Murli Thirumale, VP & GM, Cloud Native Business Unit at Pure Storage
Murli Thirumale, VP & GM, Cloud Native Business Unit at Pure Storage

A leader in providing data storage as a service, Pure has a customer satisfaction score in the top 1% of all B2B technology services.

“Speedier enablement on container and cloud native technologies; filling the skill gap; and Kubernetes Storage are the three areas that, I think, channels would see as an opportunity to increase their margin significantly with services.”

Murli Thirumale, VP & GM, Cloud Native Business Unit at Pure Storage

The Pandemic-forced humongous migration to the cloud has thrown open unprecedented opportunities for Cloud Vendors as well as Cloud Distributors. As we usher into 2023, it’s time to look back and take stock of the channel performance of leading cloud vendors and distributors, and their key channel achievements. More than this, it’s pivotal to get a hang of the key cloud predictions for the Channel Market for the year 2023.

While the cloud industry is agog over to know what all technologies would majorly impact the cloud market, we would walk you through the cloudscape to listen directly from the horse’s mouth as to what the top vendors and distributors are thinking and reflecting; what are their premonitions about the shape of things to come in 2023; and, last but not the least, their plans to turbocharge the Partner ecosystem.

In a series of interactions with the poster-boys of the cloud industry, SME Channels embarks upon understanding the cloud dynamics; what drives the cloud growth engine; the key milestones for 2023 set from the channel perspective; key mega trends in the cloud market in 2023, predictions for the New Year; direction for channel partners and the growth roadmap of the cloud players for 2023.

We spoke to leading cloud player Pure Storage to get a sneak peek into its performance in the cloud Industry. Here, Murli Thirumale, VP & GM, Cloud Native Business Unit at Pure Storage – a leading voice from the Cloud Industry – reveals his company’s key Cloud Predictions for 2023; Pure’s major areas of focus, major achievements; and the unique matrixes that design his seminal vision for the Partner Ecosystem. Edited Excerpts:

The pandemic triggered a massive migration to the cloud. How does Pure, as a leading cloud player, plan to leverage the immense opportunity?  

There are many things that changed with the pandemic. However, the one thing that did not change is the unrelenting growth in data. Data continued to grow during the pandemic, it probably grew even faster. People-consumed more content which contributed to an increase in data on the cloud. This growth has been mostly born in the cloud or migrated to it.  The cloud data growth has been astonishing during the pandemic and has continued to grow -beyond -.

Pure is a leader in providing data storage as a service. We have a customer satisfaction score in the top 1% of all B2B technology services. This means that there are many happy enterprise customers of Pure. According to Gartner’s prediction,  about 40 percent of customers in the global enterprise are going to be moving to a hybrid cloud environment by 2025. -nother Gartner study says that in addition to the growth in hybrid cloud, 85% of new applications that are created are created using a cloud Native Architecture. Pure offers Evergreen, which is a storage as a service and Portworx for Pure storage business which provides cloud native services both on prem and in the cloud.

We see ample opportunities for Pure Storage here. One of the things that we are seeing is that Containers and Kubernetes are being deployed in a cloud native architecture. Majority of cloud native architectures use containers as their core technology and use Kubernetes to orchestrate that. This creates an opportunity at scale for organizations  to – not just orchestrate containers but orchestrate data. So, data management which is essentially about providing data persistence, providing disaster recovery and data backup are all areas that are important in this cloud native world. We have been fortunate to have a large number of, about – 2,000, global customers use Portworx as their cloud native data storage provider. Companies like T-Mobile, Roblox, and KPN  examples.  There are many more across verticals such as fintech-, service providers and retail, and so on that have deployed these cloud native architectures using Portworx. So, the pandemic changed very little for Pure. If anything, it accelerated the opportunity for data management.

I have heard quite a lot about Pure when applying and leveraging Kubernetes as a standard platform to enhance its cloud solutions. I would like you to shed some light on this application & how this new age technology has been used by Pure for the enhancement of cloud products?

To start with container technology, there are several trends that have been happening in the cloud world. First & foremost is the use of containers. Customers are deploying containers for a simple reason; they want to be able to develop and deploy apps quickly. When you get to the cloud, there’s a specific set of advantages of using containers, because of the way they provide isolation of the application from the underlying infrastructure essentially to avoid cloud lock in. So many customers are using containers to allow them to operate in any cloud and hybrid cloud environment. So, avoiding cloud lock-in is the first trend that containers are enabling.

Another trend that we are seeing, which is not limited to the cloud, but certainly includes the cloud is ESG & sustainability. ESG and sustainability today have become much more than a boardroom topic. In the last few years, energy efficiency has become a huge focus for enterprises. Due to this, it has moved from being  a boardroom topic to organizations engineering or deployment practices. There are two areas that Pure significantly helps with ESG practices in the cloud and on-prem.  First & foremost is the use of Flash. Flash itself is power efficient and has huge capacity to provide density and can be packaged intrinsically. When we can pack a lot of data in an Array using flash, the amount of power and the space that is used is significantly lower.

In the Portworx business, the opportunity is via automation. Containers are prolific and there’s lots of containers that are created that appear and disappear as users use containers more and more. What Portworx does is orchestrate containers in a manner that can optimize the use of the underlying storage. We have seen a reduction from 30 to 75% in the amount of storage that people use, whether it is the underlying EBS drive in or object store. These are areas where ESG and sustainability where combination of Flash and automation have really helped Pure Storage become a leader.

A third thing to point out as a major cloud trend is the ‘Anywhere Economy’. The ability of the cloud to provide as a service available anywhere across the geo makes services available anywhere. One of the key changes that has happened in the last year or two and will continue in the coming years is customers paying for only what they use. We are in a difficult economic time, and people don’t want to pay for things they don’t use. So, the concept of consumption-based pricing, pay for what you use, and therefore pay-as-you-grow is gaining importance. This means as you grow more, and you use more, and you pay more as opposed to kind of preserving ahead and paying for capacity. You only pay for utilization versus capacity. This is an area that will help enterprises lower their capital costs, while also improving efficiency. –

As for cloud and channel, there are two things that I think become critically important. First, they must get up to speed and bring themselves up to a level of enablement on container and cloud native technologies. My advice and an area that Pure will be able to help and participate with you is to go learn about cloud native. This is not theory, it’s hitting the early majority market, and everybody is going cloud native. It’s something that channels need to kind of arm themselves with. The second thing I would say is an area of great opportunity for channels, because one of the things that we’ve seen as we kind of work with customers is that there is a knowledge gap and a skill gap between customers. This is an area where channels can come in and help fill that gap for customers. If our channel partners who have kind of become cloud native savvy, trained and can take a Portworx or Pure product and attach to it services that customers need and are able to implement and deploy these cloud native services.  These services can come in various forms, consulting, turnkey projects, taking on sort of the whole project that can help enterprises with scaling.  Kubernetes and orchestration, it is around container security and the third area is Kubernetes Storage.  These are the three areas that I think channels would see as an opportunity to increase their margin significantly with services and make a lot more money than just through the margin that they sell with products.

What channel trends for cloud would you forecast for the year 2023?

There are a lot of mature product technologies and according to me, where customers need help with is on the emerging technologies.  Having a mixture of the high-volume products where traditionally channels have made money but adding in there the idea that you’re helping the customers get into the new technology areas whether it is in security, storage, automation and software. This is sort of finding a product mix helping customers kind of get to these new technologies is one area.

The second thing I think is being somebody who anticipates what is going to happen with these technologies. One of the advantages that vendors have is we see a large number of customers. Now channels have the same advantage because they have worked with multiple customers. So, the best channel partners are the ones that can help the customers look around the corner and tell them what’s coming next. Channel partners that add a lot of value, respect and get repeat business are people who work with vendors to learn about these technologies and help customers look around the corner to prevent a problem before it happens. That’s the best kind of channel partner vendors and customers are looking for. The days where customer channel partners made money purely on sort of wafer 10% margins that they get on mature technologies is being replaced with a mix of old and new technologies. These are some of the major trends forecast for 2023.

How are your cloud native offerings enhanced to cater to changing business requirements?

In today’s world, the fast are eating the slow. If you are slow, you’re going to be run over by a fast competitor. So, to go fast you need to automate as a customer. Automation technologies are really where we think a lot of attention is given not just in the cloud but on-prem as well. So where Pure helps in automation is in two areas: One of them is providing as-a-service solutions for storage. When something is available as-a-service a couple of things happen. First, it’s available immediately and second, it can be provisioned in an automated manner, so it can scale very quickly. So, storage-as-a-service is a big trend.

The second trend is Containers. At Portworx, we provide three areas in containers that customers need help in going fast. One of them is in basic Kubernetes platforms. Second is security, and the third area is data availability. Portworx focuses on the data availability part. In data availability, there are problems that you never see when you are operating in a very small scale. Typically, when you get to over 25 nodes and start to deploy containers at that scale, you start to see huge problems. These problems fall into three areas. One of them is data availability. So, data availability is a key contribution for Portworx. Whether it’s for compliance reasons or for just being able to recover to a previous state. Customers need to be able to kind of back up data in real time as they go to production.  So, the three areas of data availability, disaster recovery, and backup are areas where Portworx provides a kind of Kubernetes based solutions.

The last area is one of data services. As more and more customers are now deploying modern apps and modern data services like MongoDB, MySQL, Kafka, and Spark, services like these need orchestration just as much as the applications. Portworx data services enables customers to be able to orchestrate, not just the containers themselves, but also the data services that are associated with these containers.  Those I would say are the multiple areas of contribution that we have to make.

What is Pure Storage’s India growth? What is the contribution of India’s R&D center to Pure’s global products?

India has great innovation, work ethics and adaptability – our local Pure teams here represent all of these.  At Pure, innovation is key as we have always been a disruptor in the market. We have won by having disruptive products that are better than everything else and one of the ways you do that is by investing in R&D. Pure invests about 20% on an average from its profits back into R&D.

At Portworx, before we got acquired, we had invested in India, both in Pune and in Bangalore. After Pure’s Portworx acquisition, we’ve grown consistently in Bangalore. We have teams in Mountain view, Prague, as well as in Bengaluru. In addition to that, Bengaluru is not just a secondary center of development supporting the other areas, it is a primary center of development. For example, one of our key products, the Px backup product is fully developed and managed out of Bangalore right from  architecture, design, to delivery. This speaks to the kind of strategy that Pure has. We will be seeing a huge amount of growth in the Pure center in Bangalore. Other than  Portworx, we have our other products such as  FlashBlade also being led  from  Bengaluru. So, I think it’s a great opportunity for engineers in Bangalore to come and work at Pure and for us as well to leverage  the top talent available in India.

How is Pure leveraging next generation tech like AI, Automation and Machine Learning to come out with better services?

There are lots of areas where we kind of apply these technologies. For example, we have storage-as-a-service.  As a result, one of the things that we do is we collect lots of information about how our customers are actually using our products. Because we are collecting that data with what we call ‘home services’, we are able to collect a huge amount of information about how customers are using their product, how the data is being deployed in their racks or in the software that we control with Portworx. One of the things that we do is we can then infer what is going to happen in the future. We can tell customers when they’re going to run out of space, or if they need to do some rebalancing across the arrays, or move things from one tier to the other. All of those things can be provided in advance by essentially using a form of machine learning ops that takes advantage of that. For example, in Portworx we have a set of functions called autopilot, and as the name indicates, it really allows the customer to have hands off operation, and that is done because we are able to use algorithms that are AI-like to predict when they’re going to run out resources in their storage tier without impacting their operations performance. The biggest way we help customers is by actually enabling them to deploy their AI and ML, using our racks and automation. There are a large number of AI and ML workloads that run on Pure Arrays and on Portworx across the world. Analytics and AI are one of the largest growth areas for our applications, and therefore it’s sort of a dual way that we have customers.

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