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‘We Want To Wipe Out Every Disc That Spins Today With Our Flash Storage’

India is the centrepiece of the global strategy for Pure Storage, says Ajeya Motaganahalli, MD, India R&D, Pure Storage

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Ajeya Motaganahalli, MD, India R&D, Pure Storage

Every technology is growing at a breakneck pace today to meet the demands and requirements that come with undertaking the journey of digital transformation. But technology development happening now is increasingly taking into account the idea of preserving the environment and enabling sustainability. Storage technology is in many ways leading on this front as innovation in this area could directly impact the larger picture of sustainability for companies globally.

BW Businessworld’s Rohit Chintapali recently spoke to Ajeya Motaganahalli (MD, India R&D, Pure Storage) to know more about flash storage innovation happening at Pure Storage. The company established its R&D centre in Bengaluru earlier this year and currently is on a hiring spree to tap into the talent available in India. Read on for excerpts from the interview:

Pure Storage has been around since 2009. But the company made its entry into India in 2020 when COVID was at its peak. Was it a strategic decision to enter India at that point of time?

If you look at our growth in Q1 2023, we grew 50.3 per cent YoY. Then in Q2, we recorded 30 per cent YoY growth. Our growth has been phenomenal and we have told the Wall Street that we are going clock USD 2.7 billion in revenues by end of this year. This growth has been mind-boggling compared to last year. We want to sustain this growth momentum by drawing the best talent from all over the world. We started a centre in Prague about three years ago and established our sales operations in India two years back. But we set up our R&D centre in Bengaluru this year to get the talent that is on par with what we have at Mountain View, California. We are here to get the best talent in Bengaluru.

What kind of innovations can we expect in storage and data management from Pure Storage?

A majority of the storage providers in the world today insist on using disc storage. They service your data requirements but are mechanical and susceptible to failing. Additionally, they are huge in size.

Flash storage came as an alternative around 2010 but it was too expensive. When our founders started the company in 2009, they said, ‘let’s not worry about discs, we will directly do flash storage’. 

As time passed, a lot of traditional companies saw that flash was picking up as a technology and they wanted to pivot. They came to flash providers and said that they had worked decades to build a software stack that knows how to deal with discs but couldn’t deal with flash. That brought Solid State Drives (SSD) into the picture. SSD is basically flash with a circuit around it, coupled with a software on top of it. SSD isn’t purely flash but it is better than disc. But at Pure Storage we don’t need to do this because we wrote our software stack directly on flash, which has eliminated a lot of the problems that come translation and more. 

This is why our systems are five times more efficient in energy consumption. Plus, we have a much smaller form factor. This is our core innovation. While a lot of our innovation is software, hardware is a core component of what we do. We work with something called QLC NAND, which allows us to embed four bits of data in a single cell. When scaled, a tiny box can actually hold about two petabytes of data. 

Size-wise its like converting a refrigerator into a microwave. We want to provide more and more storage in a smaller space. We want to wipe out every disc that is spinning today with our flash storage. Lot of this innovation will be based out of Bengaluru.

What products are you building out of India?

Our Bengaluru R&D facility isn’t like a back office. We are not just augmenting teams in the US from Bengaluru. We actually own certain subsystems or a part of product and drive from here. So, we have product management, technical/marketing engineers and supporting engineering teams based out of here.

We have a couple of products that we are going to lead from India. One of them is Portworx, which is our cloud offering. It will be majorly done in Bengaluru. Second, we have a backup product that was released earlier this year. We released a new version of that two days ago. There is a Kubernetes overlay of storage that we have in the cloud and this cloud-native product was built out of Bengaluru.

The other mainstay product that we will be leading from Bengaluru is FlashBlade. While we do have teams in the US working on some of its subsystems, this will be the second product that will be led out of here.

What role does India play in Pure Storage’s global operations?

A lot of our global plans are hinging on India right now. It is the centerpiece of the global strategy for Pure Storage. When we started our operations in Prague a few years ago, the idea was to get good talent despite the great pool of talent available in the US. So, Prague was a centrepiece few years ago and they own a few products today. India is exactly at that point today. And we are expecting India to grow rapidly too. The company will be leading a lot of its launches this year and in 2023 from India. India isn’t a fallback option for us.

Pure Storage’s product is in good demand in Europe because it is environmentally sensitive. What sort of demand do you see from India in this segment?

Yes, it is growing in India. I couldn’t disclose about our customers, but we have been speaking to a few customers in the last couple of weeks. ‘How green are you guys?’ never used to be a question before, but now this is one of the table stakes. Our customers have goals to achieve net zero emissions and to do that they have to first reduce their consumption of raw power to a very manageable level, which allows them to offset it against their green initiatives. But it can't be achieved when you have a system that's consuming a whole lot of power. That's where we come in. Pure Storage is five times more efficient than a comparable flash system and 10 times more efficient than disc systems. This cuts the power needs of customers by that much.

What kind of timeline are these companies looking at for adopting such technologies?

The timeline is right away because the savings will actually improve over time for them. People want to move the needle on green technologies right now to achieve their green goals in a finite timeframe.

Would your presence in India be augmented by acquisitions in near future?

As a company, we will always look at acquisitions. We began our journey with the acquisition of Portworx, which had a big presence in India. We already have the experience of an acquisition and we are definitely open for it.

Tags assigned to this article:
flash storage QLC NAND Pure Storage R&D Centre storage