Data Centers

How storage startup Rubrik models DevOps

Storage startup Rubrik shows how DevOps is more than just technology, and how DevOps benefits many data center disciplines including backup and recovery.

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Image: Rubrik

On the extreme end of the DevOps spectrum, organizations collapse the development and operations teams—application and infrastructure monitoring become part of the application. The collapsed model of DevOps is a natural outgrowth of building modern, cloud-based applications. But, cloud-based infrastructures aren't the reality of today's typical infrastructure.

Recently, I sat down with the technical evangelist for storage startup Rubrik, Chris Wahl. Rubrik takes an interesting approach to helping customers adopt a DevOps strategy in protecting traditional enterprise applications.

DevOps culture

Before talking about the solution, I think it's interesting to take a look at the culture of this small organization. Rubrik was founded in 2014, and has quickly grown to 160 employees. Wahl said the company takes a DevOps approach to managing their internal resources, and that means automation of any task that requires scale in the future.

SEE: Why the DevOps faithful keep pulling away from their competitors

For Rubrik, this resulted in automating even simple tasks such as user creation. When observing an administrator manually provisioning a new early employee, Wahl figuratively slapped their hand. While it only took a few minutes to manually provision the account, versus several hours to automate the process, Wahl was sure the effort would pay off in the long term.

Abstract all the things

It's this mentality that Rubrik brings to their storage management product. One of the more interesting user conference presentations I've attended was a Windows Powershell introduction delivered by Wahl. Interestingly enough, Chris helped show how to use Powershell to automate backup policies. The irony is that the product, on the surface, looks like most storage appliances. In a recent post, I compared Rubrik to two other tapeless backup solutions, and it seems that Rubrik is looking to prove that it's more than a set of storage boxes.

To properly embrace DevOps, it's critical to look past a hardware appliance. It's the role of the administrator to make the infrastructure invisible to the user while providing the range of services that meet the requirements of the application.

The vision of abstraction is ambitious. It takes standards developed across several vendors or an investment in creating a normalized interface for applications. Potentially, that interface is OpenStack or VMware vRealize. Today, it's a major and somewhat difficult decision to commit to either one of those options.

Until that point of commitment to an orchestration platform, organizations look to infrastructure vendors to provide a foundation for DevOps. Rubrik is an example of such a vendor. The platform is an API-first platform, meaning that any activity the application's management interface performs is executed via customer accessible APIs. API-first technologies also ensure the ability to integrate with future API-driven orchestration systems.

Rubrik is filling a gap while organizations work out their software-defined data center architectures. The latest version of Rubrik now enables policy-driven archival of disaster recovery sites and cloud services such as Azure. Rubrik's Firefly solution goes as far as enabling developers to create backup policies from their applications. So, organizations with complete DevOps visions consume Rubrik resources just as they consume Amazon S3 objects.

Challenge your vendors

While you may not have a clear vision of your model of DevOps, it's critical to challenge your vendors in their vision. Ask about API access, and if they use the same APIs they expose to the customer. If not, it's potentially an indicator of challenges in future data center orchestration projects.

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About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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