Pure Storage's choice of venue for its fourth annual conference was no accident.
After three years of hosting the Accelerate conference in San Francisco, for the first time, Pure ventured almost 2,000 miles to the east to the city of Austin - the birthplace and homeland of its closest and most embittered rival, Dell Technologies.
One Pure exec told me that hosting its annual conference on Dell's doorstep was meant as a "statement" to the industry. But what statement is Pure Storage trying to make? That it is not afraid of going toe to toe with a competitor that dwarfs it in both size and resources?
Dell's interruptive PR stunt on the first day of the conference was surely a brazen response to Pure Storage's bold statement.
Pure's 2019 Accelerate conference comes amid a backdrop in which its larger competitors - Dell, HPE, IBM and NetApp - have each made bold moves to expand their businesses through acquisitions.
Dell has been on a mission to become a one-stop shop for enterprise IT since its acquisitions of EMC and VMware in 2015. HPE has made a long-overdue move into the hyperconverged and flash spaces through buying up SimpliVity and Nimble Storage, while IBM has sought to marry infrastructure to the cloud with its $34bn bet for Red Hat.
Meanwhile, Pure Storage has stuck stubbornly to its flash routes. CEO Charles Giancarlo shot down any possibilities of adding a compute layer to its business to rival VMware, Nutanix or HPE, and there was no sign amid the various product launches from the event that Pure is looking to deviate from its flash pedigree any time soon.
The storage vendor could be at risk of turning itself into an island. While its competitors are looking to connect the worlds of infrastructure, compute and cloud, Pure seems content to remain solely focused on its flash heritage and staunchly independent in its outlook.
But for Computacenter's chief technologist, Bill McGloin, Pure Storage not making any drastic changes to its portfolio should be seen as a positive.
"It hasn't been a radical diversion from the portfolio, it has been a nice smooth evolution," he said.
"When vendors suddenly throw a new product at us that's come from left field, we've then got to take that into our professional services team and make sure they understand it, and take it through our sales enablement team to make sure they understand the value of the different technology."
At Pure Accelerate 2019, we saw some signs of the storage vendor beginning to link up with other forces in the industry to turn its disruptive flash offering into a platform for so much more.
There's its partnership with Nvidia, which was first formed in March last year in building an AI-ready infrastructure called AIRI. The partnership then developed the AI Data Hub which was announced in Austin to help businesses streamline the AI development process.
Perhaps more crucially is Pure Storage's link with Cisco for its joint FlashStack solution.
Softcat's head of specialist sales, Tim Jeans, said FlashStack will be Pure's way of fighting the power of Dell's server and storage combination.
"The really interesting thing for me, which I've said over the last few days, is how this Cisco relationship pans out, with Pure having a lot of ex-Cisco people. Pure have made all the right noises, but I don't think customers have seen the benefits of both organisations coming together," he said.
"I think if Cisco are up for it, then for me that's how they get around that compute piece. I think that's how they combat the value of Dell's storage and server. If Pure can get it right, then it will be mutually beneficial."
McGloin agreed that a close relationship with Cisco will make things easier from an integration perspective.
"When the vendor makes their own ecosystem partners, it makes our lives easier, because I don't have to get my architects to validate with design, so we know that Cisco and Pure are going to work together and we know that Nvidia and Pure are going to work together. So then we don't have to worry about the relationships and it allows us to take it, wrap our services around it and then drive an outcome for the customer," he said.
It's not only on the end-point side where channel partners are looking at Pure Storage's partnership model with keen interest.
It also looks like Pure's attitude towards cloud has drastically changed over the last few years. Pure revealed in Austin that its Cloud Block Store solution is now available through AWS' marketplace, while also announcing that its backup solution, CloudSnap, has now extended from just AWS to include Azure.
For Jeans, the cloud moves were a reassuring step in the right direction for Pure Storage.
"I think NetApp really stole the march on cloud, but Pure are catching up quickly. They don't have the dexterity of the portfolio that NetApp has, but they've now got decent maturity in what our customers want most, which is migration from one tier to another," he said.
"If you go back a few years, I think some of the messaging was slightly off where they were telling us to not worry about cloud. But then again, I do understand what they were doing in getting into the hardware market and making their own SSDs. Now look at the differentiation and agility that's given them in adopting NVMe first. They've proven they are making the right decisions."
It's clear that Pure has developed a maturity in thinking about where it sits within the expanded ecosystems of its partners. Rather than just charging feet first into a market with a disruptive product to grab as much share as it can, it's clear that Pure is taking a long-term approach for its next 10 years in business.
McGloin concluded: "Pure have become a mainstream vendor now - they've come from being disruptive to being mainstream, so they're now a target for disruption."
Some say performance, others say money but it may be systems and processes that carry the day
Cheryl Cook responds to claims from competitor that legacy vendors aren't investing enough in innovation and how it plans to adapt to an evolving server market
Distributor's head count moves past 400 with latest buyout
Vendor appoints two co-CEOs as long-time leader steps down