#VFD3 Day One – Pure Storage has 99 problems but a disk ain’t one

Sponsor #3 : Pure Storage

PureStorage Logo - RGB - Small-304

I love the smell of storage disruption in the morning.

And this morning smells like a potpouri of storage disruption. And its wafting over to the NetApp & EMC buildings I saw off the freeway.

I was really looking forward to my time with Pure, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Pure, you see, offers an all-flash array, a startlingly-simple product lineup, an AJAX-licious UI, and makes such bold IOPS claims, that their jet black/orange arrays are considered illegal and immoral south of the Mason Dixon line.

This doesn't work anymore, or so newer storage vendors would have us believe
This doesn’t work anymore, or so newer storage vendors would have us believe

Pure also takes a democratic approach to flash. It’s not just for the rich guys anymore; in fact, Pure says, they’re making the biggest splash in SMB markets like the one I play in. Whoa, really. Flash for me? For everyone?

When did I die and wake up in Willy Wonka’s Storage Factory?

It’s an attractive vision for storage nerds like me. Maybe Pure has the right formula and their growth and success portends an end to the tyranny of the spindle, to rack U upon rack U of spinning 3.5″ drives and the heat and electrical spend that kind of storage requires.

So are they right, is it time for an all-flash storage array in your datacenter?

I went through this at work recently and it came down to this: there is an element of suspending your disbelief when it comes to all-flash arrays and even newer hybrid arrays. There’s some magic to this thing in other words that you have to accept, or at least get past, before you’d consider a Pure.

I say that because even if you were to use the cheapest MLC flash drives you could find, and you were to buy them in bulk and get a volume discount, I can’t see a way you’d approach the $ per GB cost of spinning drives in a given amount of rack U, nor could you match GB per U of 2.5″ 1 terabyte spinning disks (though you can come close on the latter). At least not in 2014 or perhaps even 2015.

So here, in one image, is the magic, Pure’s elevator pitch for the crazy idea that you can get an affordable, all-flash array that beats any spinning disk system on performance and meets/exceeds the storage capacity of other arrays:

pure

Pure’s arrays leverage the CPU and RAM to maximize capacity & performance. Your typical storage workload on a Pure will get compressed where it can be compressed, deduped in-line, blocks of zeros (or other similar patterns) won’t be written to the array at all (rather, metadata will be recorded as appropriate) and thin provisioning goes from being a debatable storage strategy to a way of life in the Pure array.

Pure says all this inline processing helps them avoid 70-90% of writes that it would otherwise have to perform, writes it would be committing to consumer-grade MLC SSD drives, which aren’t built for write-endurance like enterprise-level SLC SSDs.

Array tech specs.
Array tech specs. Entry level array has only 2.7TB Raw SSD, but at 4>1 compression/dedupe ratio, Pure says that 11TB is possible. Click for larger.

What’s more, Pure includes huge amounts of RAM in even their entry-level array (96GB), which they use as ZFS-like hot cache to accelerate IO.

Dual Westmere-class 6 core Intel CPUs outfit the entry array and Pure’s philosophy on their use is simple: if the CPU isn’t being full-utilized at all times, something’s wrong and performance is being left on the table.

These clever bits of tech -inline compression, dedupe, and more- add up to a pretty compelling array that draws only 400-450 watts and takes up only 2u of your rack, and, I’m told, start at a bit under 6 figures.

Pure really took some time with us, indulging all our needs. I requested and was allowed to see the CLI interface to the “PurityOS,” and I liked what I saw. Pure also had a Hyper-V guy on deck to talk about integration with Microsoft & System Center, which made me feel less lonely in a room full of VMware folks.

Overall, Pure is the real deal and after really asking them some tough questions, hearing from their senior and very sharp science/data guys, I think I do believe in magic.

Ping them if: You suffer from spinning disks and want a low cost entry to all flash

Set Outlook reminder for when: No need. Feels pretty complete to me.Plugins for vcenter & System Center to boot

Send to /dev/null if: You believe there is no replacement for displacement (spindles)

Other Links/Reviews/Thoughts from #VFD3 Delegates:

Eric Wright

Eric Shanks

* GestaltIT, the creator and organizer of Tech Field Day events like this one, paid for airfare, lodging, and some pretty terrific meals and fine spirits for #VFD3 Delegates like me. No other compensation was given and no demands were made upon me other than to listen to Sponsors like this one. 

One thought on “#VFD3 Day One – Pure Storage has 99 problems but a disk ain’t one

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