TFD10 Prep: Rubrik

Rubrik Logo

This is part of my series of posts for Tech Field Day 10.

Rubrik are one of a number of companies who have decided that the secondary storage market–basically everything that isn’t primary storage–has only seen incremental changes for the past decade or so, basically since Data Domain was a new things.

Back in the day, Virtual Tape Libraries were all the rage, but no more. Tape is old and boring, and outside of specific use-cases, it’s not as much fun to use as disk. The new style of secondary data company is heavily VM centric, because most organisations are, and it’s a lot easier to move data around if it’s encapsulated in a VM, to be quite honest.

Because the data is contained within the logical structure of a VM, it’s much, much easier to do things like take a copy of the VM over to the datacentre over there, and then turn it on if we need to. Doing that with physical devices means you need a 1-to-1 mapping of physical to physical. Moving target location means picking up a box and moving it. Not so great in today’s cloudy world.

The new approach is to have something sitting in the back-end that abstracts away all the messy metadata and schedules and data storage and everything and makes it look like a magic black box. Then you just talk to the black box if you need your data back at some point, and it goes and figures out how to find it.

That was the promise of previous backup solutions, but the reality was a messy accumulation of twenty years worth of master server this and media server that and tape silo managers and robots and rotation schedules and oh-god-kill-me-now. Actually the tape robots are pretty cool, and if you’ve never seen a series of octagonal StorageTek 5500s handing tapes to each other through the interconnect module, you really should check it out. Watching the SL8500 tape arms whizz along the track and not run off the end is pretty excellent as well.

But I digress.

Putting your backups into a great big pool of disk makes a few things easier to do, not least restores. It also means you can do things like global de-dupe and compression, which saves you lots of space when operating system images are mostly the same as each other. This is something that Rubrik highlights as an advantage of their architecture compared to something like Data Domain, because they use scale-out instead of scale-up, which can match the scale of large data sets more efficiently than a scale up. It’s not a free trade-off, because scale-out is harder to design and build than scale-up, but the technology has been around long enough now that a lot of people have good experience with how it works and it’s getting baked into more and more stuff.

Rubrik have taken in about $51 million in venture funding in two rounds so far, the last a $41 million series B in May 2015, just two months after taking in $10 million in March 2015, so they should be pretty well funded for growth and R&D. Rubrik presented at Virtualization Field Day 5 in June last year, so it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve managed to achieve in the past 7 or so months, and where they’re planning to take things.

Secondary storage is a big, big market, and competition is already pretty substantial–though nowhere near the current primary storage market, which is brutal–so I’m keen to hear how Rubrik plans to differentiate themselves and what they see as the value of secondary data.

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