Agile: It’s never too late? Or is it? Competing with Old and New.

Disclaimer: I work at Rubrik. Views are my own, etc.

I spent some time this weekend reading trade websites and watching video-streamed events to catch up on the competitive landscape for Rubrik. This is not something to which I pay a huge amount of attention, but it’s always worth understanding the key differences between your company’s and your competitors approaches to the problem you are solving.

What I found was as surprising as it was comforting and certainly solidified my belief that Rubrik is 100% the market leader in the new world of Data Management. This was equally true of new market entrants as it was of old guard vendors.

How Rubrik Does it

We are predominantly lead by a laser-focused vision. We came to market to fix the data protection problem and leverage the resulting platform to deliver a world-class data management solution.  This has always been the plan, we stuck to it and are delivering on it.

Rubrik’s software engineering function has the Agile Software Development methodology baked into it’s DNA. At its core our engineering team is made up of experienced developers, many of which were at the heart of the distributed systems revolution at Google, Facebook and other new wave companies. This means we can introduce capabilities quickly and iterate the cycle at a high frequency. We have absolutely nailed this approach and have consistently delivered significant payloads of functionality since v1.0 of the product.

New features are introduced as a MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) and additional iterations to mature those features are delivered in rapid cycles. We have delivered 4 Major CDM (Cloud Data Management) releases year-on-year and are positioned to accelerate this. Our Polaris SaaS platform is a living organic entity and delivers capability in terms of hours-to-days-to-weeks.

This is pro-active innovation aligned with a rapid and consistent timeline.

How The Old Guard Do It

When referring to the old guard, I’m referring to vendors who’ve been around for more than a decade. These organisations have grown up in the era of the Waterfall Software Development Model. This model is much more linear and follows these stages: Gather Requirements -> Design -> Implementation -> Verification -> Maintenance. The cycle is documentation and process heavy. This is why most traditional vendors are only able to release major software versions in 18-24month cycles.

These vendors are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have revenue streams for ageing products to maintain and historical code baggage (technical debt) they have to contend with which wasn’t developed for the new world of cloud. More importantly the mindset change to move to Agile is a mountain to climb in itself and many long-tenured developers struggle to adapt to the change. In short the commercial pressure to retain revenue from existing products, technical debt, people and process challenges leave them hamstrung and struggling to keep up. One such vendor announced a major version two years ago and to date have failed to deliver the release.

A by-product of this challenge is that many will use sticking-plaster market-ecture to claim they can do the same things as Rubrik. This usually comes in the format of PowerPoint, vapourware and a new front-end UI to hide the legacy platform.

How The New Entrants Try To Do It

Rubrik has experienced significant success in our laser focused approach to addressing data management challenges. It is only natural in a fair competitive market that other newer companies will either launch or pivot their approach in an attempt to experience similar success.  These companies also use Agile software development, may also have distributed systems backgrounds and are able to iterate in a similar manner.

However, these organisations face a different set of challenges. If they did not build their base platform with the same vision, goal and focus, it will essentially be equally as hamstrung by similar underlying challenges as the old guard experience. Common sense tells us that if you design a product to do one thing and then adapt it to do another, it is not purpose-built and won’t do the same job without significant trade-offs or difficulties.

A second and more important challenge is that they don’t have the same mature understanding of the vision and consequently will be late to release new features. They will always have a time lag behind the market leader, waiting for the market leader to deliver a feature and then starting the process of developing that same feature. I’m seeing some competitors announcing and demoing Beta versions of functionality that Rubrik formally released 1-2 years ago. This is not pro-active innovation, it’s re-active mimicking.

Having experienced (in previous roles) those situations where your company hypes up a new “game-changing” proposition, only to feel massively deflated when it’s announced and you’re aware that the market leader has been providing it for over a year, I can tell you that it is not an awesome experience for employees.

This approach forces them to commoditize their solution, position it as “good enough” and command a significantly lower price as the value is ultimately not being delivered. It’s simply not sustainable in the medium or long term. When the funding begins to diminish, these companies become easy acquisitions for industry giants.

Conclusion

I have previously worked in both traditional vendors (e.g. Veeam) and new entrant vendors such as SimpliVity who pivoted to challenge Nutanix in the HCI (Hyper-Converged Infrastructure) space. SimpliVity did not win that competition, were subsequently acquired by HPE and the solution now receives much less focus as part of HPEs large portfolio of products.

Whether new or old, with adapted or re-purposed solutions, competing with Rubrik on price is frequently the only option available. This creates a situation which is not optimal for customer or vendor. The customer doesn’t get the outcome they wanted and the vendor suffers in terms of available finance for ongoing operations as well as investing in the development of their solution. If a company is offering 80% of the functionality for 60% of the price, then you will only get 50% of the result planned. Furthermore, that company’s financials will most likely look like a cash haemorrhaging horror story.

Rubrik is without a doubt the market leader in the Cloud Data Management space. The Old Guard are re-badging their solutions as their “Rubrik-Killer” and the new entrants are pivoting to follow while burning through their funding.  It’s going to be an interesting couple of years. Ancient giant trees will fall and new saplings will be plucked by the behemoths. Exciting times in the industry, watch this space!

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