When Purity is diluted by the Investment Innovation Challenge

I’m sure many of you have seen the recent debacle regarding Pure’s results as they progress toward their first IPO. Any time Gartner issues an apology for being wrong, it gets a lot of attention. I am not going to analyse the results, but you can read about it here

As I’ve got a little older I’ve become much better at taking criticism.

I’ve listened to companies such as Pure stating that NetApp isn’t innovating. I’ve seen the videos, read the press, listened to the presentations and all of the noise that was made about it.

Yes, it was a frustrating time. All of us at NetApp knew that the technologies we were delivering were and are truly innovative.

For example:
• Huge performance and efficiency optimisations in ONTAP for All Flash FAS
• Cloud ONTAP for AWS
• AltaVault for Cloud Backup
• StorageGRID for Object Storage

All of these are now available as an integrated Hardware/Software platform, Software as Virtual Storage Appliances and as Software-based Cloud solutions. This is without even touching on some of the significant feature enhancements these technologies have received.

But other vendors would dismiss this and continue to bang the ‘NetApp isn’t innovating’ drum. I guess this is how marketing works sometimes; pick a mantra and then keep banging on about it time and time again and after a while people start to repeat it, or at least take notice of it almost regardless of whether it has any real merit.

But seeing Pure’s numbers did one thing for me. It made me step back and look at the company and its technology progress. $183M in losses for the last financial year is a huge amount of money and a significant increase on losses posted in previous years. Much of this must be fuelling innovation right? I mean this can’t be sustainable unless there is clear and substantial innovation to ensure differentiation and therefore a strong market and customer proposition.

And this is where my concerns come in.

Pure started with a good product. They launched something new, and it had some nice features. These included 3D RAID and Variable block size data reduction for example. They were also one of the first to the market and are clearly a company that the employees enjoy working for. They also have some extremely good marketing that’s enabled them to position a relatively small company as something much bigger in the industry. But putting this to one side, from that initial product how much incremental innovation has there been?

Replication? There’s no way you can claim this as innovation. This is a basic and fundamental feature that any enterprise array simply has to have.

Evergreen? a good idea and a well packaged proposition but that’s it, no ground breaking technology or innovation enabled this.

New hardware? All storage platforms get new hardware over time. Sure there are some interesting physical characteristics, but hardware is there to deliver performance and in that perspective it’s not set the world alight.

There doesn’t seem to be much else.

I am calling this into question because innovation is a continuous quest. You can’t just point to something you did in the past. You have to show it’s in the present and in your future too, especially when so much is being spent and it seems so little is being delivered.

Our Lee Caswell put together an Enterprise All Flash Array checklist . These are features you should expect when making an All Flash storage purchase. If you have them, please put any biases to one side and truly ask how many of these can be delivered by Pure today. Based on the current speed of innovation how many are likely to come and how quickly will they arrive in the future? If at all

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