We could say that 175,000 have been bought and the average selling price (ASP) is $500. In that case Data Robotics has earned $87.5m in the three and a half years since it started shipping product. We might imagine the revenue distribution could be something like this:
- 2008 - $5m
- 2009 - $30m
- 2010 $52m
On the other hand, if the ASP is $250, then Data Robotics has earned $43.75m. So we can roughly say Data Robotics has earned $45m to $90m in its three-and-half years of existence.
Our assessment is that this is not enough for IPO juices to start flowing in the veins of Drobo's backers. When revenue is up at the $100m-$200m/year level, then IPO thoughts could start circulating around Drobo's board.
Where could Data Robotics go from here? The firm does not want to go downmarket and mix it with the one and two-drive external storage products from Hitachi GST, Seagate and Western Digital. Nor does it want to move significantly up-market and start mixing it in the data centre storage trenches with entry-level iSCSI products from EMC, Dell, HP, NetApp and so forth.
Drobos occupy a niche and that niche could go further up market but not much, going into remote and branch offices and in departments.
It's worth noting that Data Robotics' total addressable market (TAM) includes the estimated 14 million small businesses in USA. Europe is a relative laggard in Drobo sales terms compared to the USA, and Data Robotics now has nine people in Europe with a large potential for sales growth. Taking these points into account Data Robotics TAM, compared to its current 150,000 customer level, is huge.
These customers are all going to be using virtualised servers and improved virtual machine support is a possible development direction for Data Robotics' engineering.
Someone has also mentioned the idea of Drobo-ising network boxes, providing sophisticated communications functionality in a much easier-to-use-and-manage way.
There is also the possibility of providing a disk archive Drobo. We understand though, that there are no plans in place to offer deduplication. That might change.
Data Robotics has led a charmed life so far. The cost of entry to making a Drobo-like box has been thought too high and the likely sales too low for suppliers wanting high-volume sales, which Drobos don't have yet. As Data Robotics widens its TAM and penetrates it more, this could change. It's relatively easy to to conceive of a disk drive manufacturer thinking this way and making a Drobo-like product. That would give Buiocchi a stronger test as Data Robotics' CEO.
Perhaps any well-funded wannabee competitor might look at the make or buy decision and plump for 'buy' though. ®
er, yes you can...
yes you can grow raid arrays in a PC. In Linux you can anyway, using mdadm. I've done so, so I know it works. :-) My old 500GB/disk raid5 array was grown from 4 to 7 drives one at a time until i decided to replace it with larger drives (hence ending up with more 500GB drives than I have bays to put them in). Now, when I upgraded to larger drives I could have swapped them in the larger drives one at a time and re-shaped accordingly on the fly. (I didn't as I had enough external drive space to back up the array's contents and restore it to the new array, which was quicker and simpler.)
It is a very manual, hands-on (and thus failure-prone) process, especially if the drive bays aren't hot-swappable, but it *is* possible.
I wanted the drobo or something like it (there seems to be little like it) because i was *bored* of doing it the manual way, frankly. But I'm not so bored of it as to spend that much.
I have been told that the 2008 numbers I guessed at were about 1/2 of what Data Robotics achieved in that calendar year. That's because Jillian Mansolf did an amazing job in the first full year of shipments. Also Data Robotics shipped for two and a bit quarters in 2007, from June onwards, so there was about half a year's revenue in that year too,
Adjusting my numbers (assuming a $500 ASP) along these lines and guesstimating we get:-
2007 - $5m
2008 - $10m
2009 - $25m
2010 - $47.5m
TOTAL - $87.5m
Halve the numbers for a $250 ASP.
That's probably a more realistic picture.
The Drobo S is a crazy price! Almost double the price of the original Drobo for what? eSata, 1 more bay, and the option to enable double-failure protection (which then uses up that extra bay...).
It makes the US$349 pricing on the original look very reasonable.
As for rolling your own using a PC chassis with lots of drive bays ... that's fine except when you run out of capacity. With standard RAID software you'll either have to add a new RAID array (yes, even if you use ZFS you can't just add to an existing RAID set), or you'll have to replace all the existing drives at once which is also going to require a 2nd RAID array at least temporarily while you copy the data.
It's the ability to expand the storage literally by pulling out one drive and pushing a new one in that makes the Drobo attractive. I've currently got 3 x 1.5 TB drives in mine and it's about 70% full. By the time I need more space I'm hoping that 3 TB drives will be the cheapest per byte (the 2's are at the moment).