Pure Storage’s mission is to help organizations around the world “to uncomplicate data storage, forever.” Charles Giancarlo, CEO and Chairman at Pure Storage, shared his insights on innovation in the data storage industry, leading through hyper-growth and fostering culture in a hybrid environment.
Simplify Data Storage
Data storage is a critical component of any organization’s infrastructure. Yet for many people, it is a complicated and frustrating area. Giancarlo explained that at the time of the company’s founding in 2009, one of the primary goals was to simplify the way data storage operates – moving away from mechanical storage and replacing it with flash-based technology. The second goal was to make data systems as easy to use as an iPhone. To achieve this, Pure Storage focused on eliminating the need for extensive training and complex manuals. “The operating manual now fits on a tent card, roughly the size of an iPhone instruction manual, and the system generally doesn’t require any ongoing maintenance or operations to run,” he said.
One of the unique features of this solution is something called Evergreen. “With the subscription, our systems never get old. When customers subscribe to the service, we can do their upgrades without ever taking their environments offline, so they continue to operate like normal,” said Giancarlo.
Subscription services have allowed the company to grow rapidly, with current subscription annual recurring revenue at $849 million, a 31% year-over-year growth exiting the fiscal year 2022.
Sustainability Report Findings
Pure Storage recently published its inaugural report on corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG), focusing on technology and sustainability. The survey of 1,000 sustainability program directors revealed that almost 80% of the respondents said that their company’s leadership treats sustainability as a top priority. About half of the respondents also indicated they were on track with their sustainability goals, while the other half were not.
The survey also found that reducing the energy usage of technology infrastructure is crucial: most of the respondents (90%) said they could only reach their sustainability goals by reducing the energy usage of their technology infrastructure.
Pure Storage’s focus on energy efficiency and low waste creation has been significant for client companies looking to reduce power usage. Compared to other all-flash systems, Pure Storage uses between one-half and one-fifth as much energy and generates between one-half and one-fifth as much e-waste. The company’s flash systems use less than one percent of the hard disk’s system’s space, power and cooling.
Giancarlo emphasized the importance of using less power and creating less waste as the most fundamental elements of sustainability. Using less energy means fewer carbon credits are needed, and fewer landfills are filled with waste.
“Storage systems in data centers are generally about 20% of the overall power usage and generally closer to 40% of all the space usage. Imagine if we replaced all of that with flash technology, which is possible. Now we could save 20% of all data center power usage. We could save a massive amount of power,” said Giancarlo.
Leading Through Growth
Leading a team through high periods of growth while maintaining company culture can be daunting, but it is possible with the right focus and approach. Pure Storage has seen tremendous growth in recent years –30% YoY revenue with a revenue outlook of $2.75 billion for 2023 and being a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader for nine consecutive years.
Giancarlo attributes this partly to fostering a culture that values innovation and operational excellence.
“You must be very innovative in everything you do to improve it just a little bit every day. We worked with our team to help them understand that operational excellence is extraordinarily critical to creating the kind of margin that you need to innovate,” he said.
Giancarlo also explained that understanding their specific competitive advantage in the marketplace is another critical factor in maintaining their culture during growth. He stressed the importance of ensuring that employees and other stakeholders in the company understand what makes them different from others.
In their case, Giancarlo says, “What distinguishes us is that we’re the one company in this business that looks at data storage as high technology, while many of the other players in this market consider storage a commodity.”
Fostering Culture In A Hybrid Environment
As the world emerges in a post-pandemic era, companies face the challenge of redefining their work policies and determining how to bring employees back to the office. Pure Storage has taken a team approach to this problem by creating a hybrid model of work that balances individual needs and team productivity.
“Hybrid for us means that the team will decide how many days of the week they need to be together to be creative, innovate and collaborate. They’ll decide what days of the week they’ll be in, and the expectation is that the entire team works together in the office. It’s a team decision,” said Giancarlo.
Additionally, he emphasizes that their hybrid working model allows for the apprentices, masters and teachers to be working in the same space at the same time, where they can share knowledge and work together to achieve common goals. “We want to ensure that the teachers provide a great training ground for the apprentices. Working at Pure Storage is not a gig. It is a full-time job where we expect a full life cycle for our employees,” he said.
The Joy of Building Great Products
Building a successful career is a journey often filled with bumps and roadblocks. For many people, it can be challenging to know whether they are headed in the right direction and whether they will ultimately achieve their goals.
Giancarlo said that the first 10 years of his career were filled with much learning. “I was never really focused on my career. I always focused on what drives me — the joy of building great products and getting them out into the market. That’s the path I’ve always followed,” he said.
Despite not being focused on his career per se, Giancarlo said that he knew he was moving in the right direction while working at Kalpana (now Cisco Systems) after they invented the first multiport Ethernet switch. This invention made networks faster, cheaper and easier to manage. At this point, he realized the internet would be an unstoppable force that would drive the industry forward for decades to come. “I felt that I was on an elevator that was moving up, and I could play a role in that,” he said.