When talking to customers about how they protect their data it’s often a case of “don’t mention the ‘B’ word”. – Backup – there, I said it. However, anyone taking a quick glance at the industry press (and indeed social media) shows that this is becoming more of a hot topic these days. I find that the focus, however, is shifting from ‘backup’ to proving data and service recovery. Organisations now expect all-round data protection – not just of key systems but all applications. In this modern, fast-paced world, IT departments needs to react quickly to recover services in the event of failure. I’ve not seen this much ‘excitement’ around data protection since the early days of Data Domain. Indeed, given the increasing threat of cybercrime and the context of the recent ransomware attack, which badly impacted the NHS, I’d be surprised if any CIO wasn’t rethinking their data protection strategy.
But when every vendor appears to be jumping on the “we’ll solve all your ransomware problems” bandwagon, how can CIOs, CTOs, IT Managers and administrators see the wood from the trees, so to speak? Well, if we step back and take a look at what’s available out there you could say there are a number of solutions that fall into the ‘legacy’ category – and that’s being diplomatic. Indeed, when I speak to IT managers and find out how many admins they have just managing backup and how much they’ve spent on the accompanying hardware / software / support over the past five years, it’s very clear to see which products are getting seriously long in the tooth. All the promise of cloud-enabled backup and simplicity fade away as soon as you read the 500-page long design and implementation guides.
Last year a new US start-up called Rubrik caught my eye. They offered an enterprise-grade approach to data protection that was built from the ground up to fit the modern world of cloud and virtualisation. Their promise of a massively scalable, building-block based solution was very appealing. However, the key thing for me was the fact it delivered a fantastic user experience: almost consumer-grade simplicity akin to the likes of Apple’s Time Machine plus installation in a day. For first time users it felt instantly familiar – compare and contrast to 10 day training courses and months of deployment in the old world of backup – there – I said it again.
I’ve seen the Rubrik platform develop over the past 18 months from both a technical and commercial perspective. I’ve seen significant adoption, not least because the product is great, but also because Rubrik’s proposition addresses a wide range of issues. Aside from how it mitigates against the risk of ransomware through data immutability (once data is backed up by Rubrik, that backup data is immune from attacks), it really delivers on the growing desire and need for operational simplicity and automation. Organisations want to be more efficient, they want to guarantee consistency and repeatability around their data protection strategy but they want to do it in a way that fits their organisation. Customers no longer want to buy into technology that requires a team of staff and racks upon racks of equipment to manage just to be lumbered with an inflexible product that doesn’t deliver.
I found with Rubrik that not only is the interface intuitive, but through the API-first architecture customers can use the language of their choice (think Puppet, Chef) to fully manage the product (any function can be automated) and mould the solution to fit their environment. This is technology that actually fits into an environment rather than being a big ugly entity in the corner that nobody wants to touch – yet requires constant tweaking and attention. The amount of agility this API-first approach delivers is phenomenal and lends itself perfectly to the new world of Agile Infrastructure. With this sort of product I can see backup (I know) transforming from something scary, inflexible and disconnected from the business to being something that application owners can influence, control and shape with their own preferred methods. Where Rubrik has been implemented, I’ve seen admins and developers actually want to engage with the backup platform in a way that I’ve never seen before. Did I mention you can provision test and Dev directly from Rubrik, away from the main production systems? Talk about sweating the asset and putting a smile on the FD’s face – surely that’s not something that ever happens!
So, when a customer asks me about selecting a data protection strategy I suggest they look at the wider proposition. How does the solution deliver on critical standards that meet the needs of their organisation? Rubrik has put together the following checklist, which is a useful tool for comparing what’s out there – it’s worth a look, as nothing else available seems to tick all the same boxes: Rubrik Checklist.