Unifying cloud services

Speak to any IT manager or CIO across industry and odds are they’ll tell you that the propagation of data across their organisation is getting out of control. It is likely to be their outstanding challenge.

That challenge has been exacerbated by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep analytics, which have fast become strategically important to enterprise. Applications of all types – both traditional and emerging – demand flexible, location-independent data accessibility, and this has had a profound impact on infrastructure.

Modern organisations need real-time access to any and all data, which requires applications to move freely between on-premises and the cloud. Historically, a lack of purpose-designed, strategic integrations between on-premises storage and the cloud have been a primary inhibitor of application mobility.

The end result of these factors has been a clear cloud divide, with an almost universal acceptance that the cloud is not an optimum environment for enterprise solutions, while enterprise infrastructure isn’t considered to be as user-friendly as the cloud.

It is against this backdrop that when considering the trends that will shape the world of enterprise technology in 2019, the convergence to hybrid cloud has been a hot tip, with tens of billions of dollars to be spent on the transition.

One of the companies that will play a big part in this sea-change is Pure Storage, which was established nine years ago with the goal of bringing back growth and innovation to the enterprise storage market.

In November, Pure Storage announced Pure Storage Cloud Data Services, a suite of new cloud offerings that run on Amazon Web Services (AWS), making headlines across the technology industry. Its claim – that customers can invest in a single storage architecture to unify application deployments on-premises and on the cloud, flexibly turning data into value virtually anywhere – is one which will have piqued the interest of IT professionals the world over.

The service is made up of three components which work together to deliver a unified cloud, the first of which is the beta availability of Cloud Block Store, based on Purity software running natively on AWS.

Cloud Block Store is an industrial-strength block storage offering, enabling mission-critical enterprise applications to run in the cloud with all the capabilities that customers expect from high-end storage arrays. Cloud Block Store also provides new capabilities and resilience for web-scale, cloud-first apps.

“You you know as a technologist within a large enterprise, you always hold your breath when restoring data” - Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith, Field CTO EMEA at Pure Storage, who has spent 25 years in the world of IT, tells Digital Bulletin: “Cloud Block Store is a block storage platform that really takes cloud services to the next level in terms of availability.

“It is focused on reliability, efficiency and performance. The aspect of reliability comes from the ability to improve on typically the storage platforms provided by the public cloud, while improved efficiency is enabled by better performance than our users can currently get from public cloud providers.

“This is not a case of installing our physical arrays in the public cloud, but rather a 100% software product. It provides all the efficiency that people are familiar with, with our technology including duplication and compression, while also offering space-efficient snapshots which can be very difficult to do in the public cloud.”

Patrick Smith, Field CTO EMEA at Pure Storage

The second pillar is the announcement of the general availability of CloudSnap, which delivers cloud-based data protection built right into Pure Storage’s flagship FlashArray software. CloudSnap, says Smith, makes it easy to copy snapshots directly to the cloud for both data protection and application migration.

“What CloudSnap allows our customers to do is to take those snapshots as they become older and potentially less likely to be used as a restore point and push them into the public cloud. They get that durability and the reliability that public cloud provides.

“The other thing that’s particularly interesting about CloudSnap is when combined with Cloud Block Store, it provides an easy way to re-instantiate that snapshot in the public cloud, rather than unnecessarily having to copy the data back on-prem to do a restore. So, you have that opportunity to do both on primary storage from the public cloud, with CloudSnap or within the public cloud with CloudSnap. It really provides the best of both worlds.”

The third component is the beta availability of StorReduce, a cloud-first deduplication engine for modern backup. This software is designed to enable simple backup, rapid recovery, and cost-effective data retention in public cloud object storage. When combined with a FlashBlade on-prem, the solution provides “Flash to Flash to Cloud” data protection enabling both rapid restore and low cost, long-term cloud retention.

This, says Smith, represents a true paradigm shift. “So, we looked at data protection over the last 20 years, and saw a transition to using purpose-built backup appliances, the disk to disk, VTL model and then pushing out backs up to tape and moving them offsite for long-term storage. What we’re now finding is that restore speeds are too slow to meet today’s requirements, and our customers are having to utilise multiple silos of backup infrastructure which makes it expensive.

“And if we look at the offsite protection, tape retention is fragile. The ability to guarantee that you can restore from a tape is not strong. You always you know as a technologist within a large enterprise, you always hold your breath [when restoring data]. We looked at all of that and thought ‘we have to find a better way’.”

Pure Storage is betting that its ‘Flash to Flash to Cloud’ solution is just that, and will become the industry standard, superseding the ‘Disk to Disk to Tape’ model.

“The technology is all about properly supporting primary flash storage with fast recovery and cost-effective initial point of back-up. So rather than having a legacy purpose-built backup plan, we have now the capability to back up to flash and then push those backups into the cloud for long-term retention. It provides the best of all worlds in that you can get faster recovery,” says Smith.

Absolutely central to the wider cloud conversation is security, a subject that Smith says is the top priority for “pretty much all of Pure Storage’s customers”, and one he says has been paramount to the business since it began trading nine years ago.

“All of the data we carry in FlashArray is encrypted, it’s always on. I think that really shows how seriously we take the security topic. If you look at the storage markets, typically encrypting data at rest is an option and a cost option, but it’s always on with FlashArray and with FlashBlade and we are taking those technologies into the cloud where the same is true – the data is always encrypted,” says Smith.

This new suite of solutions represents a real shot in the arm for the storage industry and cements Pure Storage’s reputation as one of the sector’s early movers, a reputation that has remained intact since it became one of the fastest-growing IT storage companies in history just a few years after it started operating.

“We have a very proud track record and this move into Cloud Data Services allows us to take our next step as a company. And it’s not just a small step, what we have done is introduce a considerable set of capabilities for the public cloud. We believe these solutions will allow our customers to really take their use of public cloud to the next level both for their mission critical tier one applications as well as their data protection requirements going forward.”

It is an approach that has not gone unrecognised; Pure Storage was positioned within the Leaders quadrant of the July 2018 Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays by Gartner for the fifth year in a row in 2018, an achievement Smith says can be attributed to the philosophy of the business and its employees.

“We really do encourage all of our employees to push the envelope on innovation.We’re a small company, we have just over 2,500 employees here and everyone is motivated to adopt the culture of the company, which is all about technology innovation, customer support, and business model innovation. That’s what the founders wanted when they established this business and that’s what we expect to this day,” Smith concludes.


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