When I first met Pure Storage, at Virtualization Field Day Three, the company objective was to deliver an all-flash storage array that was cost competitive with disk-based arrays. At that time Pure Storage was optimizing for cost, rather than all-out performance. But even when the price was a primary concern, Pure also wanted to deliver the data services that enterprise IT expects. Over the five years since I met Pure, I have seen many profound changes in the company, and the industry as a whole. While Pure is still very conscious of the cost of their products, they have a sufficient range of products that there are performance optimized options. There are whole new families of products that were not even conceived in 2014. One thing that has not changed is their business approach. The Forever Flash guarantee is one aspect of how Pure wants to make life simpler for its customers.
Disclosure: Pure Storage is a past customer of mine.
Forever Flash Drives Pure
The central premise of Forever Flash is that customers should never need to forklift upgrade their Pure arrays. Pure customers pay their annual maintenance and every three years Pure will replace the controllers in their array with whatever updated controller is available. As we saw in the Build Day Live event with Pure Storage, the replacement of controllers is non-disruptive, so no downtime. I think that the Forever Flash guarantee is driving the Pure Storage engineering team to make all of the upgrades and updates as simple as possible. Pure expects customers to treat controller upgrades as a routine task, only a major project when you have dozens of arrays to upgrade. Because it is an everyday activity, the process has been simplified and is well tested which removes risk from the upgrade process.
One way to think about Forever Flash is that the cost of the new controllers is paid over the three years of maintenance. The cost of maintenance remains flat since the controllers are always less than three years old. This is much more friendly than vendors that ratchet the support cost after three years to force customers to buy new arrays. Removing the forced upgrade is a further saving, no three-month long project to migrate from the old storage array to a new array. With non-disruptive updates, Pure storage arrays can remain available continuously for many years.
There is a business benefit to Pure too. Since all of their customers have controllers that are under three years old, Pure does not need to support older controllers. For any established vendor, supporting multiple versions of their product is expensive. By helping customers to keep their hardware, and Purity OS up-to-date, Pure is also controlling their support costs to match that flat maintenance subscription they offer to customers.
Customer Friendly, Good for Business
I always like to see different approaches that yield non-obvious benefits. The Pure Storage Forever Flash guarantee seems to produce a business model that is good for customers and good for Pure. Just remember that by taking away the periodic need to replace your array, Pure has also taken away a reason to look at other vendors. If you are a Pure customer, you may need to remind yourself to consciously check that Pure is still the right choice for your business.
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