Pure Storage adds FlashArray//m series, Pure1 SaaS management

Pure Storage launches re-designed hardware platform, claims non-disruptive upgrades; cloud management program automatically monitors arrays.

Pure Storage today launched a new all-flash storage platform, promising customers they can upgrade non-disruptively without additional cost indefinitely through its Evergreen Storage strategy.

Along with its FlashArray//m series, Pure also initiated a Pure1 cloud-based management and monitoring program.

Pure was among the early all-flash startups to enter the market, shipping its first arrays in 2011. The well-funded vendor ($536 million) has been the most successful of the startups, ranking second in all-flash array market share behind EMC XtremIO and ahead of No. 3 IBM FlashSystem according to IDC and Gartner

With the m series, Pure did a complete hardware re-design of its chassis, controllers and flash modules from its FlashArray-400 series. The vendor claims the new systems can add capacity and performance non-disruptively, which combines with its free upgrade policy to make up its Evergreen Storage initiative.

FlashArray//m holds from 5 TB to 40 TB of raw flash capacity in a 3U chassis, and can expand to 136 TB in an 11u box with expansion shelves. The m20 is a chassis without expansion shelf and scales to 40 TB. The m50 scales from 30 TB to 40 TB inside the 3u chassis and supports two 12 TB or 24 TB expansion shelves for a maximum of 88 TB of raw capacity in 7u of rack space. The m70 is a 7u chassis with 50 TBs and can scale to 136 TB in 11u with four expansion shelves

Pure claims its customers get an average 5:1 data reduction rate, expanding the effective capacity of its systems.

Pure claims the m20 can hit 150,000 32K IOPS, the m50 can reach 220,000 IOPS and the m70 can achieve a 300,000 IOPS in maximum configuration.

The m systems use the same Purity software that provides features such as deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, replication and snapshots. Pure claims its customers get an average 5:1 data reduction rate, expanding the effective capacity of its systems.

Pure vice president of products Matt Kixmoeller said the m series is around 2.5 times as dense as Pure's FA-400 arrays, which are rated at 200,000 IOPS in a maximum configuration. The largest model of the FA-400 platform scales to 70 TB of raw capacity.

Each m chassis includes up to 20 flash modules and two or four NV-RAM modules for high availability, six slots for 16 Gbps Fibre Channel or 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) connectivity and two dedicated 10 GbE slots.

Kixmoeller said the "m" stands for "Mini size, modular scale, mighty performance, and meaningful simplicity."

The m series has been in beta since early 2015, and will be generally available in the second half of the year.

Kixmoeller said pricing starts at around $100,000 for an entry m system. He said the price goal is around $3 per usable gigabyte, depending on the customer's data reduction ratio.

Free upgrade path

Customers who purchased an FA-400 after February will receive a free m series controller upgrade with their next capacity expansion. (The m series uses the same expansion shelf as the FA-4000). The controller upgrade is part of Pure's Flash Forever program implemented in 2014. Pure says it will provide free controller upgrades with every three-year maintenance contract renewal, and guarantees it will repair or replace any hardware device -- including SSDs -- with like or better parts. Pure also promises all upgrades can be done without requiring data migration.

 "This is a flash array with a software-defined architecture," Kixmoeller said. "Everything can be upgraded independently. And we have a rapid upgrade cycle that means every year we come out with faster controllers and denser flash cells. At end of 10 years that array might not have any of the parts it started with, but customers still have their data on it. It's never a disruptive upgrade, we never force customers to migrate data."

Another step towards Cloud-based management

With Pure1, the flash vendor is moving to a cloud-based management program that a few others -- most notably Nimble Storage with its InfoSight -- have implemented

Pure1 does not require the customer to install additional software. Pure1 monitors the systems automatically and generate reports for the customers. Customers can log into the storage-as-a-service (SaaS) platform from any device including tablets or smart phones to administrate an array. "In the storage industry today, support is really the customer's problem. We think it should be up to the vendor to provide better support," Kixmoeller said. "What if you didn't have to monitor your storage array, what if we did it for you?"

He said more than a hundred customers have participated in the Pure1 beta program and the vendor has around a petabyte of data to use as it goes GA. "If we see a customer having an issue, we can use our analytics to see across our installed base and see who else is having that issue," Kixmoeller said.

Is Forever Storage a forever business model?

IDC storage research director Eric Burgener said Pure Storage is unique among all-flash vendors for its upgrade path because it requires no data migration or downtime to upgrade controllers.

"Some others could upgrade controllers non-disruptively, but none upgrade the internal system bandwidth," he said. "You need to move to a new generation platform to upgrade [other vendors' arrays]. Pure has gone a step beyond. It's a mesh between them creating the ability to hot-plug everything and also having this program that allows customers to upgrade everything every three years."

Burgener said he expects other vendors to try and emulate Pure's upgrade policy, but "this will give [Pure] an advantage during the sales process now."

But can Pure Storage sustain its Evergreen Storage strategy over the long term? Evergreen Storage will deprive Pure of revenue from happy customers who can upgrade without additional cost. The vendor is counting on making up for that by selling those customers additional controllers and capacity as their storage requirements expand. "It keeps customers locked in," Burgener said. "There are no forklift upgrades. Migrating 80 to 100 terabytes of data can take days to do."

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