Did Rubrik make Veeam’s Modern Data Protection a bit antiquated?

Veeam Antiquated?
Veeam Antiquated?

Modern Data Protection™ got a trademark from Veeam. No, I am not joking. It is true! Veeam started with a focused strategy. It will do nothing but VMware VM backups. Thankfully VMware had done most of the heavy lifting with vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP) so developing a VM-only backup solution was as simple as creating a software plugin for those APIs and developing a storage platform for keeping the VM copies. With a good marketing engine Veeam won the hearts of virtual machine administrators and it paid off.

As the opportunity to reap the benefits as a niche VM-only backup started to erode (intense competition, low barrier to entry on account of VADP), Veeam is attempting to re-invent its image by exploring broader use cases like physical systems protection, availability etc. Some of these efforts make it look like its investors are hoping for Microsoft to buy Veeam. The earlier wish to sell itself to VMware shattered when VMware adopted EMC Avamar’s storage to build its data protection solution.

Now Rubrik is coming to market and attacking the very heart of Veeam’s little playground while making Veeam’s modern data protection a thing of past. Rubrik’s market entry is also through VMware backups using vStorage APIs but with a better storage backend that can scale out.

Both Veeam and Rubrik have two high level tiers. The frontend tier connects to vSphere through VMware APIs. It discovers and streams virtual machine data. Then there is a backend storage tier where virtual machine data is stored.

For Veeam the front-end is a standalone backup server and its possible backup proxies. The proxies (thanks to VMware hot-add) enable limited level of scale-out for the frontend, but this approach leeches resources from production and increases complexity. The backend is one or more backup repositories. There is nothing special about the repository; it is a plain file system. Although Veeam claims to have deduplication built-in, it is perhaps the most primitive in the industry and works only across virtual machines from the same backup job.

Rubrik is a scale-out solution where the frontend and backend are fused together from users’ perspective. You buy Rubrik bricks where each brick consists of four nodes. These are the compute and storage components that cater to both frontend in streaming virtual machines from vSphere via NBD or SAN transport (kudos to Rubrik for ditching hot-add!) and backend, which is a cluster file system that spans nodes and bricks. Rubrik claims to have global deduplication across all its cluster file system namespace.

Historically, the real innovation from Veeam was the commercial success of powering on virtual machines directly from the backup storage. Veeam may list several other innovations (e.g. they may claim that they ‘invented’ agentless backups, but it was actually done by VMware in its APIs) in their belt but exporting VMs directly from backup is something every other vendor followed afterwards and hence kudos go to Veeam on that one. But this innovation may backfire and may help Veeam customers to transition to Rubrik seamlessly.

Veeam customers are easy targets for Rubrik for a few reasons.

  • One of the cornerstones of Veeam’s foundation is its dependency on vStorage APIs from VMware; it is not a differentiator because all VMware partners have access to those APIs. Unlike other backup vendors, Veeam didn’t focus on building application awareness and granular quiescence until late in the game
  • Veeam is popular in smaller IT shops and shadow projects within large IT environments. It is a handy backup tool, but it is not perceived as a critical piece in meeting regulatory specs and compliance needs. It had been marketed towards virtual machine administrators; hence higher-level buying centers do no have much visibility. That adversely affects Veeam’s ‘stickiness’ in an account.
  • Switching from one backup application to another had been a major undertaking historically. But that is not the case if customers want to switch from Veeam to something else. Earlier days, IT shops needed to standup both solutions until all the backup images from the old solution would hit the expiration dates. Or you have to develop strategies to migrate old backups into the new system, a costly affair. When the source is Veeam with 14 recovery points per VM by default, you could build workflows that spin up each VM backup in a sandbox and let the new solution back it up as if it is a production copy. (Rubrik may want to work on building a small migration tool for this)
  • Unlike Veeam that started stitching support for other hypervisors and physical systems afterwards, Rubrik has architected its platform to accommodate future needs. That design may intrigue customers when VMware customers are looking to diversify into other hypervisors and containers.

The fine print is that Rubrik is yet to be proven. If the actual product delivers on the promises, it may have antiquated Veeam. The latter may be become a good case study for business schools on not building a product that is dependent too much on someone else’s technology.

Thanks to #VFD5 TechFieldDay for sharing Rubrik’s story. You can watch it here: Rubrik Technology Deep Dive

Disclaimer: I work for Veritas/Symantec, opinions here are my own.

6 thoughts on “Did Rubrik make Veeam’s Modern Data Protection a bit antiquated?

  • July 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks for the retarded blog. As a Veeam user all I can say is that it seems you are pissed at Veeam for losing customers (since you work for Symantec) and hope they now go to a new product which isn’t proven.

    Veeam is a perfect solution for the enterprise world where Symantec products and Rubrik will fill up the SMB market.

    • July 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Frank,

      It looks the blog might have hit a wrong note. You make it sound as if I own Symantec and I am upset! Yes, I work for Symantec and that is not a secret. I do write about many vendors in this personal blog. In professional world, employers come and go. You are entitled for your thoughts and it is okay to express it. We don’t need to use unprofessional language for it though. Thank you for visiting.

  • July 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    You have completely missed out a large proportion of Veeam’s capabilities, to begin with Hyper-V support, Storage array integration with HP, EMC and NetApp!

    I am completely fine with technology blog posts but please outline the true facts of each vendor. The fact that Veeam is also storage agnostic meaning no vendor lock in for backup storage is a big win also,

    if you also think Veeam are only aimed at SMB and VMware customers thats very shortsighted, I work for an enterprise finance firm and we use Veeam + HP 3Par backing up to a several large capacity HP servers.

    • July 14, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Brett,

      Thank you for your comments. You are making some great points on Veeam. A short blog is not indented to cover all aspects of any products end-to-end. I was comparing two products only from a single point of view, what is perhaps the best competitive advantage for each product? The angle here is differentiation that sets a product to be unique (at the time of writing), not parity. I am well aware of storage integrations from Veeam, I consider those to be parity features mainly because there are other vendors with similar offerings.

      Thanks again for taking time to express your thoughts. Much appreciated.

  • December 12, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    What does this mean? (from the comments)

    >>The fact that Veeam is also storage agnostic meaning no vendor lock in for backup storage is a big win also,<<

    I've heard this quite a bit – typically when someone is justifying the deduplication (or lack thereof) architecture in a product. But aren't all software vendors storage agnostic?

    On another point in the main blog post – "Unlike Veeam that started stitching support for other hypervisors and physical systems afterwards, Rubrik has architected its platform to accommodate future needs. That design may intrigue customers when VMware customers are looking to diversify into other hypervisors and containers."

    I think that this is a huge issue going forward. Ignoring marketing, building platforms for the agile data center – now and in the future – requires a pretty flexible architecture. I'm looking forward to seeing virtualization-only platforms – of any and all stripes – handle this. I think the threat is understood – recently Veeam began "advertising" against Unitrends on its web site – we decided to address this at length in a series of blog posts that can be found at http://blogs.unitrends.com/veeam-unitrends-veeam-talking-unitrends-now/

    • December 17, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Thank you Mark. The ‘storage agnostic’ statement is based on the fact that Veeam gives customers the flexibility to store backups on many storage systems. You are right, technically all software vendors could be storage agnostic. From GTM and support perspective, some decide to limit storage to their own boxes. In those cases, the line between software and hardware/storage vendor label becomes grey.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on agile data center. Flexibility is indeed a prerequisite for agility!


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