Rubrik - A metadata company in backup company's clothing

I’ve poked and prodded the team at Rubrik since first briefed on their data protection product. The spokespeople remain careful in the description of the product suite. It is a data protection product with additional benefits powered by a powerful metadata engine. Make no mistake Rubrik’s product is a robust metadata driven foundation that has data protection features.  The company marketing remains careful not to compete with primary storage companies directly or claim primary storage functionality. 

Backup Disguise  

Data protection or backup is the low hanging fruit and Trojan Horse to gain a foothold in the enterprise data market. As a former Data Domain (DD) customer, I can attest to the frustration associated with engineers continually requesting what seems like $150K upgrades of the DD cluster every few months. It was incredibly difficult to predict growth and expenses related to backup accurately.  

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Rubrik’s scaleout approach to the storage subsystem doesn’t make capacity management easier to predict, but it blunts the overhead associated with expanding disk-based backup. In my experience, the solution has also been cheaper. While a capable backup solution, backup frankly isn’t compelling as a standalone platform. All of the legacy backup vendors are now offering similar scaleout appliances and functionality. It’s the premise that Rubrik’s focus is on metadata of the backup data.  

The value of Metadata

It’s now a commonly accepted thought that data is the most crucial asset class of any organization. Therefore knowing as much as possible about data becomes a critical function of any information technology organization. The path to an understanding of data is the metadata around that data. Some essential attributes of and organizations metadata include the following.  

  • Location of the data  
  • Who has access to the data  
  • Who has accessed the data  
  • The PII classification of the data  
  • The data’s format
  • How old is the data  

The metadata is just as powerful as the data that resides on a storage platform. It enables organizations to determine where to ship data for placement. Knowing the sensitivity of the data allows for compliance with regulations such as GDPR or HIPPA. The fact that Rubrik focuses only archive and backup data today is a head fake.  

Data is the asset class, and secondary storage is only one possible location of the asset. It’s just as important to organizations mining data to understand the data residing on primary storage. In the case of Rubrik’s metadata foundation, there’s no technical limitation to indexing data stored in a primary storage array or a Rubrik cluster or cloud-based storage. Data is data.  

At the onset of Rubrik’s public journey, I’ve asked when they will drop the other shoe. When will the company go after the major storage vendors? When can we expect Rubrik to in full force release the power of what I’m sure is an end-to-end vision around data management?  

Meta data company 

The release of their Polaris platform is an indication the company is getting ready to shed it’s backup sheep’s clothing. Polaris is a platform that provides micro-services for both Rubrik and 3rd party created products to consume the metadata stored in Rubirk’s solution. Polaris GPS is one of the first applications. GPS allows for the querying of enterprise data for many of the questions presented above. It’s just a teaser. I expect the company in short order to extend the ability to identify metadata beyond archive.  

Soon after, the organization will create reference applications for mining that data via Polaris. Polaris is the introduction to Rubrik’s true platform.