Last week’s first Pure Accelerate — the vendor’s user conference — marked a definite increase in pressure on the throttle for the all-flash player. Of course a cynic might argue that few vendors have embraced “all flash” in its non-technical meaning quite as well as Pure. However, aside from the abundance of orange at Pier 48 in San Francisco, there were rather more signs of substance than such cynics might expect or enjoy.
My colleagues Scott Sinclair, Tony Palmer and I enjoyed the break in California’s recent rainy weather, shooting some of our On Location video under blue skies! Please enjoy our 6 minute video summary of the event and my additional commentary below with additional context.
So what did we learn that was substantive? While the new products that were announced were of course important and all the Pure folks were justifiably proud parents, my main takeaway was more to do with the “family” and “lifestyle” into which these new “babies” are welcomed. There is certainly plenty of reason for optimism. The family economics are moving in an encouraging direction — the deferred revenue associated with Pure’s Evergreen acquisition model means that the positive cash flow that has finally arrived could well be a precursor of profitability. Such profitability rests on many things, but two major items are these:
- Dramatic (and continuing and growing) sales traction Here, it was not just the attitude of the raving fans that constituted Pure’s customers at the event, it was also the sheer number of them (my rough guesstimate suggests something close to half the base was represented), together with the fact that their success stories were invariably more business-oriented than mere technology tales. While Pure has done well to have more than 1650 customers already (and is proud of its exceedingly fast revenue growth), there is clearly plenty of market for it to aim at.
- Portfolio expansion A one-product company is often not the best basis for long-term success. While one can say that FlashBlade now makes Pure a two-product company (and increases its TAM), it is realistically hard to say these products are as dramatically different as Pure would have us believe (with due objectivity and fair simplification, both are all-flash arrays for business users), the move to a second product stream (together with extensions such as the FlashStack line) provides assurance as to the grander visions that Pure’s founders and executives have for the company, as well as its ability to deliver. Its “hardware minimalism” and its willingness to challenge the supposed norms with FlashBlade (to wit, changing and removing internal protocols and running on ethernet) show engineering imagination still thrives in the company.
That engineering imagination is a necessity for any future success of course, although ultimately it is Pure’s customers’ commitment — borne of exceeded expectations — that will determine the level of such success. That is why Scott Dietzen wisely chose to make so much of the extremely high Net Promoter Score that Pure has achieved. ESG’s own research notes that “TCO” and “Service & Support” top the criteria that users have when choosing storage solutions and vendors, so this is very promising for Pure, above and beyond its feature sets and pantones.
While Pure has made an excellent market start, its corporate history is yet to be written. But its acceleration is eventually just as much about the persona of the company and its customers as it is about the patents. And, if nothing else, Pure gets that. Plenty.
Female: The following is an ESG On Location video.
Mark Peters: Welcome to a sunny San Francisco for the start of the show season. And actually we're outside for once in a different location, thanks to Pure, who has two events here this week. Behind me, in AT&T Park, as you can see, we have the analyst event. I'm not happy with just having one inaugural event to manage. Behind me in Pier 48, just over the road, Pure was also handling its inaugural customer event, Pure//Accelerate. Let's go in and take a look.
And when you come in, what do you find? Well, it's a big company show, which is very impressive for a company of Pure scale and age to pull off. In fact, one of the things that impressed me most is the high percentage of its customer base that has elected and voted to be here; clearly shows their interest in the company.
In this video, we're going to hear from a couple of Scotts. First, Scott Sinclair, my colleague, who's going to take you through the main news from the event. Later, we'll hear from Scott Dietzen, CEO of Pure, and in between, we'll hear from Tony Palmer, my ESG Lab colleague, who's going to talk about three key takeaways he had from the event.
Scott Sinclair: And now for the news from Pure//Accelerate. There are essentially two pieces of information; the first, just an appetizer. Pure introduced a smaller version of the array, the Ten. It's an under-50K all-flash array. I think that data itself speaks for itself on what Pure is trying to do. But next is the main course, and what is essentially the talk of the show. And this has a potentially disruptive new product, the flash plate. It is a 4U box with 1.6 petabytes of effective flash storage. And don't let the S3 and NFS connectivity fool you. This is not a backup device. This is not a traditional filer. This storage system is designed for a next generation of cloud and analytics workloads and it's really showing how Pure is taking flash storage and developing new types of storage architectures to solve new challenges. This is just the first step in how Pure is taking this product to market, but right now it's looking very interesting and a very compelling offering from Pure.
Tony: The three key themes that I took away from Pure//Accelerate were technology, innovation and vision. So the technology is clear. It's the advances in flash technology and the reduction in cost of that flash technology that's enabled some of the innovation that Pure has demonstrated here at the show. And the vision is, well, that they've had the vision to design these products, to conceptualize these products, before that technology was in place. And now they're bringing it to market to address heretofore untouched and untapped markets for them, unstructured, semi-structured data, which I find just fascinating.
Talking of flash plate, here it is in real life. Now, if I look a little orange that's because everything here is a little orange. I promise I'm feeling good. Back over at AT&T Park, I had the opportunity to get a couple of minutes with Scott Dietzen, as I mentioned earlier. I asked him to talk about a few things. Something that he's really proud of that Pure has done. And also then to get into both opportunities and challenges for the company.
Scott Dietzen: I would say the two things that I'm most proud of with Pure Storage are, first, the level of customer satisfaction that we've been able to deliver through our products and through our service. Net promoter score is one such measure that we scored a 79 on. The thing that makes that score so compelling is 16 is the industry average.
Ironically, the Apple iPhone is a 63. So we came in above the Apple iPhone, in fact, with that same 63 points above the industry average in terms of how much happier our customers are. That led right into the second thing, which is the Pure Storage business has grown faster than any storage business in history. So that puts us in really great company in terms of building a fundamentally sound and very successful business. And it's so much fun to get to work with our customers and see the difference that our storages make. Our storage often pays for itself both in terms of saving the business money and allowing them to explore new opportunities.
The thing I think about the most is, how can Pure Storage continue to grow so quickly and maintain our level of access? We've built such an extraordinarily gifted team, a team that cares so much about customer success. We've got this great corporate culture that's made us a best places to work in the Bay Area for the past four years running. We've got to maintain that, but it's hard when you're more than doubling your business year over year. So we're going to have to redouble our efforts to make sure we keep our winning streak going.
Mark: So what can we say as we wrap up back at Pier 48 surrounded, of course, by a lot more orange? It was interesting to me and very pertinent that Scott chose to talk about the net promoter score, talking about the customers that Pure as really the thing that he's proudest of. Clearly, it's customers and their commitment to the company that is really going to drive the future; whether it's the original product, or Flash Play, the New //m10, those are all very interesting. But it's the commitment of customers that will determine whether Pure//Accelerate is just the name of a show or indeed what the company can do over the next couple of years.