This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Rubrik Forward Digital Summit targets cloud data management
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Looking back at Rubrik Forward

Storage analysts have had a lukewarm response to 2020 virtual shows. Rubrik Forward showed small improvements but failed to escape the 'long webinar' formula that lacks pizzazz.

Industry analysts say that while Rubrik Inc. took baby steps to improve the virtual event formula, there's still a ways to go.

Rubrik last week hosted its inaugural Rubrik Forward Digital Summit, a one-day virtual event that was originally planned as a three-day live event in Chicago. CEO Bipul Sinha and President Dan Rogers unveiled Rubrik Polaris' upcoming support for AWS Relational Database Service, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft OneDrive in the keynote. The conference keynote and breakout sessions took the form of prerecorded webinars with the addition of monitored live chat-like Q&As. All sessions are available on-demand and include the text of the conversations from the Q&As.

Rubrik Forward was among a handful of virtual tech conferences held in the first two weeks of May, including IBM Think and SpectraLive. Storage industry analysts have said that virtual events will never fully replace the experience of live ones, and they predicted these events would be little more than a series of webinars. Despite some hope that vendors would find interesting ways to make their events more engaging, overall expectations were low.

Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, attended Rubrik Forward and several other recent virtual events and said they were mostly webinars. He said prerecorded sessions are a good way to deliver information and run product demos, but they should not be the only tool in the kit. He praised the real-time Q&A portions of Rubrik Forward's customer sessions as one of the few incentives for attendees to tune in during the event rather than watch the sessions on-demand later.

"What I've seen so far has been, in general, a very long webinar," Bertrand said. "I'm giving what I've been seeing a C-minus."

He said the strategy for delivering a good virtual keynote is similar to a live one, and he said he was surprised how few vendors followed the formula. Attendees expect to see executives talking about the company's strategy and vision, customer testimonials and new products, but these are usually separated into segments and introduced by an emcee with brief, often "just for fun" sections interspersed in between. These breaks are important for keeping audience attention.

Krista Macomber, senior analyst at Evaluator Group, attended IBM Think and Rubrik Forward sessions and came away mostly unimpressed. Direct interaction -- the reason people attend events in the first place -- was limited, even from a virtual standpoint. She said she would've liked to see a way to have one-on-one sessions with Rubrik representatives and a system that could allow for real-time and candid conversations with other attendees.

Macomber did praise Rubrik's frequent demonstrations of its products throughout its sessions. Some customer presentations showed how Rubrik was being used in a real-world setting, which Macomber said she found valuable.

University of the Pacific graduates to the cloud

Prerecorded case studies conducted by Rubrik customers included a live element where the users actively answered attendee questions in a chat-like interface while their presentations played. Rubrik customers The Home Depot, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and University of the Pacific presented those sessions.

Tony Carrero, enterprise systems manager at University of the Pacific, said during his presentation that he switched from a legacy environment over to Rubrik because of lengthy recovery time objectives, limited scalability, a fixed retention of 60 days, no disaster recovery readiness and no backup for Office 365 mailboxes. In an interview after the presentation, Carrero added that the old backup system reached end of life and would no longer be supported by its vendor.

The University of the Pacific's IT infrastructure consisted of data centers on each of its three campuses, based in Sacramento, San Francisco and Stockton, Calif. It consists of 600 servers, 90% of which are virtualized on VMware and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, an Office 365 deployment and an online learning management system. Carrero said the university was cloud-oriented and its previous backup system did a poor job supporting it.

"Even though we're a cloud-first organization, our legacy environment wasn't even remotely conducive to this," Carrero said during his Rubrik Forward presentation.

After conducting research and consulting Gartner, University of the Pacific deployed Rubrik in the summer of 2018 and took around two weeks to migrate off of its legacy backup. Carrero said, from a technology standpoint, Rubrik seemed like the best fit for the university's use case. He also listed Rubrik's simple licensing model and knowledgeable support team as influences on his purchase.

Rubrik was also beta-testing its Office 365 backup at the time, which influenced Carrero's decision. Carrero said Office 365 is vital to University of the Pacific, as everyone from staff to students uses it. It is the university's main method of communication and collaboration. The university also uses OneDrive and SharePoint and is currently enrolled in Rubrik's OneDrive beta.

Carrero found that Rubrik came with other perks, as well. When upgrading the university's content management system, he used Rubrik CloudOn, a tool that replicates VMs running on-premises onto a public cloud, to create test/dev copies on AWS. While he could do that without Rubrik, Carrero said CloudOn distilled the process down to the push of a button, and he has since been using the feature more.

"Using CloudOn for test/dev, we found we could use AWS as an over-glorified sandbox. It really accelerates our development," Carrero said in an interview.

The university also uses Rubrik CloudOut to streamline archived data to Amazon S3. Carrero reported that the amount of time he's saved from not having to manage data amounted to 65 days per year.

University of the Pacific previously had site-to-site replication, so it could technically run everything in another data center if one of them is rendered unavailable. In practice, Carrero said it would take days to get a failover site running, and performance would take a hit.

"We did have DR in the sense that we had offline," he said. " But we didn't have the capability to spin up hundreds of VMs quickly. It would've been a long and painful process."

Carrero used Rubrik to build a meaningful DR system. The university's critical applications are either in the cloud or designed to be able to run offline for 12 hours. Between Live Mount creating a 14-day on-premises cache for rapid restore and older backups in the cloud, Carrero said failover could be done in a few hours. He currently tests failover quarterly.

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