“A large footprint of flash from Pure Storage consumes less power than what a normal domestic microwave consumes – that’s unheard of right. So if we can offer those economics along with high performance, predictable performance, uptime and so on. Then flash far outweighs the economic benefits of any cheaper media, which has been in existence for a long time,” says Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager – Pure Storage India.
Probably, that’s the best analogy that a top executive of a relatively young all-flash storage technology company Pure Storage can give to debunk the myth that flash storage is expensive against the benefits of any cheaper media.
In the past 12 years, Pure Storage has successfully established itself as a leading player in the all-flash storage technology space. With extremely high uptime almost to the tune of seven nines, NPS of 83 and cloud philosophy led storage service offerings, the Mountain View, California headquartered company has differentiated itself from the legacy storage vendors in the market.
In today’s modern data-driven world, digital transformation and digitization have become the new pre-requisite for organisations and businesses to leverage the power of the cloud, internet, smartphones and other emerging technologies. And that’s where modern storage like flash plays a key role in the scheme of technology.
In this interview, Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager – Pure Storage India talks to TechHerald.in talks about digital transformation led demands of storage products, expensive flash storage and its evaluation through data centre economics and the company’s ‘Evergreen technology’ for customers.
He also discusses at length the innovative storage-as-a-service model compared to traditional storage media consumption, technology alliances, Pure Storage’s market approach and role of service providers in the Indian market and the competition from other vendors and much more…
Q1.Digital transformation and digitization in organisations across verticals in recent years have continued even amidst the pandemic. So how do you see the overall demands of storage technology products and solutions?
Ramanujam Komanduri: Let me start with digital transformation. I read that 3.5 billion UPI transactions happened in India in August 2021 compared to 1.6 billion in August 2020. Interestingly, India is looking at a 19% growth in e-commerce over the next four to five years.
Now, both the metrics are in the digital space, where there’s no restriction on time. That means a transaction can happen at any point during the day. And on the other side, if the service provider is down at a particular point in time, the consumer will just shift to the next service provider available. So it’s a loss of business to the service provider.
I think that’s where we do well to provide extremely high uptime to customers — almost to the tune of seven nines (99.99999%) – a big differentiator compared to what we generally saw in the market in the past. For example, one of our customers grew 80% last year because of the entire digital commerce that is happening and they’re actually into payments. That sort of exponential growth is unforeseen or not predicted.
When you are servicing payments in the digital world, obviously you need to be continuously up and running. We took them through technology changes without any interruption to their business. So that was a big revelation even to the customers that this is something which technology like Pure Storage could do.
Q2. With flash storage being a bit expensive overall, how are enterprises consuming flash compared to traditional storage?
Ramanujam Komanduri: About flash storage is expensive – that’s an area where we are working and have a technology product line, which debunks that myth of flash being the extremely expensive media.
If you just envelop flash with things like the data centre economics – consumption of power and space, huge capacity and more, then the advantages for customers are enormous. For example, a large footprint of flash from Pure Storage consumes less power than what a normal domestic microwave consumes – that’s unheard of right.
So if we can offer those economics along with high performance, predictable performance, uptime and so on. Then flash far outweighs the economic benefits of any cheaper media, which has been in existence for a long time. Because at the end of the day, it’s about business and to ensure that customer sticks to you and you don’t lose a customer. And that is the biggest key in the digital world. So that’s what we see.
Q3. With speed internet and cloud, businesses and organisations are using storage-as-a-service amongst other services. How do you see this concept of storage-as-a-service, its demands and consumption?
Ramanujam Komanduri: Again, that’s an area where we differentiate ourselves. More than 30% of our revenues are coming from subscription services on storage. Our philosophy is built upon the customers being able to subscribe to the latest innovation from Pure Storage. Today, what the customers want is an outcome. And shouldn’t be bothered about what is running at the back or being managed.
With that in mind, our subscription service has been built around things like catering and delivering the committed SLAs. And being able to grow along with the customers’ increase in expectations, both in terms of performance and capacity.
We have gone to the next level where the entire storage area is being managed and monitored from our AI-based cloud. We provide Pure1 to customers which at any point of time allows the customer to monitor and manage that storage in its location along with us on a 24×7 basis.
The other thing we are doing now is allowing the customer to simulate its requirements to forecast based on workload growth on expected outcomes in the future and so on. And then the customer can place an order to deliver x amount of performance and capacity over the next two months, or as per needs. This is again is on the cloud, which is something similar to the proliferation of cloud and the technology expectation to be as simple – that’s what the cloud delivers.
And what we do on-premise and the same environment is available to customers on any of the hyper scalars like an AWS and Azure. So a customer can switch on the Pure environment in AWS or Azure, just to handle any surge in requirements, or if they prefer to use an application available on AWS or an Azure. And this move data over there in a secure manner, user application for a while and bring it back. Those are some of the functionalities, which we do well.
Because the application world is also changing substantially, vis-a-vis in the past. Today, applications are now actually getting into the containerized world. We have a lot more new applications, which are cloud-native coming on the cloud-first. Businesses sometimes believe that they would like to subscribe to an application on AWS or Azure but for IT the question is how do I make use of it? So, those are some of the things which we provide customers and this is in the entire hybrid cloud envelope which we have built over the years.
Q4. How do you assess the Indian market compared to markets like the US in terms of customers, market segment and partnerships with service providers?
Ramanujam Komanduri: The service providers are a key component in the Indian market. There’s a whole set of them catering to a huge space in the Indian enterprise segment or even in the mid-market and SME segment. So, we are working with a lot of these service providers.
Some of our successes have been with the service providers who cater not only at the higher-end, but also the lower end of the market. And two things are driving this – one is the Indian government’s Digital India initiative because of which, actually all the organisations are undertaking digital transformation.
And secondly, there’s a huge MSME push from the government where the MSMEs are now being able to cater to the market, across the country. For us, the service providers are an ideal vehicle to reach out to all these customers mainly because they provide data centres around the country. They have packaged a lot of services built around our technology to cater to these customers, whether it’s at the high end or the lower end of the market. We have been succeeding across both segments.
Some of the service providers working with us cater to interesting boutique companies around the country. And it is very nice to know that your technology makes such a big difference in the growth of organisations, not only at the high end but also at the lower end of the market.
You want technology to be used by everybody at the end of the day — it cannot be restricted to a certain set of customers and so on. So it’s about how we work with this set of partners and can get our technology across to the entire market. And that’s something which we have been able to do successfully over the last year plus now.
Q5. How is the storage-as-a-service model being received by the enterprises and CIOs in meeting storage needs and technology investment compared to traditional storage?
Ramanujam Komanduri: So it’s a mix and there is nothing that is overtaking the other variety of consumption at this point. We are seeing the requirements of customers looking to buy the technology upfront. And then the other one is looking at storage-as-a-service and things like that. And that is an area which has increased. The interest in storage-as-a-service or subscribing to a level of SLA expected from us, whether it’s performance or capacity and uptime and things like that has increased.
The customer shouldn’t be bothered about what’s the storage model or how much capacity is existing and things like that – as long as he can deliver to his consumers. And that’s what we want to cater to. So storage-as-a-service with the SLAs and so on – actually we seeing an increase in interest in that. We do a few transactions on an every quarter basis in this area.
And I’ll refer to the earlier question on how the Indian market is shaping up with service providers because that’s one segment where they have to deliver an SLA to their customers and that’s what they expect us to do as well. That’s something which we’ve been able to convey – whether it is on the performance layer, the capacity layer or the ability to meet uptimes ability to ensure data centre efficiencies.
The ability to ensure simplicity are some of the things which we have been able to convey to customers who are interested in the storage service domain Actually, it’s picking up but wouldn’t say that it’s overtaken the tradition. But it is far more than what we’ve seen in the past.
Q6. What is your approach and go-to-market plan overall in the Indian market working through partners and service providers?
Ramanujam Komanduri: Obviously, we don’t play in isolation. Technology plays and is always built around other technology alliances. It’s about how the entire package works, whether it is storage, the applications running on top, and the performance they deliver and the business outcome they deliver in the customer domains. So we work fairly well with some of the larger technology alliances.
For example, with Cisco, we have an integrated stack called Flash Stack which is extremely well-received globally and in India. Then in some of the newer areas like AI, we work along with Nvidia in a stack called Eri – which is AI reference infrastructure. AI infrastructure is far more different than the traditional infrastructure because AI is a lot more real-time and extremely data-intense. So we work very closely with some of these alliances.
For example, data security has become a key point in a lot of discussions with CIOs and CISOs. So we engage with some of the players in that area, to ensure that we provide solutions against ransomware. This is how we bring together market-relevant solutions.
As far as the Indian market goes, I think we are at the cusp of a boom because of the entire digital transformation that is taking off in the Indian market. Our technology is positioned absolutely in the middle to cater to this digital transformation. And that’s the reason we have a product line built around flash and designed to cater to this huge data explosion which is underway and economical as far as data centre economics go.
We are very placed in the Indian market from a segment perspective. As per IDC, Gartner or any of them, the government or BFSI or the technology services space and to some extent manufacturing are the largest growing segments in the Indian market. And if you just lay the digital transformation piece above these industries then I think it’s an extremely interesting combination for us because of the technology which we are bringing to the table.
Q7. How is the competition shaping up in the storage space for PureStorage?
Ramanujam Komanduri: The biggest difference is that we are a very young company and hence the technology which we bring is extremely modern. We don’t have any legacy to cater to and we call ourselves having the ability to provide something called the ‘Evergreen technology,’ by which our customer never has to think about refreshing or doing a disruptive upgrade to this technology. So disruptive technology upgrade in my opinion is one of the biggest drawbacks of a lot of the legacy players, which are there. That’s something which a customer doesn’t have to do with us.
We have customers in India that have bought systems in 2018 and have upgraded to the latest generation of technology without disruption And without having to as part of their standard subscription contract which they have with us – that’s a key difference vis-a-vis any of the other storage vendors now. That’s to your point of how we are different from them.
But the other larger difference is the way we provide the technology, which connects to the cloud makes us majorly different. For example, we bring to the table Portworx – possibly is the only technology available that allows customers to manage data in the container world. And that’s the technology going forward. Our container environment is the cloud-native environment going forward.
Now, how you manage the data in such an environment is the biggest key point. How do you backup data and ensure data is replicated to the DR sites in the container world are the discussions that CIOs are having because if you want to adopt cloud-native technologies, it’s largely container-based environments. That’s something which we provide to customers, which is again is a key differentiator for us in the Indian market.