It looks good on paper, Pure. Will FlashBlade cut the mustard?

We wanted more than the FlashArray. Let's hope this lives up to our hopes

Comment Today Pure Storage is announcing a new product called Flashblade. It’s definitely a bold one.

FlashBlade is a new all-flash storage system which is targeted at unstructured data workloads: highly scalable, for files and objects, aimed at serving less latency-sensitive workloads, but still with a lot of IOPS and throughput and the promise of a price tag under $1/GB.

Exactly the right product that can make the difference in a really crowded all-flash array market.

Perfect timing (again)

I don’t think I was alone in asking Pure for something more than FlashArray. Don’t get me wrong: the FlashArray is a very good product, one of the first that got it right when it was time to find the best formula combining performance, price and usability. But it is not enough to realize the “all-flash data centre” vision that Pure has been telling us about since the beginning, and neither was it “the one” that was making them stand out from the crowd.

Now Pure is doing it again. The timing is perfect. For enterprise customers, all-flash storage for primary workloads is already the first choice. Now, that they know the benefits, it is much easier to talk about flash-based products with a lower $/GB and different characteristics. NAS consolidation, Big Data, IoT are the first use cases, and the number of possible applications will grow with the maturity of the product.

FlashBlade

I’m writing this article before having all the technical details to hand. Even though I’m not a fan of specialized hardware design, in this case I have to say that Pure seems to have done a good job on all the engineering aspects.

Each single blade is a node of a scale-out shared-nothing cluster and it has its CPU, RAM, connectivity and 8 or 52 TB of NAND memory. The FlashBlade chassis can accommodate up to 15 blades and provides power as well as back-end and front-end Ethernet connectivity (40Gbps). Slick design and, if I got it correctly, very few cables in the backend of the rack.

The operating system is new as well, but I’ll be able to fill you in more about it after the technical sessions planned during the Pure //Accelerate event, which I’m currently attending.

What I can already say is that NFS and S3 are the protocols supported at the moment of the launch, with others coming in future releases (we will likely see SMB3, HDFS and others in not a too distant future but the roadmap hasn’t yet been disclosed). It looks like data protection has a fixed dual parity scheme at the moment and data positioning isn’t taking care of tray/rack affinity.

It’s also true that I’m probably expecting far too much here, in fact the product will be initially supported in one or two tray configurations.

Closing the circle

It’s still the beginning. FlashBlade is at its first version and many technical details are still to be investigated. But what can’t be said is that Pure Storage isn’t innovating here. This product is interesting (I would say even exciting) under many aspects and has great potential. It is interesting (I would say even exciting) and it’s clearly raising the bar in the number of applications that could be served by an all-flash storage system.

I think others, Solidfire is the first that comes to my mind, could be following soon. And Tegile (with SanDisk InfiniFlash) already has a good and low $/GB rating. But in the case of Flashblade we have scalability, price and efficiency. Only time will tell. ®

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