Drobo restrings boxes to double-up product range
New storage boxes are bigger on the inside
Data Robotics has added two new products, enhancing both the basic Drobo and the more capable Drobo Pro. It now claims to provide the simplest and best value iSCSI SAN in the world.
Drobo has - had - two products; the basic Drobo and Drobo Pro. These provide a protected and consolidated pool of storage that can withstand drive failures and can be composed of 3.5-inch drives with differing capacities. When one fills up, you can replace it with a larger capacity drive and the Drobo gracefully assimilates the new drive, spreads data across it and makes use of the increased capacity.
Each existing Drobo product has been enhanced to, respectively, the Drobo S and the Drobo Elite, making a 4-product range which now features eSATA and multi-host support.
The Drobo S has eSATA (external SATA) connectivity, together with USB 2.0 and FireWire 800, but not USB 3.0, since it is still early days for that standard. You may find it necessary to install an eSATA driver on the host PC or Mac, but it should be worthwhile as eSATA is described as "swift" compared to the 25MB/30MB/sec you might achieve from USB 2.0.
The eSATA protocol runs at 3Gbit/s, so we might think about something in the region of 200MB/sec being achievable. USB 3.0 might deliver 200-240MB/sec and, no doubt, Data Robotics will add USB 3.0 to Drobo S when it thinks the time is right. This might possibly be sometime in 2010, when PCs and Macs are shipping with it.
There are now five drive slots instead of the four in the entry-level basic Drobo, meaning it can hold 10TB using 2TB drives, and will go to 15TB when 3TB 3.5-inch SATA drives come out next year. As ever with Drobo, you will be able to stick the 3TB monsters alongside the 2TB drives and Drobo's software will take care of using it and adding its blocks to the consolidated pool. There is single or dual-drive redundancy, improving on the basic Drobo's single drive redundancy.
The Drobo S has a faster Marvell processor and its performance is said to be up to 50 per cent faster as a result.
With the Drobo Elite, Data Robotics says it provides a very easy-to-use and affordable iSCSI SAN (storage area network). Data Robotics' founder and CEO Geoff Barrall is claiming it costs up to 90 per cent less than other iSCSI SAN products, such as Dell/EqualLogic ones.
It supports up to 16 hosts and storage can be consolidated across them. There are 8 drive slots, meaning 16TB capacity with 2TB drives and the device is accessed through dual gigabit Ethernet ports. Drobo Elite supports up to 255 volumes, with Drobo Pro supporting 16 with its 8 drives.
Drobo's software constructs the volumes from the pooled storage across all the drives present. These are thin volumes and stay thin through the reclaimation of deleted data blocks, with the software tracking the use of each disk block in the system. Barrall says there is no need for LUN-level capacity management with the Drobo software, which he calls BeyondRAID.
Position Drobo S in your mind as single server storage for SMBs (small/medium business) and professionals, and Drobo Elite as multiple server storage for SMBs and departments.
Drobo S costs $799 as a drive-less enclosure and $1799 fully configured with five 2TB drives. Drobo Elite costs $3499 drive-less and $5899 fully configured with eight 2TB drives. With Data Robotics' sub-$15,000 market target these prices give lots of headroom for bigger multi-host Drobos, such as a 16-drive super Elite. Who knows what 2010 will bring? ®
Drobo + & -
I honestly love the Drobo... especially being able to plug in SATA drives directly without extra chassis housings! It is cool how you can use drives of any size.
I would like to see the eSATA and FireWire compared - FireWire beat USB hands-down in the benchmarks. Trying to use eSATA drives have been an absolute nightmare for me, on some of my equipment. When I speak to people, everyone I spoke to tells me their external hard drives which use eSATA are fast, but have issues with requiring powercycling of storage units or computers every so often - I wonder whether eSATA is really prime-time yet, for Linux & Windows.
Adding pairs of drives to my Solaris ZFS RAID1 file system server seems to have worked better for me: no 16 Gig Drobo limits, I can actually read from the OS how much capacity is really available with ZFS (in contrast to the Drobo), it is cheaper, and other neat features are available:
zfs read flash acceleration, zfs write flash acceleration, and deduplication with the latest open solaris compilation.
I hope Drobo upgrades it's internal infrastructure to use the latest zfs - then I will consider the product again - I would really like to use the Drobo if it had enterprise & managed services solid ZFS on board!
I thought about one of these (earlier version) then just went with a QNAP TS-439 Pro. Bit more pricey and without the same variable disk capability but does a whole lot more.
@ Psymon & Drobo RAID
Psymon - Drobo is actually pretty smart. If does not require same sized spindles. Instead, it uses an extent based RAID. As long as each extent is replicated off disk then you are OK. Thus, you can protect one 1TB drive with 2x500GB, etc. Believe me, the concept is smart. So smart that I bought one early this year. It's downfall is the code quality and support. It scared the crap out of me. I had a failing disk but it didn't tell me which disk was going bad. It just went off line for about 18 hours 'rebuilding' (which it is not supposed to do) and then came back fine showing all disks good. It did this a couple more times. The logs are not customer readable (WTF!?) so you raise a support case and wait 2 weeks for an answer. Meanwhile, you are exposed to a total data loss scenario while they work out disk disk is bad. No thanks! I sold the lot on ebay and built my own with external firewire 2TB disks.
The problem with most of these home NAS boxes is that the code fails more often than the disks. If EMC or NTAP put their CLARiiON or FAS code into a tiny home device I'd jump at it, but this low end code from QNAP, Thecus, etc, isn't stable enough and I'd rather use a scheduled mirror process (I use ChronoSync on my Mac server between two external 2TB drives) than blindly trust someone elses crappy code.