The COVID-19 pandemic is ‘accelerating some of the trends we saw to cloud-native,’ says Pure Storage CEO

The data center storage equipment maker topped expectations with its forecast, saying new priorities in the pandemic are boosting its as-a-service offerings.
Written by Tiernan Ray, Senior Contributing Writer

Shares of data center storage pioneer Pure Storage dropped in late trading despite the company reporting fiscal Q3 profit that beat by a penny, and despite remarks that imply revenue may come in ahead of consensus this quarter.

"It was a good quarter," CEO Charlie Giancarlo told ZDNet in an interview by phone following the report. 

"We came in above analysts' expectations, and above our admittedly muted expectations at the beginning of the quarter." 

"We had good growth in enterprise, which continues to be strong, and leading for us, and good strong growth in our new products, but also in our subscription services, Evergreen, and Pure-as-a-service, which saw very good growth."

For the three months ended November 1st, revenue declined 4%, year over year, to $410.6 million, yielding a net loss per share of 28 cents on a GAAP basis. On a non-GAAP basis, the company had a penny-per-share profit. 

That amount of revenue was in line with a pre-announcement offered on November 4th for "approximately $410 million," but it was better than Pure's forecast back in August for revenue to be roughly the same as Q2's level.  

Analysts had been modeling $407 million and break-even on the bottom line. 

Asked what is keeping people buying gear, and software subscriptions, Giancarlo told ZDNet that the pandemic has changed buying behavior, pushing more companies toward cloud-based technology. 

"They have decidedly different plans, if anything, accelerating some of the trends we saw to cloud-native," said Giancarlo. "They definitely became more cautious about on-prem, and that accelerated our Pure-as-a-service offering."

Pure noted in the release that its subscription revenue offerings, including its "Pure-as-a-service" subscription-based storage service, and Evergreen, its cloud-like service offering for on-prem, collectively rose 29%, year over year.

In a separate announcement tonight, Pure said it would extend Pure-as-a-service with something it calls the "Service Catalog," which it said would provide "clear and transparent pricing per gigabyte" of storage in contrast to industry pricing practices.

Giancarlo told ZDNet that the Service Catalog is "not just a financial construct." Rather, the Catalog makes procurement more like buying from a typical cloud services provider. 

"We are creating an environment where on-prem and in the cloud looks exactly the same," said Giancarlo. "It looks the same not just financially, but in terms of how you manage it as a customer and how you engage with it."

As Giancarlo explained, "It works with both what we have on prem and what we have in the cloud, where a customer can choose the service category or tier or characteristics they want, and engage with it completely on our service catalog, which is in the cloud, and we make it happen whether it's on-prem or in the cloud."

For the current quarter, Pure said it once again would not provide a formal forecast, citing global uncertainty, but offered an internal view of things, projecting perhaps $480 million in revenue this quarter, above consensus for $466 million. 

Asked when the company will return to formal forecasting, Giancarlo said the company will have to see how the resurgence in COVID-19 cases globally plays out.

"We had the kind of visibility at the end of last quarter that would normally allow us to guide," he said, "but we also see the COVID cases rising and that's probably the unknowable factor in terms of an accurate guide."

Pure shares are down 5% at $18.80 in late trading

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