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back to article Drobo restrings boxes to double-up product range

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 …

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Additional information

UK prices: Drobo S – £509.00 MSRP excluding VAT; DroboElite – £2,179.00 MSRP excluding VAT.

The DroboElite uses a Marvell 78200 which is a dual-core, GigaHertz-class ARM processor.

DroboElites cannot be physically attached to one another, but multiple DroboElites can easily be added to any Gigabit Ethernet switch on the network when more storage is required.

Chris.

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Anonymous Coward

Ouch

I would love a Drobo because the case is so funky (oh, and peace of mind maybe.)

However, my homebuilt 10 bay monster, powered by an atom mobo with 2 PCI cards for 10 sata ports cost me £200 last year.

Prices have gone up a bit since then, and I spent more to make it quiet, but £500 without drives is quite a lot to blow for just 5 bays, and no actual functionality beyond storage...

http://www.xcase.co.uk/X-Case-RM-400-10-p/x-case%20rm%20400-fslash-10.htm

http://www.tranquilpc-shop.co.uk/acatalog/D945GCLF2.html

http://www.quietpc.com/gb-en-gbp/products/casefans

I put windows home server on there in the end, which cost £70. Aria have 2tb drivers at £99ex a pop. This stuff doesn't need to be expensive any more... you just need somewhere to put a big fugly homebuild out the way.

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Pint

@AC: Ouch

@ AC - you forgot to link to the (much better) FreeNAS - http://www.freenas.org/

It now includes ZFS so you don't need a fancy RAID card to get the full peace of mind and storage pooling you have in the Drobo. Point and click software is also easy to get going and use.

Best of all, its free (as in beer)

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WTF?

The part that piqued my curiosity...

...is the extensible and variable drive capacities.

I might be a little behind the times, but this is surely a propritary extension to the RAID protocols? As far as I'm aware, all flavours of raid require same-size partitions?

Yes, to can put a larger drive into a standard RAID5, but it will only utilise the same capacity as the other existing drives.

standard RAID provides redundancy by putting staggered checksums on the other drives, so if one fails, the data on it can be recovered from said checksums off the other drives. there's a small but significant storage cost for this, but for the benefit of recovery we (as an industry) have always been happy with that.

For this to work though, the staggering and block sizes have to be standardised across all drives. If you have 4 1TB drives, and a 2TB drive, oboviously, the 2TB will require more checksums to rebuld the data in the event of failiure.

How does this work? Surely You'd have a significant drop in capacity on the 4 smaller drives? The staggering of checksums is also optimised for performance, would non-standard checksum sizes and positions throw this into disarray? (No pun intended)

Enquiring minds would like to know...

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Silver badge
FAIL

Depend what you compare it to

A Thecus N8800 (8 drive NAS and iSCIS) with a Core 2 CPU and 4GB of it's own RAM can be purchased for £999 + VAT. The DroboElite looks like a pretty bad deal on that basis.

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Anonymous Coward

@Andre 3 / Freenas

WHS is really nicely integrated with windows, especially back ups and media center. I know, happy with MS software, shock!

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Thumb Up

Just what I wanted

I've had a DROBO a few years now and - apart from the ruddy noise - love it. I've added larger drives as they become more affordable and the capacity keeps growing but recently, due to the number of photos I take, I was looking at getting a second unit. 5 bays is a good number but wonder if the 5 bays offers two drive failure protection?

As a busy photographer I can't be bothered with putting a clunky raid together, this just plugs and works.

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Gold badge

Re: Ouch - 2 PCI cards for 10 sata ports

AC @ Monday 23rd November 2009 15:42 GMT

Please tell me the cards you use, and how reliable are they?

I currently use LSI cards and they are great, but your total budget of 200GBP doesn't even buy one 6-port card. The LSI cards I use do all the RAID in hardware, and I don't really need that but I haven't managed to find anything even without hardware RAID for anything approaching your cost.

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Sly

@BristolBachelor

http://www.epartsandmore.com/product_info.php?products_id=644&cPath=127&m1track=googlebase&osCsid=bn9su6ftf18iusp53f26o55qk4#googlebase

probably something like that one. Reliability however, you'll need someone else to answer that one. But I can definitely see the benefit of the cheap parts. If the controllers don't die, the data should always be fine. Even if the controllers do die, they're cheap and can be sourced quick enough to not worry much (or just buy a bunch - 2 or 3 spares - in case they die).

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Bronze badge

Convenient, not so cheap

I've had a Drobo for a while - very easy to fire up (insert 4 x 1Tb drives, connect power and Firewire, format, use!) but quite a bit more expensive than rolling my own. It looks pretty good too, and can't hear any sound from it usually - there's a faint but distinctive series of four sounds as it spins each disk up if it's been asleep, but that's it.

The Drobo S sounds very tempting, if pricey; I'd like having the protection against double disk failure, and improved performance would be good too; for all the bandwidth of Firewire 800, performance seemed quite poor on my regular Drobo. I wonder if I can just transfer the existing four drives to an S and add a fifth, or would I have to transfer data from one system to the other?

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Is your data safe?

Drobo seems nice, but is your data safe? According to CERN, hardware raid often corrupts data without telling you! You will never notice, because the h/w didnt notice it.

http://storagemojo.com/2007/09/19/cerns-data-corruption-research/

Here is more on the same problem.

http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=1317400

It turns out the only cure is ZFS, which detects such problems, and repairs them.

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Silver badge

<No Title>

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.

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Megaphone

@ 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.

JL

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This post has been deleted by its author

Welcome

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!

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