Thoughts on the future of technology in and out of the datacenter

Changing the Customer Experience

The customer experience. The most important focal point when building products.  At Pure, we have a maniacal focus on alleviating the challenges customers experience. We started with a super differentiated product, but it didn’t stop there……
 
The image above is a picture of change.  A change of an industry.  Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, is looking into a closed down abandoned Blockbuster. Imagine what he was thinking?  I bet he never expected to transform the movie industry so quickly.  One thing is certain; they changed the customer experience for movie lovers worldwide.
 

If you remember back, Blockbuster was a staple in the traditional household. On any given evening, you would find movie lovers fighting to find the most recent releases.  Unfortunately, the customer experience was very challenging. You arrived completely unaware if the movie you desired was in stock. Getting the newest release was close to impossible, due to high demand and lack of visibility. In most cases, you left without the movie you wanted, and in some cases completely empty handed. To make matters worse, while checking out, you got beat up with late fees from previous rentals.  Reed is often stated that he decided to start Netflix after being fined $40 at a video store for being late to return a copy of Apollo 13.  Although I believe that story is false, it is a situation we have all experienced.

Netflix showed up to the market with a much better customer experience.  Unlimited rentals, with no late fees, complete visibility of all movies, and a simple and intuitive interface.  Net net, Netflix alleviated the challenges that Blockbuster created.  Blockbuster realized the ills of their ways and tried to evolve, but their past customer experience pushed their customers away and into the hands of Netflix.

Enterprise storage companies of the past directly resemble the customer experience of Blockbuster. Customers are forced to deal with complexity, inefficiency, and high costs.  Good news is that Pure provided a dramatically different experience

How is Pure Storage any different?


To start with, we always put ourselves in our customers shoes, to understand their challenges
.   We constantly heard that complexity, inefficiency, inconsistent performance, and horrible long-term costs were major issues.  We decided to make our core tenants and business model the exact opposite of the typical customer experience of enterprise storage.  Many of our early customers stated “you guys figured out all the things that suck with EMC and did the exact opposite.” 

Change of Perspective and A Fresh Look
 
An early decision was made to not hire engineers from the storage industry. We didn’t hire the guys from Silicon Valley either, but we do have similar characters. I love the “never forget” shirt. Did you know that most kids these days think that is a save button and have no idea it is a floppy disk. Anyways I digress.
We wanted software engineers that could create software solutions to customers challenges. Getting a new perspective enables the delivery of something disruptive.  Hiring engineers outside the storage industry avoids creating a little better version of an EMC, NetApp, or IBM array.  No one wants that…..
 
“Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication”
 
Simplicity is the thing customers wanted most. Leonardo da Vinci said it best “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.” Extrapolating the complexity away from the user is the true enabler of innovation in the enterprise. You cannot imagine how refreshing it is to get rid of all those complex excel documents details RAID groups, meta LUNs, tiering, performance tuning, and those java based GUIs.
 
How many people look at a manual before using their smartphone? No one! Most smartphones don’t even come with a manual anymore. It assumes the user can easily pick up the device, figure out how to use it. We did the same thing at Pure. We made things so simple that you only need a tent card to manage and configure everything.
 

Efficiency in the Datacenter is an Oxymoron

Anything that requires racks of gear should make you question the innovativeness of the solution. If it is missing data reduction software, throw it out! At Pure, we changed the face of the datacenter. Racks and racks consolidated down to a few rack units. 10x consolidation rates happened at the beginning. Now we are consolidating 20+ racks down to 4 Rack Units (10th of a rack) with FlashBlade. Costs for power, cooling, and datacenter space were slashed through software and hardware innovation.  We decided to incorporate every possible data reduction feature set possible from day one.  Deduplication (at a 512byte anchor point), compression (inline and deeper post compression), pattern removal, and thin provisioning.  This gives customers the best possible economics and efficiency from the very beginning.

The Storage Maintenance Racket

Maintenance was by far the biggest racket in the storage industry. Customers have been getting extorted for years. It is financial bullying. An analogy I use often is, imagine you buy a house which comes with 3 years worth of property tax. Year 4 the tax bill shows up and the next 3 years of property tax is the same price as the brand new house down the street. What do you do? You of course move to the house down the street! It forces you to move all your stuff. You break some stuff, you lose some stuff, and your wife or husband is always upset because you are moving all the time. The more stuff you have, the less time you get in the new house before you need to move again. Seriously, this sucks.
 
Imagine an alternate (the Pure way). You buy a house with 3 years of property tax. Year 4 the tax bill shows up and is it the same price you paid for property tax the first 3 years, or less. Pure’s maintenance has actually gone down 50% over the last 3 years. Once you pay the next 3 years we remodel your entire house for you while you are at work. No downtime, no moving, no impact to your life. Would you ever move? No! You would never need to. Your house gets better every 3 years. Your house is the oldest house on the block, but also the newest.  Just like your Pure Storage array in your datacenter.
 
But the fun doesn’t stop there. If you have a kid or need an additional bedroom, you only pay for the incremental space. No need to buy a bigger house or move and rebuy. Only pay the incremental amount. It is truly the best consumption model in the industry. Check out our Evergreen Storage solution for more details (https://www.purestorage.com/why-pure/evergreen-storage.html).
 
Here are the high points:
  • Maintenance never goes up – always flat and fair
  • Free controllers every 3 years replaced non-disruptively without impact
  • Trade in credit for controllers and capacity

All this while never needing to forklift upgrade, never buying the same TB, and never taking a downtime or maintenance window again. I mean, seriously awesome…..

Proactive Support = Happy Customers

Lastly, the support experience. We were told early on, that our support would probably suck as bad as EMC, NetApp, HP, or IBM, as soon as we got to their size. This honestly scared us into taking action early. Our goal has alway been to have customers never call support. We would proactively reach out to them. We decided to build a machine learning solution to automate support and make it proactive. Our arrays send home telemetry data every 30 seconds as well as all our software logs every hour. Each time a customer called with an issue, we would look at the pathology of the issue throughout the logs. We would then create a finger print to identify the issue in logs. Every hour we run a health check against all arrays in the population.  For issues we find, we automatically open tickets for our customers and resolve it.  We have avoided over 8,000 potential issues and 170 severity ones since inception.  

Think about this for a minute. Imagine if all humans sent back telemetry data to a center location. Every doctor created a fingerprint for every issue they saw in patients and a health check was completed once an hour across all humans.  Imagine how healthy the population would be if we had that data and correlative analysis.

Staying with the Status Quo

As much as I would love to say I was one of first Netflix customers, I was not.  I stayed with status quo for a bit and dealt with Blockbuster.  But it didn’t take long before I changed over to Netflix and I have never looked back.  The customer experience is game changing.  That said, I sometimes understand why customers stay with the traditional storage vendors.  BUT, that won’t last forever.  The customer experience has already shifted the market towards Pure.   Pure Storage has been providing customers the best product, user experience, cost model, and support experience for many years.  The numbers do not lie.  It is only a matter of time for the guys in blue go completely in the red.  🙂


Want more information on Pure Storage?  Please click the Pure Storage link above, or go to www.purestorage.com

Until next time!
DD