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Indie array-flogger tries to tempt flash mob with COLD HARD CASH

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According to upstart Pure, other vendors' flash arrays don't deliver the advantages they are supposed to. Standing out from the crowd is what a new flash array start-up has to do, and having a marketing message saying it's a top tier all-flash array (AFA) vendor alongside EMC, NetApp and SolidFire is all very well but Pure doesn't have the brand power of EMC and NetApp nor the cloud provider niche concentration of SolidFire.

Instead it's lumped in by default with Greenbytes, Nexgen, Nimbus Data, Skyera, Whiptail, Violin, and others, some of whom have arrived with shipping product earlier in the USA and Europe and APAC.

During its opening of EMEA and APAC operations, Pure is offering a money-back guarantee to separate itself from the flash mob. The guarantee, branded "Love Your Storage", runs for 30 days after the FlashArray arrives at a customer's site. If the customer is unhappy with the array for any reason they can return it and get a full refund. It's included in Pure's standard licensing agreement and is available worldwide now.

CEO Scott Dietzen said: "FlashArray is already enabling businesses to achieve new levels of performance, operational efficiency and cost savings, for an optimised user experience that is not possible with legacy storage solutions. Give us the opportunity to prove it can do the same for you, and we are certain you’ll love the FlashArray as much as we do.”

Its second big marketing wheeze is running a dedupe ticker on Pure's website showing storage capacity saved in aggregate across Pure's customer base through Pure's compression, deduplication and thin provisioning.

Pure Ticker

Pure Storage's Dedupe Ticker

Channel push

Pure has opened offices in APAC under VP Michael Cornwell, and now has a presence in several countries as well a new subsidiary, Pure Storage Japan K.K, in the Land of the Rising Sun. It has signed up Tokyo Electron Device Limited (TED) to distribute the Pure Storage FlashArray throughout Japan. Cornwell said: "We plan to continue our APAC expansion throughout 2013. Next, we are turning our focus on the vibrant virtualisation community in Australia, an application space that is ideally suited to benefit from the FlashArray.”

In EMEA, Pure Storage has set up its European headquarters in the UK, run by John Silva, ex-HP/3PAR, and signed reseller, distribution and support relationships across the EMEA geographies, from Norway to South Africa. It's looking for two to three good resellers per territory and not going for sheer reseller numbers. EMEA customers will get a four-hour on-site response, the same as Pure offers in the USA.

Tier 1 flash arrays

Dietzen justifies Pure's positioning of itself as a tier 1 flash array vendor status by referring to a list of features that "in general … need to be purpose-built for flash as disk-centric software cannot hope to keep pace with Pure and EMC XtremIO (and if EMC and NetApp are discarding their disk-centric software for a fresh start with flash, why would other vendors think disk-centric software is going to make it?)". These features include:

  1. Data management (ECC, flash optimised data layout, RAID, garbage collection---because update in place doesn't make sense on flash)
  2. SAN/NAS shared network protocols
  3. High availability (HA)
  4. Online expansion and Non-disruptive upgrade (NDU) and for both hardware & software
  5. Inline, sub-millisecond deduplication and compression (has to be flash specific, off-line disk-centric algorithms are worse because they mean wearing the flash twice - once to write it, and again to dedupe it later)
  6. Snapshots (dedupe aware for high performance/low overhead)
  7. Elastic scale up (capacity) and out (performance) rather than fork-lift upgrades of having to replace the entire system
  8. Encryption
  9. Replication

Dietzen's view is that if a flash array vendor only does 1 and 2, then it's building a flash array equivalent of a JBOD - a JBOF perhaps.

He says: "Do 1 to 9 well and you're an all-flash array in the model of Pure FlashArray, EMC XtremIO, and NetApp FlashRay. No doubt everyone now has 1 to 9 on their roadmap (necessary to compete with EMC), but the challenge will be in actually delivering. For the record, Pure has all but #9 sorted, although there are still numerous areas we need to continue to do better in."

EMC and NetApp are tier 1 flash area vendors in-waiting, so to speak, having announced that their respective XtremIO array and FlashRay products are coming; a form of freeze marketing in the sense that their customer base will hopefully wait for these suppliers' flash arrays rather than buying an independent vendor's array, such as Pure's FlashArray.

Existing flash array vendors won't take kindly to Pure Storage nominating itself top of the flash array heap. We might see similar guarantees from them as they respond in kind. ®

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