Rubrik Continues to Mature: The 3.1 Release

For anyone not familiar, Rubrik is a start-up that offers a “web-scale”-like backup and recovery platform. Unlike traditional backup systems, Rubrik’s offering is a single appliance consisting of both hardware and software that quickly and easily scales out (performance and capacity) by adding more “Briks”.  If you’re familiar with hyperconverged infrastructure technology, you should note that this is very similar.  

Earlier this week, Rubrik announced the 3.1 release for its backup/recovery platform. While normally I wouldn’t take the time to write about a product’s “dot release”, there are some interesting additions here that exemplify where Rubrik is heading as it continues to differentiate its position in the marketplace.

What’s New

With this release, Rubrik has added several major additions, as well as a long list of minor ones. Below is a list of new features available with the upgrade.  

Envision Reports

While Rubrik has had reasonably good canned reports, you can now create custom reports with the new Envision functionality. These allow you to build your own reports or use pre-built templates, customize them with some pretty cool new charts, and schedule emailed reports that use HTML5. This should allow you to build dashboards and reports for different user groups and only show the relevant information they need.
Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 10.03.24 PM

Windows Server Filesets

Windows Server protection continues to mature with the addition of Filesets. This was previously already available with Linux, but now that functionality has been expanded to Windows. Filesets allow you to backup certain directories, mount points, and files within a Windows system. This gives you much more flexibly over only doing a VM-level backup. Filesets use the standard SLA policies within Rubrik, which is a nice bit of elegant planning. You only need to track one set of SLAs and apply them as needed. The files that are backed up are also indexed and searchable just like those in a VM image and they use VSS for open/locked files.

Software-Based Encryption

If you need at-rest encryption, Rubrik has the r528 model which uses self-encrypting drives.  With the 3.1 release, Rubrik now offers software-based encryption across all models using the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). A benefit of using the new encryption method is that you can do it with a single “Brik”, whereas the r528 required a minimum of two. The downside is that you can only enable software encryption on a new cluster so if you want to encrypt an existing deployment, you either rebuild it from scratch or put in a second cluster and replicate the data.

Minor Updates

These are all little enhancements made, but they add up! Minor updates include:

  • There is vSphere 6.5 support!
  • The UI now is a bit more host-centric which makes it easy to see Filesets and how they are associated to each host.
  • There are a number of SQL Server enhancements, including:
    • SQL Server Failover Cluster support
    • Support for SQL Server 2016
    • Enhanced compression allows for source-side compression/decompression
    • Cross-Version Restore now lets you restore to a newer version of SQL Server for testing
    • Support for multiple database and log files in different locations
  • You can now manually refresh the vCenter inventory. You could do this via API before, but now via the UI.
  • Customers can now do their own upgrades via the CLI, if they wish. This is beneficial for sites without Internet connectivity.

My Thoughts

As stated above, while I normally wouldn’t take the time to write about a dot-release for most platforms, I thought this was a bit different. These “next-gen” backup solutions have interested me since they were first being developed as the backup/recovery market has needed disruption and simplification for a long time. This segment has been dominated by products that have been around a long time with a lot of legacy thoughts, ideas, and constraints.

One problem with these new platforms is that they’ve been squarely focused on VMware. While the world has heavily standardized on vSphere and VMs, there are still plenty of physical servers to protect and good reasons for file and application-based backups over VM images. We’re starting to see these new platforms expand to protect other systems and applications.  

I’m not sure that these solutions will ever handle physical servers (with the ability, for example, to perform bare metal restores) or products like Networker and CommVault. But that might not matter. These solutions are starting to enter the mainstream by being “good enough” for clients whose infrastructure is already heavily virtualized. By focusing on the virtualization use case, companies like Rubrik and Cohesity are taking market share and getting their products deployed in corporate data centers. Focusing on handling as much of the data protection space as they can, while advising clients to keep a very slimmed down legacy tool in place for edge use cases that their products cannot provide a solution for, is a good marketing approach.   

While I’ve found that many clients don’t like the idea of using multiple data protection tools, I see two major arguments here. The first is that it is actually very rare for any enterprise to actually only have one tool today. The second is that it doesn’t really make sense to complicate or force a solution that meets 90% of your use cases to handle the edge use case. Why not follow the 80/20 rule to implement a potentially better solution to solve most of your problems while chipping away at the other smaller percentage? Hopefully as these new platforms mature, we’ll see clients reconsider their options and data protection strategies. More critically, we expect the pressure on traditional vendors to innovate and accelerate creation of new and better products to market to happen, just like it did in the HCI space.


To learn more about data protection products and strategies, contact us today to meet with our experts one-on-one and for more information on our current offerings and solutions. 

portrait. Photo by Andrew Collings.



Author: Jason Nash
Jason Nash is Solution Principal at AHEAD where he focuses on emerging technologies in the AHEAD Lab.

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