A closer look at Rubrik Cloud Data Management v3.1

When I started to write this post, I looked back over my notes from previous conversations with the team at Rubrik and realized that my first conversation with them was almost 2 years ago. How time flies! I still remember meeting Rubrik at one of our VMware Partner Exchanges (PEX) in 2015, and getting a demo from Bipul Sinha (Rubrik CEO) and Julia Lee (Product Marketing). I also remember when Chris Wahl moved to Rubrik (almost 18 months ago now), thinking what a great move that was for both Chris and Rubrik. Well, when I caught up with Chris last week to talk about the new 3.1 release of Cloud Data Management, Chris told me how much Rubrik had grown. When Chris joined Rubrik, there were something like 25 full-time employees. There are now 250 full-time employees at Rubrik. Chris has also seen multiple product releases in that time, going from v1.0 to the latest version 3.1. And they have had a 6X customer growth over that time as well. I guess their mantra of “Backup Still Sucks” is still resonating.

Cloud Data Management v3.1 Features

Let’s get on to the some of new major enhancements in version 3.1.

Physical/Native Windows backup

In release v3.1, Rubrik now support physical/native (non-VM) Windows backups. Previously this was only possible with Linux, but this release now includes Windows support as well. This is achieved via what Rubrik term a “connector” which is basically a light-weight agent/listener installed on the physical host, either Windows or Linux. This agent has a very small footprint of under 10MB. This connector runs as a daemon in Linux and as a service in Windows and simply waits for a call. It basically allows Rubrik APIs talk directly to the native operating system. One nice feature of the Rubrik connectors is that they can automatically upgrade themselves if they need to, so you as an admin don’t have to worry about correct version of the connector for your operating system. As you might expect, this connector protects both Windows files and directories, but it can also protect a UNC path. File backups of physical/native Windows have much of the same features as VM image backups, such as find/search capabilities to locate certain files in a backup.

SQL Server & WSFC Improvements

Rubrik have done a lot of improvements in this space, as they know it is a pain point for many customers. In this release, they have introduced support for SQL Server 2016. More importantly, they have also introduced support for  Windows Server Failover Clusters (WSFC) that run SQL Server. This means that they have full visibility into the cluster, which side is active and which is passive (no transaction logs need backing up here), and they also provide customers with this view of a WSFC via the UI. They also provide visibility into individual databases,  instances and clusters. They have made improvements around exporting of database, and a nice new enhancement is the ability to do cross version restore of databases; in other words, you can restore a backup taken from an old database and restore it to a newer database if the original database has been decommissioned.

Encryption

Rubrik already offered encryption via SED (self encrypting drives) which encrypts your data at rest (DARE). This was only available on certain “Brik” models. However in version 3.1, Rubrik now offers software based encryption (AES-256) that is available across all models. Enabling encryption is a one-click process. I asked Chris about archiving this encrypted data to the cloud. Chris explained that archiving to the cloud would be done with a different encryption to that used on the “Brik”, as that is internal only. So for archiving, Rubrik would un-encrypt the local data using the local keys, and then re-encrypt with user supplied keys when archiving. I read up some more on this feature since speaking to Chris, and it seems that encryption cannot be applied to existing deployments, only new deployments. One possible option would be to replicate to a new “Brik” that has encryption enabled.

Restore without vCenter

Chris told me that he was very happy that they have finally removed this dependency. Now restores of virtual machines can be done directly to an ESXi host. I’m guessing this is extremely useful in cases where you might have had a complete DC outage. You would first of all restore your vCenter Server directly to an ESXi host, and then have more granular control over the restore of your VMs once communication to the restored vCenter server is established.

Other improvements

  • Rubrik CDM v3.1 now supports vSphere 6.5.
  • There are a number UI Improvements around VM backups. Now you can look at all VM file sets from a vCenter Server level or even an ESXi host level, something a lot of customers have been asking for.
  • There is new reporting via Rubrik Envision. This allows for fully customizable reports, or customers can use a number of pre-built templates that are provided. These reports can then be exported or emailed, and can be scheduled as well.
  • Restoring an identical copy of a VM will also put in place all the policies that are associated with that VM from a backup perspective.
  • Destructive restores are now available for in-place restores. This is primarily focused on SQL restores, and the overwriting of contents live, rather than restoring the data somewhere else, and using SQL tooling to overwrite contents.

That’s an impressive array of new features. Kudos to Rubrik for such a good job.

Last but not least, Rubrik have the same vision as VMware when it comes to policy driven storage (or in this case, data retention and mobility), so there is a lot of synergies between Rubrik and vSAN. Set  a policy, associate it with a VM, and hide all the complexity under the covers. Chris and I wrote a paper discussing this similar approach to policy based management in our joint vSAN/Rubrik white paper. We also had a good chat about this stuff in a recent webinar if you’d like to check it out.

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