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Pure founder: FlashBlade has more potential than FlashArray

Since introducing its FlashArray all-flash SAN array in 2012, Pure Storage has sold more than $600 million worth of a type of storage array that didn’t exist before Pure was born.

The man who led the design of that system says he expects its second all-flash platform to eventually sell even more.

Pure founder and chief architect John Hayes says the market for Pure’s FlashBlade scale-out NAS and object system that will launch later this year has a larger potential market because unstructured data is growing much faster than the structured data that FlashArray is built for.

“Ultimately, it’s a larger use case,” Hayes said of FlashBlade. “We looked at all infrastructure data, everything from files to archives. That’s a broad target in the data center and today you have all of these different products optimized for different points. Our theory was that we could actually hit all these optimization points. It’s also the area that’s growing fastest. Databases and virtual machines aren’t high data growth, that’s like 10 percent a year growth. All the unstructured data is growing around 40 percent a year. And the variety of applications for unstructured data is increasing. We’ll sell both platforms into a lot of organizations. We’ll sell FlashArray to the IT team and FlashBlade to the engineering team.”

Hayes said FlashBlade, which uses object storage with a file system, is built to accommodate thousands of severs and traditional storage arrays cannot handle that load even if they are filled with solid-state drives.

“We believe in using the network because networks are getting much better,” he said. “It’s also about taking away the limits. Why do people want to use [Amazon] S3, for example? A big part of it is because it’s unlimited. You’re not creating a problem in the future where you want be able to store enough data. That’s why we wanted to make a box that’s really an unlimited data store that’s attached to as many computers as you need to attach to it.”

Not everyone agrees with Pure’s vehicle for expansion. In a blog posted on his company’s web site, Coho Data CTO Andy Warfield said FlashBlade’s architecture has problems. Warfield wrote that Coho Data considered a similar product  in 2013 before scrapping plans. He criticized FlashBlade, mainly because it uses proprietary flash hardware and is not flexible enough to be a true scale-out  system.

Hayes seemed more confused than upset by Warfield’s criticism. “I read it. I don’t really understand his point of view,” Hayes said. “I don’t know what to say. They’re building stuff, we’re building stuff. I don’t have much to say about it.”

Hayes also doesn’t have much to say about whether Pure will expand into other types of products, except that any new offerings may address another market. “I think between the two products we have, we’ll be able to cover almost all storage in the data center,” he said. “If we launch any new products, it’s probably in a different category.”

They won’t be software-only, despite Hayes’ background with software companies before Pure. He said software is the key to success for any all-flash system but a software-only product makes little sense.

“It’s an enormous amount of work to establish hardware compatibility,” he said. “It’s going to take us more engineering to ship a software-only product. I don’t understand what the customer benefit is going to be if they have to integrate the software and hardware themselves. It probably won’t save them any money.”