Pure Storage and GE Digital IT leadership discuss progress of industry

ACN touches base with some of the world’s most prolific IT industry personalities, who share their insights on the current state of the global IT market

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Pure Storage and GE Digital IT leadership discuss progress of industry Ruh: It is heartening to see countries in the Middle East focusing on leveraging the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is our core area of expertise.
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By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  October 9, 2017

Yousuf Khan, CIO, Pure Storage

ACN: Could you start by sharing some details on your background and role with Pure Storage?

Yousuf Khan: I joined Pure Storage in April 2015 as the CIO, the first to hold this role in the company! With more than 15 years industry experience, over the past two and a half years, I have helped Pure scale and manage infrastructure and processes through one of the fastest growth of any systems companies. In addition, I serve as the technical customer advocate, working closely with industry peers, prospects and partners to provide strategic insight into challenging IT environments with a particular focus on public cloud, private cloud and SaaS.

ACN: Can you highlight some of the latest offerings developed for the SaaS segment?

YK: Pure’s one-of-a-kind Evergreen Storage program provides SaaS companies with the modern platform needed to reach new customers and industries with improved service level agreements and faster time to market, as well as significantly reduce operational expense.

On the one hand, Pure Storage provides six nines reliability and non-disruptive upgrades via Evergreen Storage for resilient and scalable operations, as well as consistently high sub-millisecond latency across mixed block sizes. This includes always-on security with data-at-rest encryption, IPv6 and FIPS provide the tools necessary for compliance-ready SLAs.

Additionally, Pure Storage technology for SaaS includes thousands of instant, performance and capacity-free snapshots for accelerate testing, development, quality assurance and rapid data recovery, as well as Restful APIs and SDKs for Python, PowerShell and JAVA for agile, automated DevOps. With Pure Storage, developers can leverage Pure snapshots for database refresh and have driven up to 20x improvement in refresh times.

Lastly, Pure delivers industry-leading data reduction and hardware optimisation for minimised space, power and cooling. Through its one-of-a-kind Evergreen Storage program, customers can avoid ever re-buying a terabyte of storage. Instead, customers can modernise existing Pure arrays through subscription-like access to performance, feature and density innovations — which includes a guaranteed, non-disruptive upgrade path to NVMe. Smart Storage for SaaS also includes compatibility for vCenter, SCVMM, OpenStack and container integrations for simplified, consolidated manageability. This means fewer employees spending less time on storage management, and more on innovation.

ACN: What would you highlight as being the current challenges with flash storage?

YK: Flash is a very different media than disk, and the big challenge is taking full advantage of those differences. Most vendors have taken shortcuts by retrofitting flash in their traditional disk arrays, keeping the majority of the legacy disk-centric technology intact.

The result was indeed faster time to market for them, but with dramatic trade-offs—much more complexity, lower (and inconsistent) performance, poor upgradeability, poor data reduction and eventually poor efficiency and higher cost.

The ongoing challenge for these vendors is to re-write the software (and modify the hardware) to be flash-native (e.g. with NVMe protocols and direct flash access, deep de-duplication and compression, no tuning) and remove the vestiges of disk-era technologies and associated management. Such massive re-engineering efforts introduce significant risk for customers, not least to availability as these refactored platforms are essentially brand new, without the benefit of years of hardening.

On the other hand, at Pure, we have optimised our products from day one for all-flash. We’ve additionally built a unique non-disruptive architecture that essentially has no defined end-of-life, allowing storage to simply continue to get better over time, without slowing down, turning off, or requiring capacity re-buys or data migrations.

We’ve gone beyond just making an all flash array— we’ve built storage that operates like SaaS, like a service, but that customers own and run on their premises. At the macro level, this is the main challenge we see for the storage and broader IT industry — to create offerings that are service-centric, and that operate with the same agility and consumption as a cloud.

ACN: How are you continuing to develop and expand your partner programme?

YK: At Pure, we are laser focused on not only providing the best customer experience on the planet, as proven with our latest audited NPS score of 83.7, but we’re also maniacal about creating the best partner experience in the industry.

We never put our programs ahead of our innovation. With that said, we know that continual enhancements and evolution of our partner program, P3, is essential to our winning relationships within our ecosystem. Against that backdrop, in June 2017, we added several benefits to our P3 solution provider program and also introduced a new category for Service Providers.

For all P3 partners, we now offer beta testing to provide early hands-on access to upcoming products, solutions and features. Our partners are leading the way into new workloads and use cases for Pure’s portfolio and the related feedback is incredibly valuable as we continue developing the most innovative technology for the cloud era. In parallel, we have extended our range of enablement tools to help drive success in the market; including training, demo gear discounts and deal registration. The program also offers a variety of sales and marketing resources, including access to MDF funds, a self-service marketing platform called Pure Demand, and the Pure On The Go app, which allows partners to easily access sales resources, and the ability to configure, price and quote, all from their mobile devices.

Specific to Service Providers, Pure has a rich history of successful partnerships with these providers globally, including a number who also have hosting practices. As we worked together we were inspired to design a program that will allow Service Providers to offer their customers the ability to consume Pure as part of a managed or cloud deployment.

The benefit of the new SP feature is Service and Technology Coherence; aligning our technical capability with our partners’ services activity to deliver the most effective and efficient offerings. As such, our focus is not the program itself, but the results and outcomes it generates for the SP Partner.

The partner benefits and entitlements within our EMEA program includes integrated support, such as being able to reduce expense for the service provider by utilising their existing infrastructure and resources to maintain their own arrays, as well as integrated management capabilities. The latter comes in the form of published connector tools and APIs to integrate Pure1 into their existing data centre management framework.

Other benefits include deferred support through the alignment of support and maintenance costs with customer service revenues, and a range of payment models to fit partners’ business requirements, to mitigate the capital risks of end-user customer sizing, usage and growth. Lastly, partners can utilise SLAs for performance/availability that are backed by commercial penalties, as well as alignment in delivery. This enables the flow-down of appropriate risk, while also reducing contingencies.

ACN: Can you share some insights on your company’s strategy for the 2018 year?

YK: Artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning represent fantastic growth areas of our business. Only Pure is providing the massive parallelism required for today’s data-driven predictive analytics, including machine learning, powered by recent innovations such as Pure1 META, our AI platform that allows customers to predict both capacity and performance and get intelligent advice on workload deployment, interaction and optimisation, and the expansion to FlashBlade, the industry’s first cloud-era flash array, purpose-built for modern analytics. Our vision for 2020 is to achieve an in-year revenue of $2B+ with a 3-year CAGR north of 30%.

As we head in to 2018, our goal is to continue to stay on the forefront of the ‘flash revolution’. This will be accomplished by widening our differentiation in the cloud model, flash and data driven/AI space, and executing on a go-to-market strategy that will drive strong repeat sales and gaining market share across our three growth segments. These comprise of the data platform for cloud, data-driven applications like artificial intelligence and IoT, as well as helping enterprises that are seeking to derive more value from their data.

ACN: Can you go further and shed some light on Pure’s regional strategy for the Middle East?

YK: With the growth in data-driven applications, the centre of gravity in the data centre is shifting away from compute and toward data storage. In keeping with this trend, we have seen strong demand for our solutions, from enterprises in ‘data-heavy’ verticals such as banking, education, government and insurance.

Over the last couple of years, we have closed deals with several leading regional enterprises in these sectors and as such, they will remain a focus for us in 2018. Also, over the course of the last year, we expanded our channel network and going into 2018 we plan on investing in enabling these partners through our P3 Partner Program and leveraging their relationships and geographical reach to grow our footprint across the region.

ACN: How do you see the Middle East region’s IT market continuing to evolve as we close in on 2020?

YK: Over the next three years, I expect to see a substantial increase in digital investments as talk turns in to action, something that is supported by the October 2016 PwC report Industry 4.0: Building The Digital Industrial Enterprise. The report found that between 2017 and 2021, enterprises in the Middle East expect to see an average increase of 3.8% in annual digital revenue, be that from additional customer benefits or new digital products.

As digital technology becomes a key driver of revenue in the region, I also expect big data analytics playing a major role in bringing organisations closer to their customers. According to our own 2017 ‘Evolution’ survey, 74% of Middle East businesses expect to see more demand in the business for real-time analytics and interactive simulations than they did a year ago.

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