Data Robotics have released two new Drobo models. The DroboElite, an enhanced dual NIC version of the existing DroboPro and the Drobo S which provides an extra drive and eSATA connectivity over the 4 drive USB/Firewire based Drobo.
Here’s Brad and Jim from Data Robotics to introduce these new additions to their Drobo family.
So what is a Drobo?
For those of you not familiar with the Drobo range they are SATA based disk storage devices targeted at the SMB market and which advertises itself as being a “self managing” device enabling owners to “pay as you grow” by adding extra disk only as required. Connectivity and maximum capacity are determined by the model of Drobo you go for and the amount of disks you decide to install.
So what do Data Robotics by mean by a self managing? Basically as a Drobo owner all you have to do is populate your Drobo with SATA disks and unlike traditional RAID based storage solutions it takes care of the rest by efficiently striping your data across the drives whilst providing resilience against drive failure. This makes the Drobo fit into its intended SMB market space perfectly where permanent IT resource is as at a minimum, if existent at all.
Depending on the model of Drobo connectivity is provided by one of four ways: iSCSI, eSATA, USB or Firewire (800).
I have found myself lusting after a Drobo for quite some time now in a way similar to that of looking at the latest 27” iMac and thinking “I’ve got to have one of these”. They just look cool and fun ! There I’ve said it… So full marks Data Robotics on styling especially in an area such as storage that usually lacks visual appeal – though admittedly this is hardly a normal pre-requisite for purchasing mass storage devices 🙂
Meeting the Drobo at the Gestalt IT Field Day
I was looking forward to the prospect of visiting the Data Robotic head offices whilst attending the recent Gestalt IT Field Day where Data Robotics CEO Geoff Barrall gave a really interesting insight into how the Drobo’s ‘BeyondRAID’ technology actually works and their refreshing new way of thinking about laying down the data onto the disks within the Drobo. This visit also involved a hands-on lab where many technical questions were asked and the Drobo’s (Pro and Standard) flexibility and ease-of-use was well and truly demonstrated. There was a competition from which my team won a 4 bay Drobo each meaning that I had finally managed to get my hands on a Drobo! Thank you Data Robotics.
There was an offer to have it shipped back to the UK but I was not taking any chances of it being lost or stolen in transit so decided to take it back in my hand luggage which didn’t end up being such a smart move as airport security are clearly not used to seeing mass storage devices pass through their security x-ray scanners. After a tense 20 minutes of so explaining what a Drobo was and why it was in my hand luggage they sent me on my way. Probably more a case of pity and being glad to get rid of the sad storage smuggling geek.
Since getting home I have scraped together all my random 3.5” SATA disks I had lying around and have presented 600GB of protected storage through to my main PC via USB. Ease of use and performance has so far been good to the point where I would like a DroboShare to present this storage via a 1Gb connection to my other machines on the network – the next thing to save for. For all you fellow VMware ESX enthusiasts out there, before you ask you won’t be able to use the DroboShare to present shared VMware VMFS storage, for this compatibility you will need the DroboPro or the new DroboElite.
The Drobo’s will appeal to home users wanting some resilient locally attached disk storage for editing home videos or similar right through to SMB’s wanting somewhere to host their entire IT storage infrastructure (files, email, etc). As you’ll read below the DroboElite and DroboPro are both certified ‘VMware Ready’ which also opens up a whole load of virtualization possibilities.
The DroboElite and DroboPro are good candidates for iSCSI based VMware storage for your VMs, ISOs or backups and the DroboElite with it’s dual 1Gb Ethernet ports also provides a level of network resilience and increased performance.
As well as SMB’s, with both the Elite and Pro certified as ‘VMware Ready’ these Drobos will also appeal to IT administrators or consultants looking for hosting their home/work virtualization lab (budget permitting). It does however have stiff competition from comparable SMB storage offerings such as the iomega (EMC) IX4-200 which also offers dual ethernet ports as well as iSCSI and NFS functionality but only has a maximum of four disks compared to the eight found in the slightly more costly DroboPro or DroboElite.
Just Add Disk
You can purchase any model of Drobo without disk so you can utilise any spare SATA disks you may have lying around already or can fully or partially populate it with your preferred disk manufacturer and capacity.
Below: Mix your drive capacities as you want and let the Drobo handle the rest
Here’s a summary of the new range of Drobos along with details on the number of drive slots in each and the interfaces available:
So how much space will you get from a Drobo?
As mentioned you can use difference capacity disk in a Drobo but if mixing drives, or even if you decide not to, how much usable capacity will you get? To find this out try the Drobo ‘Capacity Calculator’ by clicking the link below.
Where can I buy a Drobo?
Drobos are available to purchase for those of you in the US, Canada and Europe from the Drobo Store: www.drobostore.com
If you’re after hassle free resilient mass storage for your home or SMB then take a serious look at the range of Drobos as you will no doubt find one to meet your requirement. There are an increasing range of competitive products on the market though very few that offer the VMware Ready (Pro and Elite models only) official seal of approval which for many people like myself find a rather exciting prospect.
What appeals to me is the ease and simplicity at which you can have a Drobo up and running with minimal ongoing administrative overhead. I do like to get under the hood of most storage devices though sometimes it’s a nice feeling to just lay back and have peace of mind that your precious data is in capable hands with minimum involvement. This combined with the ability to buy Drobos unpopulated allows you to re-provision spare SATA based disk storage or just add disk to the Drobo as needed in a ‘pay-as-you-grow’ fashion. The icing on the cake for me with the Drobo is that it is aesthetically pleasing so will never look out of place on the desk or in the server rack.