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.


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!

Creating a PHP Screen Scraper

So, I guess when most people get a 3 week holiday break from work, the first thing they do is try to get away from the laptop.. where is the fun in that I ask you?

This x-mas I took a small trip around the world of PHP and took the opportunity to write some enhancements for my better half’s online retail website.  PHP is very C-like in it’s syntax, but one of the easier languages to get around if you’re not working with coding on a day to day basis.

In my 3 weeks, I essentially wrote a plug-in to the aforementioned website which automatically logs in to other websites and intelligently processes the pages of tabular data behind the authenticated curtain. It then takes this tabular data and squirts it out into an XML file, which is then used for some reporting.

If you are looking to understand a bit about how screen-scraping works, or how to mimic interactive HTTP requests to a web server, this blog may be useful for you.

OK, let’s crack on.

Continue reading

Web 2.0 – Why the internet got better, why security got worse.

Web 2.0 was recently crowned the one millionth word of the English language.  This is perhaps just one indicator of the impact that Web 2.0 has had on our everyday lives. Why?  In this blog, I’m going to go into what Web 2.0 actually is, some of the underlying technologies and what challenges these bring for security. Continue reading

Managed vs Un-Managed Code

I recently had a customer who was interested in the development environment and platform used for the development of the solution I was presenting. The question was simply this: Is thus product developed in managed or un-managed code (sometimes referred to as native code). At the time, I had to park the question with a commitment to come back to the customer at a later date. I didn’t really know the difference between the two, more importantly, I didn’t understand the motivation behind the question.

To understand the differences, I decided to take a cursory look at Microsoft’s C# language(an example of managed code, pronounced C Sharp) and also revised some of my old C++ (example of unmanaged/native- mostly) books. Using Visual Studio from Microsoft it’s possible to create applications in both languages. To see C# in action, I created a small app to read and manipulate some local windows registry settings.

To summarize, managed code (like C# and Java) is generally executed through some kind of management framework and not directly on the operating system. This may be a Java Virtual Machine or the CLR (Command Line Runtime in the Microsoft .net environment).  The framework provides a protective shell which will manage memory and other hardware resources, so the code never has to deal with accessing those resources directly.  This makes it much more difficult for the application code to perform an action which will compromise the system.  It also makes the code portable.  The code will run anywhere where the framework can run.  To achieve this the source code is sort of, partially, complied into an intermediate langauge that can be understood by  and fully compiled by the framework at run-time. This is referred to JIT compiling (Just-In-Time)

Un-managed code runs directly on the OS.  It can manage memory and other hardware directly. It is compiled for the specific processor on which it runs. Bypassing the aforementioned frameworks and working directly with the operating system gives a major boost in power and performance. The same can not be achieved with managed code, but this also sacrifices portability.

This really gives us a clear distinction between the two one representing performance and the other portability. Their are other issues to consider such as the ease of development. Managed code is often easier to learn, produce and understand. From a customer’s perspective they are probably less concerned about how easy something was to produce and more concerned that it performs it’s function correctly.

So, in summary, if a customer asks this question it is likely that they have some requirement regarding either performance or portability.  In high-performance mission critical applications they are likely to have an expectation that the code will be un-managed. In a disparate, multi-platform environment, portability may be there hot spot.

If you would like to learn more about C#, I’d recommend the following book: Rob Miles’ C# Yellow Book – It gives an excellent overview.

If you believe, like many, that using c# managed code ties you to the windows platform you should check out the Mono VES project, an open source project promoting cross-platform .net development capability.

A Brief History of Programming – Assembly to Framework

Development of the technologies, functionality, features and value proposition is fundamental to the sucess of any product within the InfoTech market place.  Although Pre-Sales rarely delve deeper than the occasional script, it’s worth having an understanding of what’s going on under the bonnet of your products and solutions.

In this blog we’ll chronologically examine a brief history of the development of programming.  I’ll be writing this with-out reems of reference books around the desk, so please take the dates, claims and details as generally correct (this blog is not written to be used as a reference).  There are hundreds of different languages out there, most of which aren’t covered here. It’s purpose is to give you a general idea of how your developers are creating the functionality that you are ultimately trying to sell.

Before we start, I’ll pay quick homage to Charles Babbage. He’s pretty much the Grandfather of modern computing and you can read about him by clicking his name above.

Ok, Let’s start.

I’m going to start with Binary.. yes, binary.  I remember when I was around 10 years old. I bought a computer game magazine which had in bold letters on the cover.. “Write your own game!”. After asking my dear old Mum to buy the mag. I started reading and realized that the mechanism for writing the game was to literally write the binary 0’s and 1’s into a text file which would later be run as the game.  After several hours of type 1010110110101001010010010110101, my long suffering Mother stepped in with her superior typing skills and finished the job.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work.  Somewhere amongst those 1000’s of 0’s and 1’s there was a mistake.  Were we going to go back and check each one?  I think not. This was my first ever failed attempt at coding.  You’ll see as we continue that the development of code has somewhat improved since then.


Assembly was one of the first primitive languages to be created to allow developers to create code.  Continue reading

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Pre-Sales Content

The search engine has fast become the first step in any users attempt to access content on the web.  Businesses and individuals alike have realised the massive potential of delivering your information to peoples web browsers at the click of a button.  Targeting higher rankings on search engines, essentially pushing your content closer to the top of the search listings, has spawned an entire industry of it’s own.  The act of creating, implementing and monitoring strategies for improving search engine rankings is know as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

I’ve recently been assisting my partner with her SEO strategies for her online perfume retailing website.  It seems great prices on perfume, fragrances, aftershaves and gift sets isn’t going to get you to the top of google alone. Continue reading