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Pure Storage set to accelerate its platform push

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez June 4, 2024
Summary:
As Pure Storage prepares for its annual user event in Las Vegas - Accelerate - we take a look at what buyers can expect from the vendor in the coming weeks.

Cloud architecture platform. Internet infrastructure concept. Abstract technology background. Digital saas solution. © Amgun - Shutterstock
(© amgun - Shutterstock)

At last year’s Accelerate, Pure Storage’s annual customer event in Las Vegas, diginomica noted that the vendor was ‘aiming to make storage strategic’, helping enterprise buyers that are grappling with tough data decisions, allowing them access to all of their data in more efficient and cost effective ways. We have seen a number of customer stories in recent months - including Cumulus VFX, St. Joseph's Health, Crater Labs and Virgin Media O2 - highlight how storage is playing a role in broader data-driven strategies. 

Almost a year later and Accelerate 2024 is just around the corner, with a host of new challenges facing buyers in the enterprise - including conflicting priorities being driven by demand for AI investment and a macro environment that is continuing to prove uncertain and difficult. With this in mind, we thought it would be useful to speak to Shawn Rosemarin, VP of R&D for Customer Engineering at Pure Storage, about what customers can expect from the event this year and how the vendor will be navigating these customer priorities. 

Complexity, underpinned by the drive for AI, is front of mind, according to Rosemarin: 

Back in the days when I started my career, the architect’s palette was sixteen colors. You didn't have that much choice. It was highly complex, and it was expensive, but there wasn't that much choice. 

Then we doubled that with the move to virtualization and the move to modern applications, and then we saw the public clouds emerge. I like to say we're now living in this world of sixteen million colors. And while the choice is a good thing for the industry and a good thing for flexibility, it’s also caused an enormous amount of potential confusion. 

And so I think as we look at this next era of AI - and I like to look at IT in the eras that take roughly fifteen years to mature - most customers are sitting here saying, ‘Okay, how am I going to ride through this next 15 years?’ 

What we learned from Rosemarin is that the key for Pure Storage is going to be shifting its positioning to be a platform player, which oversees many of the data activities for enterprise buyers - but more on that later.

Four priorities

Firstly though, Rosemarin expects there to be four key themes at Accelerate this year. Unsurprisingly, the first of which is the significance of AI. Whilst AI - particularly generative AI - is still in its infancy and will likely take a decade or more to mature, boards of companies are assessing how they can invest to not only grow their business, but also stay ahead of the competition. 

Rosemarin says that IT is being looked at as an advisor in this regard, with lines of business expecting it as a function to know where the use cases are available today: 

Where is the value of all this data, that everybody is telling us is the new oil? To actually drive productivity gain, market share gain, and cost reduction, that everybody speaks of? Can we actually make it real within a reasonable timeframe that could support any kind of a logical business case?

And Pure has a role to play here too:

As a storage player, what's most interesting in all of this is that storage is kind of like the tires on the car. Right now everybody's focused on the engine of the car, the body of the car, let’s call it the fit and finish. But I will tell you that any car of any performance with unsuitable tires will not perform. And frankly will leave you stranded by the side of the road. 

And so while storage has not necessarily been at the forefront of these conversations, when you start to think about what's actually happening inside of AI architecture, it is all about the ability to take that data, integrate it, activate it, monetize it, and you're going to need an incredibly robust storage platform to do that. 

Notice I didn't say storage product, I said a storage platform…because it's not just the box. It's the software and it's the extensibility of that software into the cloud. It's the ability to offer the data in a very reliable and accessible and resilient way. 

Secondly, Pure Storage is likely to bring attention to the challenge of power shortages and energy costs. There has been growing concern globally that advancements in new technologies, ones which are energy intensive, could mean that there is too much energy demand for the power grids to withstand. This presents a challenge for organizations, given that even if they want to invest in new areas, they might not be able to buy their way out of a problem in the future. As such, the challenge becomes doing more with less: 

I've always said that the silent killer in all of this is electricity. We saw during COVID that the electricity crisis spiked - but the bigger issue is not cost, it is actually how much power we have left. 

If you look at where we are from power grid utilization, in most parts of the world, we are full. Which essentially says the power that you consume today is pretty much going to have to operate on a flat basis over the next five years. 

That doesn't count all the electric cars that we're going to add into the world, that doesn't count all the crypto initiatives that we're going to have to fund in parts of the world, that doesn't count all the increased electricity we're going to have from just general expansion of overall infrastructure. 

So if you think of it from a customer standpoint, it's not just about ESG, we all want to do what's good for the world - but it's really about, what is my bridge? And how long is that bridge before I fundamentally run out of available electricity?

Rosemarin adds that organizations historically have always been able to get more power if they need, it may just have been expensive. The operational challenge changes when there’s limited new power to source at all. He expects that whilst the hyper scalers will likely invest in nuclear facilities to scale their demand, this is not feasible for many organizations and the market will see fewer data centers being built.

Pure Storage has long invested in making its infrastructure energy efficient, which it sees as being a key advantage in the near future: 

You have to think about: how do I bring down the overall electrical usage within my environment in order to satisfy that? When you look at your overall power footprint of all of your applications, all the electricity that you use, where's it all going? At your current course and speed, when are you going to run out of power? And how do you look for opportunities to optimize what you're using today so that bridge becomes as long as possible? 

I don't think it's just about finding power for AI. I think it's about looking at the entire infrastructure footprint, looking for all opportunities to optimize power and energy use, and looking to say if I was six months business as usual, how do I get that to two and a half or three years? 

The third focus point at the event is going to be how the use of cloud computing has matured to become ‘just another operating model’, one which is part of a mix in enterprises’ multi-cloud/operating model strategy. Again, this comes back to Pure Strategy’s platform approach and helping organizations seamlessly integrate data cross-borders: 

I think we're now at the point where most organizations are saying: how am I going to get this cloud to be a seamless extension of my data center? How do I have a seamless platform that I can operate at the edge, that I can operate at the core, and then in the cloud? And how do I ensure that no matter where those services are operating, that from an overall administrative standpoint and an operating standpoint, it is as simple as it could possibly be? 

Everything from the provisioning of workloads to management of workloads to the security of workloads - the concept here is to have that be as seamless as possible, while giving me a single operating environment that can operate across premises that both I own and operate and those that I manage. 

And finally, Accelerate will focus on the cost challenges currently facing enterprise buyers, with a key focus on SLAs as part of the ‘storage-as-a-service’ conversation - whether that be on premise or in the cloud: 

What our customers really want is an SLA. I'm going to be a little bold here…I don't think a customer wants to choose an A box or a B box or a C box, whatever that brand is. I think they want to buy a certain level of performance and are willing to pay for what they consume. And if that requirement changes, be it across protocol, across performance, across reliability or availability, that the vendor provides that change and starts billing me for the new rate. 

That's the way it works in the cloud. That's the way it should work on premise. We see a lot of ‘as a service’ offers come to market, but none of them, with the exception of Pure, really offer the flexibility, or more specifically the fungibility between SLAs that allows the customer to say: ‘I don't have to worry about what's behind it, I don't have to choose any of my infrastructure up front. I can just consume what I want to consume…and if my needs change, my vendor will deal with the change and the migration in a seamless and non disruptive way, and I'll pay the rate of what it is that I wish to consume’.

The platform pitch

The context for all of this is, of course, an incredibly turbulent period for enterprise buyers. When speaking with customers, diginomica is aware that the combination of disruption during and after the pandemic, ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, rising inflation and higher interest rates, has meant that buyers are under pressure to reduce costs, boost revenues and know how their technology stacks will be changing as a result of AI in the coming years. 

The onslaught of generative AI hype, in particular, is causing stress for buyers who are expected to have answers for board members and leadership about the impact on not only their lines of business, but also their business models and market dynamics. For those that were still figuring out how the cloud was changing their operating models, generative AI feels like a new and unexpected pressure. As Rosemarin notes: 

If I’m an enterprise, the board's sitting there saying,’ this isn't just about growth, this is also about can we retain our advantage as we move forward?’ As customers attend this event, we look for those IT leaders who say, ‘I am going to take and make the difficult decision to look at the way my organization is operating and make the hard decisions to set this organization up for success over the next era’. 

Because, if I don't, then in reality, if my overall data corpus is growing by 30% every year, which is Gartner's best guess, then every year I delay making this change it is a 30% bigger risk and bigger challenge for me to make the year after and the year after that. 

This is where Pure believes its platform pitch could resonate. Buyers are seeking ways to adopt a data platform that is scalable, both power and cost efficient, and allows an organization to move their data and workloads from on-premise to the cloud, as their customer base changes. Pure’s argument is that a data platform of this nature will allow for agility for the business to make decisions as and when it is needed:

I think what the message we're really aiming to get across is that, ultimately, if you think of a platform, there's this element of platform effect. And the platform effect says that every individual consumer that comes on board to a platform receives incremental value from everybody else's use. They don't even have to do anything. 

When you think of our ability to actually not just sell storage products, but be able to look at the consumption of those products, and look at the patterns that are emerging in terms of how customers are accessing, and what sort of roadblocks they're hitting, and using that feedback as a platform effect to essentially drive the next era of innovation….when we see that moving to the cloud, we see that extension of even more data sources, and us being able to essentially be the co-pilot for our customers data services…it’s a huge advantage. 

It wasn't what we intended to build because we didn’t even know what co-pilots were going to be. But when you look at the trillions of data points that are now coming across to us, we do believe that every Pure customer that comes on board will actually get the inherent benefit of all the other data that all the other customers and consumers are looking at. And so you'll hear us really talk to this concept of you ‘Pure-as-a-platform’. 

My take

diginomcia will be on the ground at Accelerate in June, providing the latest product updates and analysis from executives and customers. Stay tuned for more. 

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