All flash storage pioneer Pure Storage is riding the wave of hybrid cloud adoption to success both locally and globally.
Founded in 2009, the company arrived in New Zealand seven years ago and is still led by its first local employee, Stuart Blythe.
While not willing to break out local employee numbers, Blythe said the team now covers sales, presales and the channel. But it is Pure's partners that do the heavy lifting in the market.
"Globally, the company is 100 per cent channel," Blythe said. "We don’t sell directly to end users. Everywhere outside of the US is two-tier via distributors."
In New Zealand, that distributor is Westcon.
"We are trying not to saturate market with resellers," Blythe told Reseller News. "It's a value based sell, but the major suspects are infrastructure and data centre focused."
Many are also users of Pure's products as well, with MSPs and SaaS vendors being the company's biggest verticals.
Pure enjoyed strong differentiation as one of first vendors to come to market with all flash products.
In the beginning it focused on customer usages and workloads that could benefit from that because flash costs back then were way more expensive than they are now, Blythe explained.
Consumption of flash is now mainstream, he said. It is just defined as "performance" storage, the Tier 1 for application workloads.
"As that has shifted, the share and visibility and opportunities we have engaged with are much broader than seven years ago," he said.
That has been helped by what he said are unique capabilities in data reduction – to use raw NAND flash very efficiently.
With flash now available at lower price points, the total addressable market has also expanded into Tier 2 as well.
"When we brought all flash to market, we did it in a different way," Blythe said. "The founders realised there was a shift."
Other players were retrofitting flash-based storage into disc-based operating systems, but Pure engineered its platform from scratch with advanced data reduction capabilities.
The end-product was 1.5- to two-times more efficient.
“Because it was built from the ground up on flash we were able to reimagine the customer experience from an architecture and simplicity perspective," Blythe said.
Simplicity was critical, especially to support and orchestrate the transition from on premises to cloud.
The architecture also had to be non-disruptive to enable upgrades and other changes without down-time.
That architecture also supported a new "evergreen" storage business model that eliminated lift-and-shift upgrades and a price hike every few years.
Blythe said customers can buy an array with three years of support. The gold support option included a non-disruptive upgrade including new controllers in the existing hardware with no additional cost over the next three years.
"It's still capex plus support but once you've bought the asset, you never rebuy it," he explained. "You keep buying maintenance while also subscribing to hardware and software innovation."
As of July, more than 2700 customers globally had experienced non-disruptive storage upgrades and the average number of upgrades grew 38 per cent year-over-year for the last five years, Pure said.
There was an interesting dynamic emerging in the market with the ascent of hybrid cloud, Blythe said.
Public cloud doesn’t necessarily deliver performance, availability and a commercial outcome simply by virtue of a lift and shift. Customers still want very high availability and performance.
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), for instance, is mostly focused on on-premises style workloads. It is almost a traditional technology stack rather than cloud native.
"A lot of people say going on a cloud journey but need to understand what that means," Blythe said. "It is absolutely becoming a hybrid world."
Rapid recovery, however, is the topic du jour with ransomware attacks both professionalising and proliferating. The ability to get data back very quickly was an emerging flash storage use case.
"We have customers using flash for back up," Blythe said. "It's counter intuitive – for speedy recovery."
In essence, flash has spread from tier 1 all the way down to tier 4.
To address the needs of software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor customers, Pure built an "immutable" snapshot capability into its products. Even administrators can’t get access to it.
Because ransomware infiltration typically happens weeks even months before a ransom demand is made, the ability to keep point-in-time snapshots and to allow rollback and recovery at high speed is being seen as very beneficial.
Winning customers has proved key to winning partners, Blythe said.
"We have a lot of the traditional partners with long standing vendor relationships that they are happy and comfortable with and don’t want to disrupt," he said.
"But when you start winning a couple of customers off them, you start being taken notice of. They come based on the success they see we are having."
In that context, customer satisfaction is key and Pure puts great store on net promoter score (NPS). That also puts the company in Tier 1, with NPS sitting at around 83.5.
Local customers include TSB, Toyota Financial Services, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, BCS Group and Kensington Swann.
Last September, Pure bought Portworx a data storage and management specialist focused on the Kubernetes market.
That delivered another set of partners with capabilities, services and value that were not based around data centre infrastructure.
"They are very much focused around concept of data mobility – cloud is not a destination," Blythe said. "Portworx will give that abstraction to make data mobile in the cloud."
The goal there was to give customers both an on-premise enterprise experience that was more cloud-like and to make some cloud based infrastructure operate more like enterprise storage.