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‘India Will Be The Fastest Growing Environment For Us’: Pure Storage Chairman & CEO

Pure Storage’s External OEM market growth in 2022 stood at 252.5 per cent in India, while globally the growth came in at 18.2 per cent

Photo Credit : BW Businessworld


Charles Giancarlo, Chairman and CEO, Pure Storage

A cursory search on Google tells you a lot about how much respect the NYSE-listed company Pure Storage commands in the ever-evolving technology sector. Pure Storage does this despite being in one of the oldest and non-glamourous segments of IT i.e., Data Storage – which seldom catches the eyeballs but is highly relevant for enterprises across the world. Such has been Pure’s prowess and innovation that it has gained 7.9 per cent in market share between 2014 and 2022, beating out contemporaries and large companies such as IBM, DELL EMC, HPE, Hitachi and NetApp, according to IDC data.

In FY23, the company grew its revenue by 26 per cent to USD 2.8 billion and expanded operating margins from 10.8 per cent to 16.6 per cent. Pure’s headcount grew just under 20 per cent despite the macroeconomic conditions globally and the numbers were higher than 20 per cent in India.  

“It was a very fast growth year for us but we believe India will be our fastest growing environment for a number of years,” said Pure Storage Chairman and CEO Charles Giancarlo, during a media roundtable in Bengaluru.

Giancarlo shared that Pure Storage’s External OEM market growth in 2022 stood at 252.5 per cent in India, while globally the growth came in at 18.2 per cent.

“We had exponential growth last year and have added quite a few new customers. Because with digital transformation, you need an ‘Always-on’ business,” said Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager, Pure Storage India.

Growth Areas And Technology

With over 250 per cent growth in India last year, Pure Storage got traction majorly in the Banking and Financial Services sector (BFSI), which followed the global trend for the company. Meanwhile, SaaS providers were another mainstay for the company. Interestingly, the Healthcare sector – considered a laggard in adopting technology – has been a core focus area for Pure as well.

Central to Pure’s growth is its approach that looks at Flash innovation instead of legacy hard drives with moving components for storage solutions. It’s now widely known that disks due to their mechanical nature are very energy and resource intensive. And yet, about 80 per cent of the world’s data is still stored on disk. Flash, in comparison, allows for longer memory retention, requires much lesser energy and doesn’t require as many resources. Besides, Flash storage is highly available which makes it ideal for many use cases including transaction processing systems.

Komanduri shared that Pure Storage in India helps with UPI for one of the largest banks in the country. “Lot of digital payments actually go through our systems over here. Also, some of the telcos use our solutions. Most of the new-age workloads are handled by us. We are able to deliver performance and availability for them,” he said.

In storage terms, transaction processing systems would be classified as Tier-1 while Tier-0 is for mission-critical applications with little tolerance for latency and downtime such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (these are expensive and faster than other storage media and purpose-built for highly volatile and time-sensitive workloads). Pure Storage is seeing good demand coming in from both these categories in India. But it has largely struggled to compete in the Tier-2 storage market, which deals with infrequently-accessed warm data such as a few days old emails and records of completed transactions. Giancarlo believes with Pure’s latest product, this could change.

In 2023, Pure Storage plans to launch a 75-terabyte direct flash module. The largest disks today are still about 16 terabytes and the latest module from the company would be five times bigger than the largest disks. This would deliver the same amount of capacity in data centres with one-tenth of the space required and much lesser energy consumption.

Pure Storage’s technology has been of special interest in Europe where the concerns around going green fast have been dominating the mindset across enterprises and industries. This has meant that a greater demand is coming in from Europe for Pure.

Giancarlo in a conversation with BW Businessworld revealed that Pure Storage’s new offering will cause a big shift of data centres relying on disks to move towards Flash in the near term. “We've already started to see it last year, even before the lower price offerings, because they're very concerned about power availability and environmental aspects. And so, we're already seeing purchases in Europe based entirely on environmental aspects.”

The Pure Storage CEO explained that 80 per cent of the world stayed on disk storage because they did not need the high performance which flash could provide and disks were much less expensive. “And therefore, companies chose the less expensive environment and a less expensive option,” he said.

But Pure Storage’s new product Flash Blade E – the first all-flash product – can compete at the price level of all disk-based systems. “Now, we can provide an option that is roughly the same price on a purchase price basis but costs much less to operate on an ongoing basis. With energy prices being so high, it makes a big difference.”

Giancarlo revealed that a lot of the company’s European customers choose to buy Pure Storage flash systems on the basis of operating costs and ESG agenda.

Green On Agenda

The world’s data centres consume roughly 2 per cent of global electricity. Out of this, roughly 20 to 25 per cent of electrical power is required by the storage components. Meanwhile, computing and networking consume a majority of the power. Pure Storage’s solutions promise to reduce the power required by the storage components of data centres by 10 times while saving 20 to 30 per cent of space.

“One of our customers recently was looking to build new data centres because they've run out of data centre space. Now, they are looking at replacing their disk systems with flash to pick up the data so that they don't need to build new data center space. Hence, it's a huge economic benefit as well,” said Giancarlo.

“We believe that this is a major new advancement in IT technology if you can save 20 per cent with one motion,” he added.

According to a Bloomberg report, the value of ESG investment assets is projected to reach USD 53 trillion, which is about one-third of global assets under management (AUM). And as more of the world’s companies are rated on the basis of ESG, they will have to show investors that they low ESG risks. In fact, at the recently concluded World Economic Forum Summit at Davos, ESG was one of the top topics of discussion.  

It is safe to say that everything today is driving most businesses and companies of the world to look towards the latest technology to adhere to the newly evolving ESG standards. And Pure Storage, undoubtedly, stands to benefit from such a movement.

But considering that BFSI is such a huge benefactor of Pure’s technology, BW Businessworld asked if the banking crisis in the US affected the storage solutions company. In response, the Pure Storage CEO said he doesn’t anticipate much of a change since Tier-1 banks continue to be strong. “Even though they want to reduce the spending, they want to increase the amount that they do digitally to reduce their spends overall. So, the interesting thing is that even though there's some speculation that IT spending may be moderately down, there's an equal amount of speculation that it's going to be flat to slightly up,” he said.

He added that his personal opinion was “IT spending was going to be flat” for this year.

Earlier in March, IDC India MD Vasant Rao at the Oracle Cloud Summit 2023 revealed that a large percentage of companies in India expect IT spends to decline in 2023. But despite the decline in IT spends, Rao said the proportion of digital transformation spend and non-DX spending will continue to grow.

On the India front, Pure Storage Country Manager Ramanujam Komanduri said the company’s solutions have the fastest use cases and fastest systems which a new customer is looking for their consumers. “We have seen a lot of interest from most enterprises as they will look to replace their old systems with new flash systems. Hence, we are positive,” he added.

In a world where compute capacity is constantly reaching newer echelons, it is hard to imagine companies like Pure Storage not having the space to innovate. As humanity aspires for larger compute, it will always need innovative storage solutions as alternatives to building newer data centres. In fact, Pure has been gaining ground fast on much larger players in the segment, commanding roughly 8-9 per cent of the global storage market share (currently) with 20 per cent of spends allocated to its R&D – in comparison to 5 per cent or lesser by other major competitors.

Also Read: We Want To Wipe Out Every Disc That Spins Today With Our Flash Storage’