Pure products are engineered to be Evergreen, with non-disruptive upgradability built-in to protect your storage investment. It’s not always an easy engineering feat when there are fundamental architectural changes in our platforms, but it’s a core value that you can upgrade your FlashArrays without any downtime and without degrading performance of business services. 

When most storage vendors talk about non-disruptive upgrade (NDU) they’re focusing on software upgrades, or adding storage capacity to an existing storage array. At Pure, non-disruptive upgrades go well beyond that. With Pure, you can perform an in-place upgrade of the existing controllers to any controller within the family while your data is 100% available and running at 100% performance. 

Other Vendors’ Hardware ‘NDUs’

What most other vendors call NDU is more accurately a data migration to a new storage array while operations continue. This isn’t a true NDU. Projects like these take months, even with hardware upgrades from the same storage vendor. ​You have to reconfigure your hosts to use new paths, rezone fabrics, and possibly perform a lot of host-side and network-side work to make this work. And despite their NDU claims, most vendors only allow upgrades within the same generation, and rarely allow mixing flash geometries or upgrade to the next generation like Pure does. Furthermore, because performance is almost always impacted, upgrades must be done at times least likely to impact operations. These complexity and performance impacts often delay IT departments from modernizing their storage. 

Pure’s Hardware Non-disruptive Upgrades

The concept of an NDU is an integral part of what we do at Pure and has been part of the FlashArray’s DNA for many generations. The FlashArray controller has been designed to be completely stateless so data integrity is not dependent on the controllers. Pairing the FlashArray’s architecture with the Purity operating environment, which handles dynamic controller failovers, allows the controllers to be completely transparent.

This enables the hosts to continue the I/O operations without being affected during an NDU. Furthermore, there is no re-zoning or any other type of user intervention required during or after a controller has been upgraded. Purity software handles this by transferring the network and storage configuration from the original controller to the new controller. From the host’s perspective the paths to the storage device are the same. The only observable activity is path failovers, which are non-disruptively handled by MPIO.

When a next generation FlashArray goes through its initial hardware design phase, our engineers are very purposeful about not only the performance, efficiency, and availability aspects of the FlashArray, but they also ensure hardware compatibility to allow non-disprutive upgrades even with major technological shifts.

“We went from FlashArray//M20, to //M50, to //M70, to //X70 with 100% uptime over six and a half years. Over all those chassis, all the storage upgrades, all the Purity code upgrades, with nothing ever going offline.”  – Pure customer using FlashArray for their SQL Server environment¹

New NVRAM Architecture? No Problem

In the FlashArray//XL, we removed the standalone NVRAM modules from the chassis and moved the NVRAM functionality onto the DirectFlash modules. These new Flash modules with NVRAM functionality are called DFMD, where the last “D” implies “distributed NVRAM.” This new NVRAM architecture allows the FlashArray//XL to support 40 drives in a 5U chassis instead of 20 drives in the 3U FlashArray//X. That’s twice the drives in less rack space, increasing by 20% the FlashArray’s already exceptional terabyte to rack unit ratio. 

Despite this fundamental change in the DirectFlash drives, you can still non-disruptively upgrade your FlashArray//X to a FlashArray//XL in these easy steps:

  1. Rack up and power up the incoming //XL and boot it in shelf mode.
  2. Remove one //X controller.
  3. Connect the //XL to the //X, and move all DirectFlash Modules from the //X into the //XL chassis.
  4. Switch from using the standalone NVRAMs in //X to using the NVRAM functionality in the DirectFlash Modules with NVRAM (DFMD) in //XL. 
  5. Boot one //XL controller in HA-mode.
  6. Once the //XL controller is booted, switch it over to be the primary controller.
  7. Remove the remaining //X controller, and reboot the second //XL controller in HA-mode. NDU is complete.

To make the upgrade process seamless, we designed FlashArray//XL to accept drives moved from FlashArray//X devices. The chassis accepts DirectFlash Modules from the FlashArray//X in addition to the DirectFlash modules with distributed NVRAM introduced with the FlashArray//XL. That way, you don’t have to evacuate drives when you perform an NDU from FlashArray//X to FlashArray//XL.

Any of the NVMe-based FlashArray//X models—//X50, //X70, //X90—can be upgraded to either the FlashArray//XL130 or the larger //XL170. All the DFMs from //X can simply be physically moved over to the //XL during the NDU process without any sort of data migration. If your FlashArray//X has DirectFlash Shelf expansion shelves, they can be connected to the FlashArray//XL as part of the NDU process. 

Twenty empty drive slots in the FlashArray//XL chassis will be available to move the DFM drives from your FlashArray//X chassis. The other 20 drive bays in the //XL need to be populated with DFMD drives to provide the //XL array the required NVRAM. All upgrade SKUs from //X to //XL include the 20 DFMD drives that are required at minimum. 

The Pure Evergreen Advantage

At Pure, our products are engineered to be what we call Evergreen. Pure’s Evergreen™ combines an architecture with business programs that allow organizations to protect their storage investments. All Evergreen subscriptions include all of our Purity software upgrades with new capabilities in every release. An Evergreen//Forever subscription also provides:

  • Evergreen architecture that’s stateless, software-driven and modular
  • Ever Modern controller upgrades on a regular basis 
  • Ever Agile on-demand, full-value trade-in controller upgrades 
  • Capacity Consolidation anytime upgrades to new flash with trade-in credits 

Pure Evergreen architecture and subscriptions ensure that your storage keeps getting better over time, providing unparalleled flexibility and cost savings.

Are You Ready to Upgrade to a FlashArray//XL?

If you have FlashArray//Xs in your fleet that are running hot in terms of utilization or bumping up their capacity limits, now is the time to consider upgrading the FlashArray//XL. Its up to 70% increased performance offers consistently low latency and high throughput even as demand increases. Combined with its greater density, the //XL is an ideal choice for consolidating workloads. That means supporting more business services—bigger databases, more users, and more app workloads—on fewer arrays.

If you have an Evergreen//Forever (formerly Evergreen Gold) subscription, upgrading to FlashArray//XL can be significantly cost-effective compared to buying a new FlashArray//XL array. The Ever Agile upgrade program can give you credit for the returned old FlashArray//X controllers and the trade-up program can give credit for the returned old drives on FlashArray//X. The Ever Agile program also provides credit for the existing support subscription on FlashArray//X and only the difference in support subscription prices between FlashArray//XL and FlashArray//X has to be paid by the customer. 

And with Pure, you can not only be sure the upgrade will be non-disruptive and stress-free, it won’t cost you nights or weekends stuck in the data center.

Learn more about how FlashArray//XL can power for your most demanding business services.

¹2022 Modern Storage Buyers’ Guide, A Forrester Consulting Buyer’s Guide Commissioned by Pure Storage, September 2022.