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SECRET of the flashing Amazon jungle Drobo EXPLAINED

Data-hungry daemon came from the clouds

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Drobo, the stylish desktop and small rackable storage box supplier, is finally adding flash drives to its rack-mounted box plus Amazon cloud storage for backup.

Drobo's B1200i 12-slot, iSCSI SAN product for small and medium business users was announced with SSD support in February 2011. Thirteen months later, it has arrived - SSD qualification is a lengthy process.

B1200i users will be able to slot 200GB OCZ Talos SSDs into the enclosure's 3.5-inch bays. It's a nice OEM win for OCZ. The drives use 2-bit MLC flash chips that can nominally deliver up to 50,000 random read and write IOPS and 350MB/sec sequential writes through a 6Gbit/s SAS interface. They can read and write simultaneously, and feature power loss protection, encryption, ECC of course, and support for the SCSI unMap command.

The B1200i will automatically, and in real-time, tier data across its disks and these SSDs. Transactional data is punted onto the faster flash while bulk data is stored on the hard disk drives, which range up to 3TB in capacity. There is ongoing assessment of the data's activity level, and "data that becomes hot will be moved to the transactional [SSD] tier and vice versa".

Drobo doesn't say how many SSDs you can put in the B1200i but mentions having two or three in its documentation.

Cloud backup

The B1200i and also the 8-slot B800i iSCSI SAN products now optionally work in a hybrid cloud. They are certified by Drobo to work with Amazon Web Services (AWS) via the AWS Storage Gateway.

Users have data stored locally in these Drobos and can have "point-in-time snapshots of that data seamlessly replicated to the Amazon S3 cloud for offsite disaster recovery purposes". There is an implementation guide here.

Robin Harris, the chief analyst at StorageMojo.com, is on board with this. He said: “This turns cloud storage into a practical business continuance tool for the millions of SMEs who are baffled by current technologies.”

Is AWS coming to ordinary desktop Drobos? Tom Buiocchi, Drobo CEO, said yes: "Our long-term strategy at Drobo is to cloud-enable all our products and to deliver the easiest stepping stone to the cloud for our customers. Our research shows that more than 90 per cent of SMEs will keep the majority of their data onsite during the next three years, but the majority will still need off-site backup from the cloud."

Will SSDs come to desktop Drobos? He didn't say.

The B1200i with OCZ SSDs will be available in late April through Drobo’s worldwide network of authorised distributors and resellers. Automated Data-Aware Tiering will support SSDs in a software update targeted for later this quarter. The AWS certification is effective immediately.

A B1200i with nine 2TB HDDs and three 200GB SSDs will cost just under $18k or about £11k. The Amazon Storage Gateway is priced at $125 per activated gateway per month plus the cost of S3 storage. ®

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