Pure Storage CEO: Seeing is Believing – A Key Principle for this Market Disruptor
By: John Gallant | 05/01/2015
The term ‘disruption’ gets tossed about a lot – too often – in the technology industry. But it isn’t always hype. Backed by nearly half a billion dollars in investment, CEO Scott Dietzen and Pure Storage, driving pure flash storage technology, are hard at work disrupting a big chunk of the enterprise storage market. I sat down with Dietzen to discuss their rise in the market and how the company intends to elbow the current market leaders aside.
Photo Credit: Pure Storage
Creating a Recipe for Success
Reducing business risk to success can take on many different forms for companies working within the tech industry. For Dietzen, the formula included four key components – “a big market, a technology sea change of some variety, an innovative [strategy] and a world-class team.” With this recipe in place, Pure Storage launched into the next-generation data center market to deliver a flash solution with two areas in mind: economics and compatibility.
“Most customers’ storage budgets aren’t going up, so unless you can fit into those storage budgets you don’t have a lot of opportunity,” Dietzen acknowledged. Pure Storage found that there are two sides to the coin with economics. They not only aimed to fit within or cost less to buy than other storage solutions on the front end, they also aimed to save customers money once the solution was implemented on the back end – boasting a savings on average of $500k per year per storage appliance.
Even with major savings promised, getting people to switch technologies can be a major hurdle, and buyer sophistication means the need to show risk reduction and the ability to deliver is more imperative than ever. Pure Storage offers proof of concept in order for buyers to test out the technology before committing. “Seeing is believing,” said Dietzen. “People become customers because the reality is actually better than we even promise it’s going to be.”
The Movement of Flash and Disk, and Competition in the Space
Dietzen thinks the role of disk is being redefined. Productivity improvements due to flash are allowing companies to eliminate more than a year of latency every month, says Dietzen. His prediction is that Tier 1 goes 100% all-flash, and that “disk will continue to have success in workloads like archiving, backup, object store, big data, where the workloads are not as performance intensive.” To make flash technology tangible, Dietzen describes how flash operates using an example that a vast majority of people do daily. “When you do Google instant search, when you type and you see the results real time, that’s flash,” Dietzen notes. Using traditional storage methods simply can’t operate at that speed as he points out that “the rest of the data center operates close to the speed of light and then the whole world stops for an eternity while that mechanical spindle tries to seek and rotate to get to where the data is.”
NetApp, he said, “has been engineering a [flash] product,” but of the big storage players “EMC has been far more aggressive in seeing this disruption than anyone else.” While Dietzen acknowledges comparative performance is a wash, he feels Pure Storage competes better in terms of the resiliency and simplicity of their product. “[Pure Storage’s] product has supported non-disruptive operations and high availability for three years,” says Dietzen, meaning that hardware swaps and new software installations can occur all while the system is running and performance won’t be compromised.
Other storage players are experimenting with bringing disk-based products over to flash, and Pure Storage is keeping an eye on startups because, Dietzen acknowledges, “as a disruptor you’re always nervous about getting disrupted.”
Disrupting Markets Require Partnerships and Perspectives
Dietzen views rank-and-file enterprises moving to Tier 1 flash as happening now, which is where Pure Storage’s energies are focused. In order to keep up the progress, he recognizes that partnerships are important. “Storage is very interdisciplinary,” says Dietzen. “We have to maintain strong partnerships across [many] of the software vendors that then use our storage underneath,” such as VMware, Microsoft, and Oracle.
Pure Storage also knows that in creating disruption in the market it’s vital to keep a fresh perspective and fresh thinking. “[We have] been so successful because we have been able to pull phenomenal people out of all different disciplines,” says Dietzen, and so, “the organization puts a lot of energy into recruiting because we’re only going to continue to be this disruptive if we can maintain this level of excellence.”