This morning Pure Storage is announcing and shipping the 3rd generation of both our FlashArray hardware and the associated Purity Software (more on the new FA400 hardware here and Purity 3.0 software here). Our new product enters a storage market facing profound disruption. Moore’s Law has turned disk into tape: To today’s CPU, the fastest disk looks slower than tape did 15 years ago. When I first started working on distributed systems, a network round trip cost about 10ms (comparable to a disk I/O). Today, it’s 10us, 1000-fold faster than hard drives, meaning pretty much everything else in the data center is wasting time and energy waiting for mechanical disk to spin.

Shaking up primary storage. In the decade ahead, flash memory will push hard drives out of the latency path of performance intensive applications, while SATA (slow) disk will continue to be the choice for capacity (secondary) storage. On the consumer side, this transition to all flash storage is well underway—check out our launch day end-user flash leadership event hosted by IDC, featuring Netflix, LinkedIn, eBay, and Identified, discussing in a panel how they have transformed their infrastructures with flash. The sea change from spindles to flash is upending the primary storage market—a $15B annual spend on performance (oxymoron) disk arrays that no longer makes sense. To better reflect the magnitude of the disruption, we’re rebranding Pure under the tag line Flash for All—flash for all workloads, all budgets, and all businesses. Packaged within Pure’s architecture, flash is ten times faster, more reliable, more space and power efficient, and simpler than mechanical disk, and yet typically costs less per usable gigabyte!

As a result of Pure being the first to get the all-flash recipe right, we are now the fastest growing storage company in history. Indeed, we are currently growing about twice as fast as NetApp or Data Domain did at a comparable stage (the two fastest growers prior to Pure). Pure’s growth is coming at the expense of disk arrays, machinery we have started replacing within most industry verticals over the past three years (see below). We have now shipped hundreds of FlashArrays to customers and partners across the United States, Europe and Asia. Today, Pure has offices in London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Seoul, as well as around the U.S., with another wave of expansion in the works. Moreover, we have established a 7×24 support center in the U.S. that is yielding even higher customer accolades than our products, although it’s a tight race. (Disrupting the mechanical storage legacy sound like fun? Then consider joining one of the hottest pre-IPO companies in Silicon Valley. Learn more by visiting our jobs page.)

Last, but not least, Pure Storage was recently selected by In-Q-Tel for security-intensive deployments within the U.S. federal government (press release here). In-Q-Tel is the venture investing arm of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Their role is to identify best of breed technology, procure products for the agencies they represent, and collaborate with the vendor to further enhance those products to broaden applicability within that community. While we cannot talk about the specifics, our joint work with In-Q-Tel will be available to all Pure customers down the road.

Unsurprisingly, the primary competitor for Pure is EMC (NYSE:EMC) disk arrays, the market leader in the performance block segment Pure plays in. We’d argue that our initial success spurred EMC to acquire XtremIO, an all-flash array similarly being crafted from scratch for solid-state as Pure was. As we have remarked before, competition is great for our industry—it drives vendor innovation and customer value. And for Pure, nothing catalyzes a market like having the industry leader EMC, the one who has the most to lose in the transition to flash memory, validate the recipe we originated. While XtremIO is not yet generally available, we expect it to become our #1 competitor among the all flash alternatives. (No surprise that if a customer invites Pure to compete with EMC for a disk array deal, that a call is going to go out to the XtremIO team.) With the XtremIO GA expected later this year, the onus is on us to grow our 18 month technology lead (Pure’s FlashArray was GA in the Spring of ’12), and the onus on EMC to close the gap. We welcome that competition and are confident it will benefit both Pure and XtremIO.

Shaking out the all flash storage market. We’ll save more on the differentiation between Pure and EMC for future posts. Today it makes more sense to focus on the separation we are jointly driving between the software have’s and the have not’s in flash storage. Most of the all flash vendors are demonstrably behind both Pure and XtremIO in essential flash array software features. What does it take to win in all-flash storage? Let’s recap the recipe:

    • Submillisecond deduplication and compression – The aggregate across all deployed Pure Storage FlashArray’s is greater than 5:1 data reduction (with thin provisioning, that’s greater than 10:1—check out the dedupe ticker on our home page). While dedupe was quickly added to every flash vendor’s roadmap, inline data reduction has proved very difficult to reproduce in the three years since Pure first shipped the technology. When EMC makes the GA release of XtremIO’s inline dedupe (but sans compression), they will likely be only the third vendor to do so. The rest of the flash appliance vendors are finding selling without data reduction tough going, since the only way to keep their customers whole is to offer them an additional 80% discount off of their best price (90% for those still lacking thin provisioning).
    • True High Availability (HA) and Non-Disruptive Upgrade (NDU) – The software to support continuous operation with no performance impact in the face of hardware components failing or being upgraded, as well as in the face of software upgrades, is extremely hard to get right. We have yet to see another all flash array deliver the resiliency and serviceability essential for mission critical storage. Don’t buy without pulling drives, cables & power cords, replacing hardware, and upgrading the software, all under load, as this is the best way to measure how the technology will perform in your data center over time.
    • Metadata driven snapshots and accelerated virtual machine (VM) cloning – Snapshots have proven crucial for creating back ups of consistent system images, but they have always been expensive in space, performance or both. With a fast deduplicating array, snapshots can be taken and VMs cloned (think VMware xcopy) nearly instantaneously, solely via a metadata update, consuming near zero additional space and with near zero performance overhead. Again, software is the differentiator.

The above feature set is proving so compelling (NetApp announced they are pursuing this recipe with their FlashRay product slated for 2014), that the flash appliance providers that to date have focused predominately on hardware rather than software, will find themselves on the outside looking in. (For more on what it takes to be one of the flash array software have’s, check out this post on Purity 3.0) The challenge appears even more daunting when you consider that in addition to playing catch up on an extremely complex software effort, the current software have not’s also have to continuously redesign their custom hardware to stay competitive. Today Pure is launching our 3rd generation FA-400 hardware, based on Intel “Sandy Bridge” processors, succeeding our 2ndgeneration FA-300 based on Intel “Westmere.” As a result, we were able to deliver better than a two-fold performance boost, thanks again to Moore’s Law. Our vision, now endorsed by EMC and NetApp, is that off-the-shelf hardware married to sophisticated software trumps hardware innovation in flash storage, just as it did for mechanical disk before it. Witness EMC killing off Project Thunder (positioned against Violin and Fusion-IO ION) in favor of Pure look-alike XtremIO.

I want flash ALL NIGHT LONG

Next steps. Whether you’re a technology enduser, reseller, SaaS provider, hoster, or system integrator, hopefully we’ve at least managed to pique your curiosity about the impact that flash memory will have on your business. With all flash storage 10X better in every other dimension and comparable in cost, your storage admins will soon find themselves facing the same dilemma as the hero of our new comedy video.

All flash at the price of disk too good to be true? We hear that a lot, which is why we launched the Love Your Storage money back guarantee. This way Pure takes the risk for you: If our FlashArray doesn’t exceed your expectations in performance, cost, power & space efficiency, reliability, simplicity, and whatever else you care to measure, just return it for a full refund.

If you want to experience the future of performance storage today, please reach out to Pure or to one of our preferred resellers.