Pure Storage held our coming out stealth party last August, and one year on we find ourselves announcing a $40m fund raise (see below) and in final preparations for our next major product release (come see it at VMworld). It has certainly been a tumultuous year: Every month it seems a new flash storage product and the associated marketing hype join the milieu. And yet the market is unfolding largely as we expected. To successfully separate the signal from noise, you only need convictions about what really matters. Here are our four keys to success in flash storage:
- Flash storage is all about the (system controller) software. EMC, NetApp, et al. are really software companies. Of course, they ship hardware, but it’s made up of the same commodity CPUs, DRAM, hard drives, interconnects, and associated firmware that the rest of the industry uses. The longer term winners in flash storage will similarly be those that craft the most compelling software platform above the commodity hardware, and not those that try to compete with Samsung, Toshiba, SanDisk and Micron on the firmware that melds raw flash into SSDs. As lithography’s drop below 20nm, this becomes a fool’s errand. Customers will demand the extra protection afforded by the flash manufacturer’s warranty, as well as of the hardening derived from their exabytes of production deployment.
- Getting the most out of flash requires a complete rewrite of the storage software. As we’ve remarked before, flash changes everything. Algorithms and data structures are optimized radically differently for flash memory than they are for mechanical disk. The strongest evidence to date is EMC’s purchase of our closest start-up competitor, XtremIO, for $100’s of millions in what was rumored to be a competitive auction. EMC of course has a treasure trove of disk software from which to choose, but became convinced (along with XtremIO’s other suitors) that solid-state flash requires a holistic rethink.
- Flash won’t displace disk until the economic and technical hurdles are removed. Pure Storage was founded with the mission of bringing flash to every enterprise. Why, after all, should Google, Facebook, and Apple have all of the fun? Today’s flash PCIe cards and raw flash appliances simply do not provide the connectivity, high availability, self-healing, snapshots, online expansion, etc. essential for plug-compatibility with existing enterprise workloads. And they cost an arm and a leg compared to the incumbent mechanical disk and hybrid storage arrays. We have always believed if you want flash to take off, figure out how to price it below the per gigabyte cost of disk arrays. Pure Storage was the first and arguably still only vendor to accomplish this via submillisecond inline deduplication & compression and standard MLC flash. Other vendors may have deduplication on their marketing collateral, but when it comes to performance benchmarks, they recommend turning it off.
- It’s high time to “consumerize” enterprise storage. Storage remains dramatically more complex than servers and networks because of the inherent difficulty in wringing every drop of performance out of mechanical disk. Imagine a storage array that you can install and configure in less than 30 minutes, that’s fast all the time sans tuning, and whose user manual can fit on a business card.
While we still have a long way to go, these beliefs have enabled Pure Storage to make dramatic progress over the past year: We shipped triple digits of systems to our customers, and we are now scaling individual deployments to 250+TBs. For server virtualization, VDI, and database analytics our customers will often tell you Pure Storage is as close to a no brainer as there is in IT.
Perhaps most indicative of this progress, yesterday we announced that we have raised a $40m Series D to fund our global expansion (to date all of our customers have been in North America). We are thrilled to welcome Mike Volpi and Index Ventures to the Puritan team. Index led the round in which all of our institutional investors gave us their vote of confidence by participating for at least their full pro-rata, and Mike will be joining our board. We selected Index for their international expertise, especially in Europe, and the collaborative relationship we have developed with Mike, Danny Rimer, and the rest of the team.
And shortly, we will announce our next major product release, with a collection of new features, all of which you can come see live at VMworld in San Francisco at the end of the month. No, we’re not going to tip our hand on what’s new in the product just yet—you will have to stay tuned.
On the Puritan’s first anniversary since launch it is natural to reflect. Our vision is nothing less than to lead the industry transformation from mechanical to solid-state storage for all online data! No doubt backups and archives belong on SATA disk, but over the next decade you will find that your business can no longer afford to wait for disks to seek and rotate (which, after all, is most of the time). With all-flash storage 10X faster, 10X more space & power efficient, 10X simpler, more reliable, and ultimately less expensive than performance disk, why buy disk?