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Pure Storage upgrades FlashArray as competition increases

Pure Storage's third-generation all-flash storage array doubles the performance and capacity of the previous model and includes cloud-sourced support.

Pure Storage, which sold all-flash storage systems when it was a niche market, today rolled out a larger, faster FlashArray system with the intention of bringing its products into the mainstream.

Along with the Pure Storage FA 400 series storage controllers, the startup upgraded its Purity operating system and added a cloud support model.

The FlashArray upgrades come as large vendors IBM, EMC, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Data Systems launch or prepare to launch all-flash arrays into a market that has been dominated by startups for two years.

The FA 400 is Pure's third-generation all-flash array. It includes dual eight-core Intel Corp. Sandy Bridge processors for twice the IOPS and twice the usable capacity of the Pure FA 300 series controllers, which were introduced in May 2012, said Matt Kixmoeller, Pure Storage's vice president of product marketing.

The FA 400 controllers deliver up to 400,000 IOPS and include up to 23 TB of raw flash capacity, compared to 200,000 IOPS and 11 TB of capacity provided by the FA 300. With Pure's inline deduplication, the vendor claims customers can get up to 100 TB of usable capacity from the FA 400.

Customers can also upgrade from an FA 300 controller to an FA 400 non-disruptively, Kixmoeller said. Pure does not disclose pricing, but Kixmoeller said the vendor tries to keep its systems to around $5 per usable gigabyte.

Pure Storage uses consumer-grade multi-level cell flash in its arrays from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., one of the startup's investors.

Pure's mantra is "flash for all," as it tries to convince customers that solid-state storage can be cheaper -- or at least no more expensive -- than spinning disk when you take power and cooling, management and performance into account. Pure positions its arrays as general-purpose enterprise storage systems that will eventually replace hard disk drives (HDDs) instead of niche solutions for applications with high-performance needs. The company is steadily adding enterprise-array features such as advanced snapshots and high availability.

"We see the industry moving from exotic deployments of flash for high-end databases to real broad deployments in everyday use cases," Kixmoeller said.

Kixmoeller said Pure's current customers use its systems for heavily virtualized server environments, database acceleration and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) projects.

The Purity 3.0 operating system includes ZeroSnap Accelerated Virtual Machine (VM) Cloning and always-on 256-bit AES encryption.

Pure's ZeroSnap cloning uses VMware Inc.'s vStorage API for Array Integration Extended Copy technology to take metadata-only snapshots. Kixmoeller said the ZeroSnap technology can clone 1,000 40 GB VMware VMs in 33 minutes by offloading the snap process to the array.

Pure's CloudAssist support keeps FlashArrays connected through the cloud, and they call home every 30 seconds. The vendor monitors each array to perform capacity, performance and health diagnostics, and can send customers instant alerts when problems arise.

Dan Iacono, research director for IDC's storage systems practice, said Pure's experience in flash could help it compete as the larger vendors jump in.

"They're starting to mature and [they're] adding new features and getting faster," he said. "I think that's a key thing that we need to see in the market."

He said Pure can build on its early implementations to expand as customers become more comfortable with solid-state storage.

"The niche applications are what gets them in the door," he said. "And then [the customer] gets to play with it and that's where it begins to grow."

Other startups that compete with Pure Storage for general purpose use include Whiptail Technologies Inc., Violin Memory Inc. and Nimbus Data. Solid-state and HDD hybrid vendors such as Nimble Storage Inc. also compete with Pure Storage, mainly in VDI installations.

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