Pure FlashArray X NVMe Review

Excellent diagnostics, intuitive console, and fantastic support

What is our primary use case?

We needed a flash array to support our core databases for maximum performance. We use SQL. We were using vSAN before, but we were having some problems with it. So, we wanted to isolate the databases with dedicated storage. Rather than using a vSAN solution using servers, we tested a couple of solutions, and we figured out that Pure FlashArray X NVMe was giving us the best performance.

How has it helped my organization?

Fundamentally, we have more visibility to what is happening in the storage for the databases. We can determine if the problem is something that is bound by IO or the problem is related to the database structure itself. 

The amount of time that a DBA has to spend figuring out whether it is a physical problem versus a programmatic problem has been reduced significantly. Before moving to this solution, when the database was running slow, we were asked to check our disks, but we had no way of verifying that. It was a nightmare. Now, we have reports that we can send on a daily basis, and they know what their performance is like.

We can now ascertain that it is not the physical problem with the array that is causing the delays on the database. The DBAs can then look at the database and figure out various reasons or solutions for this, such as maybe the tables are value structure, maybe they need to run optimal queries, or maybe they should change the way they are accessing the data. You can pretty much take out of the equation the fact that the hardware is the problem.

What is most valuable?

It is very easy to install and configure. It has got excellent diagnostics. If you really need to see how the box is performing, the console gives you a lot of information. You can set thresholds as well as alerts based on the thresholds, which is a very powerful functionality.

They are very proactive. They know how to monitor and manage the systems. They see a problem, and they are all over it before us. They see the problem before we see it, which is very good.

What needs improvement?

Right now, the box itself is just strictly working as a backend storage system. It would be fantastic if we could access it directly like a NAS device through network access or SIS drives. I think they have an interface, but I am not sure how good it is. If we could address a box directly on the network without having to go through a server, it would be great. 

The replication schemas could be improved. We are not using replication on the storage level right now. We use a different type of replication. If their replication would be as good as the one that we have, I would probably run the replication schema because it might be faster, but I don't know that for a fact. So, I cannot say that they have good replication. All I can say is that they need to inform us better.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for almost a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable. It has been almost a year, and we haven't had any problems.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability-wise, it is expensive but good. They love to add boxes, and they did a very good job. You can easily add boxes to the array cells, both disks or controllers. The nice thing about it is that you don't have to change your schema. In other words, you don't have to reprogram or reconfigure anything. You simply add a box, and you have more disk space. Essentially, you can extend a disk to whatever services you are running without having to reconfigure a lot of stuff. That's actually a huge benefit. 

We have 200 employees in our firm, and almost everyone in our firm uses this solution. All the databases in the firm are running off Pure FlashArray X NVMe.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their technical support is fantastic. They are very good. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using Compellent from Dell. We switched because the Dell technology was at least one generation before in the type of SSD drives that they were using. Pure FlashArray X NVMe had the latest versions of the EV disks, which Dell did not have on their systems. They were about to bring it into the market, but we would have had to wait for another three months, and it would have been a new product that wasn't yet tested. 

The infrastructure or the technology for Pure was built specifically for flash arrays, whereas Dell came from spinning disks and then moved into flash arrays. So, the controllers were not built specifically for SSD drives or flash. Even if you have flash, you still run into delays because the controllers were not designed to run just purely flash, whereas Pure was designed for flash from the beginning. They never had any spinning disks in their boxes, and that makes a huge difference. 

The thing that makes these boxes powerful is the algorithm that they use to decide where to put the data and how often they read it. Because SSD drives have a finite life, if you do the algorithms correctly, you maximize not just the performance but also the longevity. Pure is doing a very good job. I'm not fully a mathematician in the longevity piece of it, but I'm expecting that this box is going to give me three to five years of use with good performance. A Dell box would have to be replaced in three years for sure. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is very easy. Its installation is very simple. The console is fairly intuitive, and I understood more or less what my team was doing.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Its price could be better. It is not too expensive, but it is the high-end cost. It is kind of a Rolls-Royce. You pay a lot, but you get a lot out of it. So, the price pressure on the way down would be great, but at the end of the day, if you need to do the work, you just pay for it.

What other advice do I have?

I would absolutely recommend using it. I would also suggest negotiating and testing it. I bought a very small system of 10 terabytes that I put in one of our labs for testing so that my team can learn it, and I could play with it. We tested it, and after we were comfortable with the capabilities of the system and building things in VMware, which is a really critical part of the whole integration, we tested three different solutions from HP, Dell, etc. After the testing, it was clear to us that the Pure FlashArray X NVMe was the easiest to manage and configure and had the best performance that we had seen in all the arrays. We are not testers, but we could tell. We could see the speed at which the databases came up and everything else. After testing, you will be convinced that Pure FlashArray X NVMe is probably the best box or right there in terms of performance. We tested in early 2019. There might be another solution that is doing better today.

I would rate Pure FlashArray X NVMe a nine out of ten. The only reason I won't give it a ten is the price. Its feature set is pretty complete. I'm pushing it right now. It is like you buy a sports car and then you complain that you don't have a big trunk to put a lot of luggage. You are complaining about the wrong thing here. You bought the thing because it is fast. Similarly, we bought it because it is fast. From that perspective, whether they can address NAS or other things like that is just icing on the cake for me. Its price is a little high right now. Otherwise, I would have given it a ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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