about Non-Disruptive Everything on our site.

More Performance: Ultra-Fast ZeroSnap Snapshots

We talked a lot about performance in the last post on the new FA-400 hardware, but performance also extends deeply into the software.  In many competitive products where software is an afterthought and retrofit to the flash core, software features are optional and often come with a heavy performance penalty when enabled.  The FlashArray was designed from the ground-up with software at the core of the architecture, and that software is always-on: always deduplicating, always  compressing, always encrypting (see below), and always snapshotting.  In legacy arrays, snapshots in particular are often a performance Achilles’ heel: they impact performance of the primary volume, have all sorts of restrictions in how they can be used and are managed, and often don’t perform all that well themselves.  Pure Storage’s ZeroSnap Snapshot feature is one of the best features to demonstrate the flexible, metadata-driven nature of the Purity Software.  ZeroSnap’s name derives from that low overhead: zero performance impact, zero pre-planning required, zero restrictions in use, and zero space consumption of the snapshots once taken.

We first introduced ZeroSnap in Purity 2.5 where it was an “early adopter” feature in test with a portion of our customer base, and we’ve now GAed it for broad use across the customer base with Purity 3.0.  Seeing is believing?  Well here you go.  Watch Chas. Dye, DB Solutions Architect, demonstrate taking 500 snapshots in one minute while the FlashArray is under heavy Oracle load without impacting the primary volume performance.  Then see him mount snapshots 1, 250, and 500, and run a workload on each at even higher performance, proving that a) they are independant, b) they all perform the same, and c) they don’t impact one another.

Perfer testing your snapshots in an application environment?  We’ve got that too.  See Chas. demonstrate how easy it is to leverage ZeroSnap to clone production Oracle databases, even demonstrating the consistency groups feature, which enables multiple volumes to be snapshotted at a consistent point-in-time for application-level protection:

Read more about ZeroSnap on our site.

 

More Performance: ZeroSnap Accelerated VM Cloning (leveraging VMware VAAI xCopy)

Hopefully the discussion on ZeroSnap gave you a sense for the power of metadata-only snapshots.  One of the interesting nuances of the ZeroSnap implementation, is that it was not only built to snapshot any volume or group of volumes consistently, but also any part of a volume, or really any block range within the FlashArray, instantly.  One of the best ways to demonstrate the power of this capability is a new Purity 3.0 feature: ZeroSnap Accelerated VM Cloning.  What Accelerated VM Cloning does is it accepts xCopy commands from VMware vSphere via the VAAI API, and instead of interpreting them like a normal array would (i.e. copy blocks a..b to new location y..z), it simply creates a ZeroSnap snapshot of the metadata of that block range, instantly duplicating the metadata while leaving the original data alone on the SSDs.  The result is that VM cloning operations happen in a matter of just a second or two (most of this time is actually vSphere processing the command), enabling the cloning of 1,000s of VMs in about an hour.  Let’s compare the advantage with an existing disk array, even if the disk array implements xCopy as well (in this case a top-of-the-line EMC Symmetrix):

 

 As you can see, cloning time for a 40GB VM moves from minutes to 2 seconds, and more importantly the clones are pre-deduped, no data movement or space consumption (other than a small amount of metadata)!  ZeroSnap Accelerated VM Cloning is a potential life-saver for persistent VDI environments, or test/dev labs which make frequent use of cloning.  The same xCopy implementation also helps speed VMware Storage vMotion operations as well!  Want to see how ZeroSnap Accelerated VM Cloning works?  Check out this chalk talk:

Read more about ZeroSnap Accelerated VM Cloning on our site.

 

More Secure: Always on Data-at-Rest Encryption with built-in Key Management

Data security has been a growing challenge over the years.  Whether you are worried about patient data, customer credit card info or SSNs, or just want to avoid having a “front page of the paper” moment, ensuring proper security is a multi-layer approach.  Encrypting data at rest used to involve a series of painful trade-offs.  You typically had to deploy expensive encryption devices at some point in your storage IO path: appliances in the middle of the network, host HBAs on each server, or host-based file system plugins.  Each came with its own performance and management penalty….not to mention the key management pain, process, and risk.  In short, encryption required a complex solution, and the planning, management, and procurement that comes along with such a solution.

Pure Storage decided to turn the equation on its head.  What if encryption was free, effortless, had no performance impact, and was just an always-on feature of storage?  What if all the thought around encryption could be taken away, and it was always just there?  Always-on, but totally invisible to all?  Zero management, zero performance overhead, zero risk and zero worry…just effortless protection?  That’s Pure Storage’s always-on data-at-rest encryption.

Why is data-at-rest encryption important?  It protects data from physical loss, such as: a) theft of an individual or set of SSDs from the data center, b) theft or loss of a failed SSD being transported during replacement procedures, c) theft or loss of SSDs during de-commission at the ends of their useful life, or d) transport of a full array between data centers.

Let’s explore the Pure Storage encryption features:

  • Always on, just like all the other software services in the FlashArray: deduplication, compression, and snapshots.  The actual encryption is performed by the ASICs inside each SSD, meaning that there’s no risk to performance.  The encryption algorithm is AES-256, and is implemented in both the SSDs and NV-RAM devices in the FlashArray (the two places data is persistently stored).
  • Zero management.  So simple, you don’t even have to remember to turn it on, it’s always on.  No keys to manage or rotate, no passwords to supply, just effortless data-at-rest encryption.
  • Built-in key management.  In the FlashArray, there’s never keys to worry about or manage.  They keys divided into fragments and stored in the public (non-encrypted) regions of each SSD.  When the FlashArray is booted, it looks for a “quorum” or majority of the SSDs.  As long as enough of the SSDs are present, a quorum is formed, the keys are assembled from key fragments stored on each SSD, and the entire array is “unlocked” and can begin serving data.  Conversely, if a single or small number of SSDs are stolen or found in the wild, there is no way to piece-together their keys without a quorum of the drives.

With Pure Storage, encryption is effortless – no performance penalty, no management penalty, and no additional cost.  Read more about encryption on our site.

More Interoperable: New OpenStack CINDER Driver and AIX Support

The FlashArray is already best-in-class in terms of platform support and interoperability testing.  In fact, Pure Storage has spent over $5M since inception on its state-of-the-art testing, verification, and interoperability lab, and maintains a lengthy set of interoperability partnerships. In this release we’ve completed our full implementation of the VMware VAAI APIs, including both xCopy and Thin Provisioning support.  Additionally, we’ve added full support for AIX, including ACA support to enable queue depths >1.  Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, we’ve shipped our first OpenStack CINDER provider.  OpenStack is increasingly the cloud management/automation platform of choice, and we’re seeing increasing adoption in our web and hosting customer base.

 

More Supportable: New CloudAssist Support

Last, but certainly not least, Pure Storage has been focused aggressively on building our support offering over the past six months. When customers first start to work with us, they often come into the relationship a bit worried that we’ll be able to support them to the same level they expect from “big storage.”  But more often than not, a few months later, they are expressing their surprise at how much better Pure Storage support is compared to the service they were used to.  We take great pride in delivering the absolute best support possible at Pure Storage, and we differentiate through a combination of best-in-class investment (focus, hiring the best people, and rigorous process) plus a unique cloud-driven technology approach….that’s CloudAssist.  I’ll be authoring a separate blog post on CloudAssist tomorrow (it deserves its own piece of the spotlight), but in the mean time if you can’t wait, watch this video:

You can also read more about CouldAssist on our site.

 

Purity 3.0: Come and get More

Well, that’s it….there’s enough content in this blog post to spend literally hours learning about Purity 3.0.  We hope you dig deep, and we want to hear from you.  We’ll be happy to give you a private demo, upgrade your current FlashArray to 3.0, let you try one if you don’t have one, and more than all we want to hear your feedback.  Just click “contact us” at the top of purestorage.com to get in touch.  And remember, flash storage is all about the software, and Pure Storage is dedicated to winning the software race in flash.