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New 3D TLC NAND Enables $1.50 Per-Usable-GB Cost From Pure Storage

By - Source: Pure Storage

We are accustomed to Pure Storage making big waves in the All-Flash Array (AFA) segment, but the company has been quiet for an extended period of time to adhere to regulations surrounding its recent successful IPO (which it announced at $17 per share and is currently trading at $17.30). There are very few companies in enterprise storage that generate as much interest as Pure Storage, and there will certainly be intense interest when it reveals its Q3 financials on December 3, 2015.

In the interim, the company emerged from the quiet period with a flurry of announcements about its latest product enhancements. Conversations with Pure Storage representatives usually start in the same place -- its commitments to its customers. The company announced impressive results from a recent third-party survey, which we'll cover later in this article.

The company also announced the addition of 3D TLC NAND to its FlashArray//m arsenal. The AFA segment, and the industry at large, is undergoing a rapid transition to 3D TLC NAND because it increases density and performance while simultaneously reducing cost. This trifecta of benefits fuels Pure's new high of 60 TB of usable capacity per-rack-U, and simultaneously reduced cost to $1.50 per-GB of usable storage.

Users can mix-and-match MLC and TLC SSDs into the architecture, and Pure Storage guarantees the TLC-infused infrastructure under its standard Evergreen Storage model. Evergreen guarantees the underlying media, regardless of workloads, for as long as it is covered under an active support contract. Pure also added a higher-density shelf that comes courtesy of the 3D TLC SSDs. The previous maximum shelf density weighed in at 22 TB, but now administrators can add a hefty 44 TB 3D TLC expansion shelf. 

The math behind AFA capacity metrics can be a bit muddy. Companies typically avoid including RAID, software and HA overhead calculations into capacity specifications -- but make a point to include potential thin provisioning savings. This inflates the capacity metric, but a bit of scrutiny (and math) often reveals a much lower usable capacity. Pure Storage includes its RAID, HA and software overhead in the 60 TB-per-U measurement and does not include potential thin provisioning savings.

AFA dollar-per-GB metrics can also be misleading in some cases. Vendors include potential savings from data reduction technologies (such as deduplication and compression), which are reliant upon savings that may not materialize for all workloads and data types. Pure indicated that its $1.50 dollar-per-GB metric reflects a 5:1 data reduction savings.

$1.50 per-usable-GB is a competitive price point, and the inclusion of 3D TLC NAND (which in recent months Dell, Kaminario, SolidFire and HPE adopted) will certainly spur further price reductions in the very near future. Samsung is currently the only source of 3D NAND, and it has a new iteration of its products, which boast higher density and lower cost than the 3D TLC employed in the recent announcements and is coming in the beginning of 2016.)

Pure's customer-first mentality pays off in terms of sales and repeat customers, and as part of its goal to continually increase customer satisfaction, it recently commissioned Satmetrix to measure its Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The rationale behind the NPS score is simple: The company asks Pure's customers if they would recommend the product to others. There is (of course) complex methodologies involved, but the end score boils down to one metric. The average score for a high-tech company is 16, but Pure blew that expectation out of the water with a score of 79. In fact, the company has the highest recorded score of any market segment. The score even outclasses customer satisfaction metrics for Apple's iPhone.

Pure also commissioned an NPS review of its support system and received a score of 85. The company is moving from a proactive support service to a predictive model via its Pure1 Global Insight cloud-based analytics technology, even in the face of its apparent success. This allows it to warn customers of impending issues through a library of known-issue "fingerprints." The fingerprints enable automatic scans in the field, much like a virus scan, to detect vulnerabilities to known issues, configurations, and environmental changes. It also detects performance and capacity anomalies, and it notifies the customer before the problem occurs.

A new capacity planner feature, which will come to all of the Pure product line via a free non-disruptive upgrade, provides intelligent capacity analysis and planning. This feature is useful to help administrators detect and adjust to peak usage periods.

Pure Storage also announced new models in its Flashstack converged infrastructure solution (a reference architecture typically deployed on Cisco UCS servers) designed specifically for SAP and Oracle applications. The company indicated an average 4:1 SAP data reduction, and the enhanced speed reduces common SAP administration tasks by 50 percent.

Pure Storage is attempting to undergo a transition from a marketing-heavy start-up (with the typical financial losses) to a long-term profitable, publicly-traded company. Its impending financials will help ascertain how it is faring in its new role, but it is apparent that the company is moving quickly on several fronts to increase its competitiveness against the incumbents.

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's IT Pro, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.