Pure Storage and Whole Portfolio Management

A closeup of a group of eight people's hands together in the centre.

Pure Storage has been showing encouraging signs of a more integrated approach to its portfolio of products. I see it as a natural outgrowth of success at building out new lines of business. The FlashArray and FlashBlade lines have both worked well, and customers with some of both want them to work well with each other.

Various competitors also struggle with having a well-integrated portfolio due to growth by acquisition; making a startup’s radical new approach work similarly to the platform they were rebelling against doesn’t get easier just because you’ve acquired the company. Pure has an advantage here by virtue of its common Purity software foundation. The product lines are ‘flavours’ of the same core storage idea, unified by a common brand.

And it’s this common brand that I want to see more of.

Pure Brand

Pure has a strong single brand; it’s not a house of brands like Unilever, P&G, or LVMH. This unified brand needs to assert itself in a customer experience of Pure as a single entity as well as individual products that do specific things. This is tricky to do well because it means figuring out what can be made common across all the products and what is allowed to change, and by how much.

But there are successful approaches in other industries that we can look to for inspiration. Consider power tools.

You buy into the DeWalt or Ryobi or Makita or Milwaukee or whatever approach and buy your different tools from the same company. The tools interoperate with each other (if you buy from the same vendor) and if a customer wants to make holes, join things together, or tear them apart, they have a thing that’ll do that. Once I’ve chosen my brand ecosystem, I can just stop thinking about competing brands altogether, provided they don’t drop the ball too badly or don’t offer something I really need. (I’ll leave the incompatible battery side of this analogy alone because that’s a digression for another time.)

I think Pure should be the premium brand storage tool company. There’s niche stuff that you might need to go to a specialist for but, most of the time, if I need quality storage, I’m happy to pay a premium for the good stuff. I want that ecosystem experience to be a good one. I should be able to go to Pure and get what I need 90% of the time, and people who use Pure should be confident that they’re getting excellent tools.

Pure1 Should Unify

Pure1 is the logical place to unify everything together and provide a common experience. This is happening already, to a degree, but I feel that Pure1 hasn’t been given pride of place in Pure’s external communications. The storage arrays themselves have dominated the conversation, but as Pure moves to a portfolio approach, that needs to drop away.

Pure1 should provide a clear rallying point for defining what ‘Pure-ness’ is and what it feels like to be a ‘Pure’ product. That common feeling should spread through all the product lines, and it should always feel familiar, no matter which product you’re using.

Portworx needs to get transitioned into the company more and feel more like just another product line of equal standing beside FlashArray, FlashBlade, Cloud Block Store, etc. It’s a tool for a specific use-case, but I should be able to trust my edge trimmer as much as my hammer-drill, and Portworx should feel like a Pure Storage product, not a startup they acquired.

This takes time, but I expect to see some more steps on this integration path. Portworx needs to integrate into Pure1 well, and be available with all the same Evergreen financing options as the other product lines.

Pure also need to provide more cloud or SaaS-based versions of its products as well. Cloud Block Store is a good start, but its existence implies that Cloud File-and-Object Store should also be a thing.

Evidence Backed Self-Confidence

One overall thing I’d like to see from Pure is the self-confidence of being a grownup storage company. Not an arrogance that assumes that there are no other good storage products, because that’s not true and not helpful for customers. No, what I want to see from Pure is clear explanations to customers about why it has made the choices it has, and why Pure believes they make sense.

Customers should want to buy into the Pure ecosystem first, and then choose the set of tools they need to get the job done. They should be confident that they can get whatever they need, whenever they need it, both today and into the future. Consistency and flexibility over time will be very important here.

People can argue about whether Pure is right or not, but we’ll all find out eventually. Customers will either buy Pure’s products or they won’t. And it’s okay for different customers to want different things. Customers should be able to understand why they should or shouldn’t buy from Pure, though. I don’t want to be drowning in a sea of meaningless platitudes about innovation or disruption or any of the other bullshit we see far too much of in technology marketing.

Pure doesn’t need to be defensive, and it doesn’t need to attack competitors, or even acknowledge them at all. Pure can just build good products that suit what customers want to do, and make them easy to understand and buy.