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Pure Storage: Big Dreams or a Real Disrupter?

Look around. The need to store data has grown exponentially these last few years, and it keeps growing at a steady clip. But the technology to serve large datacenter needs hasn't developed as quickly. Hard disk storage has been the most economic solution thus far.

Of course, Moore's Law eventually slides up to the table and wins the pot. And if Pure Storage plays its cards right, the storage sector may soon witness the crossover point when technology can be distributed and adopted more widely at a lower price point.

The Mountain View, Calif., all-flash enterprise storage company, which was founded in 2009 and officially came out of stealth mode a few weeks ago, hopes to shake up the storage scene with its flagship Pure Storage FlashArray FA-300 Series. The company claimes its Pure Storage FlashArray is more than 10 times faster and 10 times more space- and power-efficient than traditional disk storage and offers a lower price per gigabyte than disk-centric arrays.

Based on the funding Pure Storage has gotten so far, this may be more than just talk. The company recently raised $30 million in a round of Series C funding led by Redpoint Ventures, Greylock Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, and angel investors, bringing its total capital investments up to $55 million. In a sweeter nod, the flash-memory heavyweight Samsung Electronics signed up for a broader strategic partnership, tossing an unspecified investment into the $30 million funding pool and supplying the startup with solid-state drives that use its chips.

“We are well positioned to have a profoundly transformative impact on the evolution of the data storage industry,” Scott Dietzen, CEO of Pure Storage, said when it announced the funding. “Customers are currently spending about $20 billion per year on performance disk storage. They ought to be getting more for their money. By breaking the cost barrier to mainstream datacenter adoption of flash, we are serving the market’s interests far more effectively than disk-centric alternatives are capable of doing.”

I'm no storage expert, but it's easy to see a clear need for this jump. Individuals, companies, and large-scale enterprises can't resist the urge to archive content in all its formats. Data storage requirements are frequently escalating. Likewise, the onslaught of consumer electronics — tablets, smartphones, digital cameras, MP3s — has shown how flash storage can work on a smaller, handheld scale. This has whet our appetites for an enterprise-level solution that is equally fast, light, and energy-efficient.

Whether Pure Storage creates a broad disruption in the storage sector — which, until recently, has been relatively stagnant compared with other electronics niches — doesn't really matter. The point is that change is coming. The industry should get itself ready for another potential step change. If it's not Pure Storage, it will be someone else.

Enterprise Strategy Group Analysts Mark Peters and Steve Duplessie talk about that exact trend in their report, “How Economics Alter the Storage Landscape: The Financial Leverage of Storing Less Will Win.” Here's the gist:

Storage demand continues to grow rapidly at a rate that exceeds its relative price decline. It is not a sustainable model: data growth trends are driving the need for another game-changing event. Data growth is outstripping IT CAPEX budgets, available IT space, management capabilities, and OPEX thresholds and the pressures to manage more data in cloud environments only makes the challenge more acute. We are approaching — some users are even at — a breaking point. As a result, data storage must undergo a massive leap in efficiency or the business advantages that could be realized from all that data will be lost.

Hard to argue with that logic: Figure out how to change in a way that meets demand, or go the way of the dinosaur.

As always, feel free to weigh in on how you see Pure Storage's chances of success, or comment on storage trends you're seeing.

8 comments on “Pure Storage: Big Dreams or a Real Disrupter?

  1. AnalyzeThis
    September 6, 2011

    This all sounds interesting and perhaps Pure Storage has a future… but I'm not sure how much demand there is for this type of thing.

    When I think about my storage situation, it's never about how to get faster storage (it's fine) or more capacity: adding additional space is cheap, as an example, you can easily build your own 135TB RAID6 pod for less than $7500.

    Unless you are doing something very unusual, like perhaps if you're working with insane amounts of HD video or you're at Pixar, lack of cheap, fast-enough storage is rarely an issue.

    And then the other problem here is that this is flash-based storage. While it's certainly faster, long-term, you'll run into write ampification issues and of course it really isn't intended to be a long-term storage solution.

    So it's hard to say if Pure Storage will go anywhere. However, it's nice to see a new entry into the space, as the number of players in the market seem to be dwindling a little bit due to M&A.

  2. Nemos
    September 6, 2011

    iF it does what it says, “10X faster, smaller, and more power efficient at less than the cost of spinning disk.” Then we have a new great idea ready to be adopted of the high-tech industry. I liked very much the green advantage “With storage consuming 40% of the overall data center power budget, all-flash storage that consumes 1/5th the power of traditional disk”

  3. FLYINGSCOT
    September 6, 2011

    Pure Storage does not claim to be 10x more space efficient than HDD technology.  I believe HDD has historically had the greatest arial density of any storage medium and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.    

  4. Anand
    September 7, 2011

    Data storage requirements are frequently escalating.

    Good to know that Pure Storage FlashArrays are 10X more efficient than traditional disk. But I feel companies sould also concentrate on optimising existing disk space. We have seen how old unwanted data still exists in disk space inspite of project closure. Companies should set standard procedure to clean those disk spaces and thus improve the existing disks efficiecy.

  5. Jennifer Baljko
    September 7, 2011

    FlyingScot: Thanks for the catch. Info above should be corrected to read 

    “10 times more space and power efficient when compared to traditional disk-centric arrays” not “traditional disk storage.”

     

    To clarify further, this is from the company's Aug 23 press release:

    When compared to traditional disk-centric arrays, Pure Storage all-flash enterprise arrays are 10x faster and 10x more space and power efficient at a price point that is less than performance disk per gigabyte stored.


  6. jbond
    September 7, 2011

    If Pure Storage can deliver on its claims, then it looks like we will have a nice alternative to storage needs. Pricing has always been a sticking point for many companies. If Pure Storage can deliver a faster and cheaper route than currently used systems, then they should be very successful.

  7. t.alex
    September 25, 2011

    This is amazing if the company can bring flash storage to a bigger scale. There is a question: will it be more durable than traditional HDD ? How long can it last?

  8. Clairvoyant
    September 25, 2011

    I agree, Jbond. This very well may be the future of storage.

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