Part two of this multi part post comparing and contrasting NetApp and Rubrik looks at Rubrik’s brief history to date. As I wrote in the first part of this series, Rubrik sells a converged data management system and platform with hardware that offers backup and recovery-related functionality. It offers live data access for recovery and application development by fusing enterprise data management with web-scale IT and eliminating backup software. The company was founded in 2014 and is based in Palo Alto, California and has received almost $300 million in venture funding in its short life to date. Rubrik yesterday announced that it has achieved a $150 million revenue run rate and, only three years since its inception, was included as a visionary in Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant.

Meteoric rise to fame

Rubrik didn’t exist only three years ago, and yet, in that short space of time, it has raised close to $300 million, achieved unicorn (greater than $1 billion valuation) status, and enjoyed massive growth. While Rubrik ostensibly started as a backup vendor, it is now firmly ensconced as a data management powerhouse. As I articulated in my previous post, in a day and age where compute and storage is seen as simple plumbing, it is a smart move to focus more on the smart stuff that can be done on top of that. Obviously Rubrik ticks the storage boxes its customers need, but more importantly, it is thinking deeply about what its customers will need in the future. I’m reminded of the Henry T Ford quote, instead of asking their customers what they want (and risking the answer “a faster horse”) Rubrik is rapidly building out the production line to build automobiles.

Rubrik’s tag line is “Don’t Backup. Go Forward.” What this means, from their perspective, is that rather than focusing on the hygiene factors around storage (backup, disaster recovery, compliance, audit etc.,) Rubrik can instead bring all that stuff together and layer some added value on top of it – flexibility, future-proofing, analytics and the promise of being able to quickly react to economic and business imperatives is all the allure that Rubrik brings.


Unlike its legacy brethren, Rubrik doesn’t have market expectations about revenues, or a customer base that has a particular preconception about what it is, to contend with. Rubrik can, therefore, rethink what storage looks like in a truly cloudy world. Since its inception, Rubrik has allowed customers to use Amazon’s S3 storage as a direct archive location for their on-premises backups. This “store on-prem, archive in the cloud” is a valuable initial proposition, but Rubrik is rapidly moving beyond this.

The company has added CloudOn into the mix, a function set that is broader than simply this archive in the cloud approach. With CloudOn, customers can take an on-premises virtual machine and move it to AWS for whatever reason – test, disaster recovery, analytics. To do this, Rubrik uses a bunch of interesting smarts to make it almost automagical. The Rubrik platform spins up a temporary node in the customer’s virtual private cloud of choice, scans the VM configuration to suggest what instance size is best and converts the backed up VM into an AWS-compliant one.

SQL-ing all the things

Without wanting to dive too deeply into technology, it is worth reflecting on some goodness that Rubrik showed us at the event to show how they’re thinking beyond plain old storage. Rubrik demoed SQL instant recovery whereby organizations can create secondary copies of their databases – for testing, analytics or disaster recovery – on the public cloud. Again, this isn’t simply about doing the same stuff in a different way, it’s about changing the way organizations think about how they use storage and, more fundamentally, what storage actually means for them.

The end-game

You don’t raise hundreds of millions of dollars at a $1B+ valuation to simply be a bit player. No, Rubrik’s backers are fully expecting that the company is going to fundamentally challenge some incumbent players (EMC/NetApp etc.) and will either IPO at a healthy valuation or be sufficiently toxic to those legacy vendors’ revenue streams that they’ll have no choice but to swoop in and acquire them. In a post-Field Days article, new friend Julian Wood, a practitioner that actually has to wrangle this stuff on a day to day basis, raised some questions about Rubrik’s ability to justify that valuation:

I really like what Rubrik is doing however I have two nagging things that bug me about the latest huge funding evaluation which I’d love to understand. Enterprises are struggling to harmonise secondary storage across their lines of business, linking archival and backup tools is tough, how does Rubrik extend its reach into more use cases?

Rubrik is doing a fantastic job of bringing legacy data management to the modern world, but how do they see the world of more modern apps which don’t use backup in the traditional manor. Containers and Serverless don’t require VM level backups. Containers are just redeployed and managed as infastrucure as code. Native S3 data can be snapshotted and protected using AWS native tools or archived to Glacier. People are moving SQL databases to DynamoDB and Exchange to Office365. When they convert VMware VMs to AWS AMIs it may be only done once as part of a migration and there are other (free) tools to do the same thing. As more workloads are moving to the public cloud, there is a tipping point when it becomes the default option where there is a huge playground to work with true cloudy things that aren’t VMs. Do you then need the same infrastructure management solutions as you currently do?

Rubrik’s leadership must have some pretty impressive plans and I think we’re probably only at the very beginning of discovering what they are. Happy to hear more about a backup company into which smart investors are throwing their money to take the public cloud world by storm…who would have thought!


Rubrik has amassed cash, a stellar crew and, perhaps most importantly, a unique point in time when change is ramping up. Put all three of those things together and you have an opportunity to build something of real substance. But the genesis of this series was a look at the differences between NetApp and Rubrik, not Rubrik’s opportunity in isolation. In part three, we’ll do a bit of contrasting.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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