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back to article Drobo brings RAID, battery backup to the desktop - and the hand

Drobo has re-invented its desktop storage products, giving them a dose of Thunderbolt connectivity, SSD and 2.5-inch drive support, as well as introducing a portable Drobo mini. The company supplies curvy, snazzy-looking and ridiculously easy-to-use desktop and rackmount storage arrays with RAID-type protection and virtually no …

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Proprietary RAID

If the RAID goes tits up it presumably uses the same proprietary system as other Drobo devices. So you can't fix it yourself.

Nice way for Drobo to secure a revenue stream once your device is out of warranty.

I have an S myself. Nice device aside my my RAID misgivings. However its pig slow so not sure why on earth anyone would want to go to the expense of Thunderbolt when USB3 will be more than fast enough. Hell, even Firewire 800 seems like a waste on mine.

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Thumb Down

Re: Proprietary RAID

Indeed, I'll have a standard RAID and filesystem over any of that closed stuff... and I bet the QNAP TS-x79 series easily outperforms this one, so claiming they are the fastest is a bit far fetched.

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Re: Proprietary RAID

> USB3 will be more than fast enough.

For back-ups, it probably is. However, If you're going to have a bunch of SSDs in a RAID-like array, USB3 won't keep up. Look's like the Drobo Mini has answered the issues raised by the Macbook Pro Retina lack of onboard storage for raw video. Keeping a day's video footage on the Macbook's single internal drive is not good practice either, even if it were big enough. Back in the office you have a single cable to connect to yet more storage, ethernet and another monitor.

Video editing is not my thing, and yes, it's pricey... but it will drop in price like everything else.

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FAIL

Re: Proprietary RAID

If it's as slow as the other Drobo consumer devices, you'd be an idiot to start putting SSD's in it. Mine can't even max out the 5400rpm drives I have.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Proprietary RAID

I'll bet... that's basically a bigoted comment. Have you tested them side by side and ran the benchmarks - i"ve not either but you are just 'assuming' it's not faster.

You take your QNAP 4 drive system - put it in RAID 5 - take out (fail) 2 drives and then see how much you can recover from the remaining 2 drives.

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FAIL

Re: Proprietary RAID

"that's basically a bigoted comment."

What a strange thing to say! Do you work for Drobo?

Even The Reg's reviews of the Drobo units point out they are pretty much the slowest you can buy. I'd love to think slapping an SSD into mine would speed it up but the bottleneck appears to be elsewhere. I have 5400rpm disks in an older RAID unit that the Drobo was purchased to replace and the Drobo is much slower.

Where the bottleneck is I don't know but I'm pretty confident its not the disks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re:I'll bet... that's basically a bigoted comment.

Oh dear. keep drinking the kool aid.

BeyondRaid: "it may* be able to survive up to 3 drive failures, if* the "array" can be restored onto the remaining good disks before another drive fails"

Note that MAY and IF are not usually used when describing data integrity!

Basically if you are not using the space AND there is time, the Array self resizes into the available. BUT only if those two conditions are met. If you want to, try it, go pull two drives from your drobo now, and see how you get on. (clue: you won't get on at all!) or fill it up then pull a single drive, and watch it fail to resize... that is not resilience.

For true professional dual data integrity you should be using Raid 6.

Also what if your Drobo PSU or Mobo fails? how is your redundancy then? QNAP drives can go into any linux pc for recovery. Whereas you'll be on the phone to panic buy another drobo, That is, if they still make that model...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Proprietary RAID

It's not strange at all - someone makes some comment with their pre-conceived views and with no actual 'data' to back it up = bigoted. Comparing it to previous versions when the article itself said "Drobo has re-invented its desktop storage products" and "Drobo has added battery-backed data protection over power-outages and says it's also enhanced the base hardware and software to run five times faster; that's before adding SSD support."

... so clearly it's not the same as previous models. No-one said slapping a SSD into yours would make it faster - it's clearly the CPU / interface but that's not hard data about the performance of the new models.

No I don't work for Drobo.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re:I'll bet... that's basically a bigoted comment.

So do the same trick with your QNAP / other similar device - run it up in RAID 5 - then lose 2 drives at once and your data is toast. You are talking about a 3 drive fail situation (how rare?) and at least you have a chance the data could be safe - take a 4-5 drive RAID 5 again - lose 3 drives and it's a guarantee your data is gone.

RAID 6 can only cope with 2 drive failures - you are talking about the Drobo losing 3 drives - apples and oranges.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re:I'll bet... that's basically a bigoted comment.

So you have a 4 bay QNAP device with 4 drives in RAID 5 - you lose 2 drives at once and the RAID array is stuffed. You reckon you will get the data back yourself by sticking it in a Linux box? Try it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re:I'll bet... that's basically a bigoted comment.

So the power supply or mobo goes - same problem with any of this type of device. With your QNAP what are you going to do - pull the 4 drives and plug them straight in to your Linux machine. Maybe in the real world most people do not have a Linux machine hanging around or 4 spare bays - or a compatible RAID controller and even the chance of the knowledge of how to repair a broken RAID array.

For most people it's akin to saying that if the engine goes on your car - it's ok - just get that other car you had hanging around and swap the engines over - simple - but it's not like that for most people.

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Re: Proprietary RAID

Well, the difference is that you don't even need to take out two of the drives in order to bork the data on the Drobo, you just wait for it to brick itself...

Don't believe me? - don't have to, hear it from two of the higher profile users instead:

Scott Kelby:

http://scottkelby.com/2012/im-done-with-drobo/

Drew Gardner:

http://photography-thedarkart.blogspot.dk/2010/07/drobo-pro-my-new-full-time-job-with.html

Both are professional photographers who initially were very happy about their Drobo and ended up dropping them in a very public way.

The idea behind Drobo is nice but the proprietary nature of their RAID is a real showstopper when it goes kerplonk.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Proprietary RAID

Firstly you are talking about a different model and secondly you will always find 'someone' who has had a problem with anything?

Basically you may as well say 10 years ago someone said they had a problem with their Ford Fiesta - today I'm not going to buy a Ford Focus as it probably has the same issue.

I guess no other RAID system has ever failed? When you say proprietary remember some other RAID devices (for example Promise / Lacie) are also 'proprietary' in the respect that you have to use drives they supply - that can also cause big problems!

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Devil

Re: Proprietary RAID

You can now sit back and await a downvote from our Drobo shrill friend. :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Proprietary RAID

Think you probably meant SHILL not SHRILL.

Before you make (even) more bigoted comments - remember to keep an open mind -just because someone does not agree with your comment does not actually make them wrong (yes it could be you) or that they *must* have a vested interest.

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Re: Proprietary RAID

From previous posts I believe Mr Hill is what's termed a creative professional. As such, and like other professionals, he wants to get on with his work and not be a part time hardware support professional. Drobo were very publicly advertised to such people as being a sort of Mac of storage - it just works, no hassles, no worries etc. It has turned out very different from that and so such people are right to question the capability of such devices. If you can't access your data you can't earn money - they'll have backups, but you've lost your primary so do you want to work on the backup copy?

Personally I chose the QNAP route as I didn't mind doing a little tech support having previously run a tower full of disks using Linux. The beauty of the QNAP is that, should the unit die (not the disks), I can use a new unit or any old PC with the requisite number of SATA connectors running Linux off a USB stick if need be - I have a choice. As previously stated the Drobo's 3 disk failure statement is caveated with "if" and "may". I prefer "will" when it comes to my data.

Mr Hill's speed issues are undoubtedly CPU related. Whether that's sorted in later versions or not is anyone's guess. However, I did find this about their attempt at a NAS on smallnetbuilder...

"The FS uses a dual-core ARM processor with throughput of 30 to 40 MB/s, according to company representatives."

Quite frankly that's shite - about level with a WD My Book Live and around 60MB/s short of a QNAP x59.

Yes, I am a QNAP fanboy and happily so.

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Re: Proprietary RAID

Yep, that's pretty much it.

While I'm not scared of Linux (ran Ubuntu for 4 years alongside a PC edit suite) I just needed something a secondary storage archive for old projects I need to get at quickly.

All video projects used to get archived off to Blu-Ray + a USB HD when completed. Anywhere between 20 and 200gb a time. Now I'm using the Drobo instead of the opticals but still retain the USB HD option. Projects that will have an ongoing life also go to Blu-Ray just in case. So in many cases the data exists in 3 places (and at 3 separate sites).

The Drobo is part of an archiving strategy. All I wanted was an appliance that sits there and sucks up the data as requested. It seems to do the job but slowly. I certainly wouldn't want to rely on it as the only place stuff is archived.

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Anonymous Coward

"eye-wateringly expensive Thunderbolt cable and connector"

Really - it's only about £30-35 if I remember correctly and it has electronics in the connectors - so not just a standard passive cable. Considering the performance you gain (even over USB 3) is it really that expensive to connect up a RAID system that could cost £500-1000 by the time you have fitted it out with drives?

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Anonymous Coward

The reality is 'most people' could not fix a fatally broken RAID themselves - take a 4 drive RAID 5 and lose 2 drives - 'proprietary' or not you are almost certainly going to lose data.

Thunderbolt is faster than USB 3 and supports chaining of devices (yes I know you can get a USB hub) and you may have a 2011/2012 Mac that had Thunderbolt but not USB 3.

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AOD
Mushroom

Repeat after me..

RAID is *not* backup!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Repeat after me..

Totally agree - I have a 2 drive (mirrored) RAID system for my data. So lose a drive and it keeps working with no data loss / downtime.

This is then backed up (using a versioning backup system) every hour to an external drive. Then every hour to another external drive (a hard drive 'dock unit) and each day I take that removable drive 'off site' - each day I bring the previous off-site drive home so there is always a fairly recent copy offsite.

I also use backup (again using versioning software) a copy of my critical data to Amazon S3.

So at any time I have a live backup of my data in the array - a local backup that is versioned and no more than an hour old - an off-site backup and a copy on S3.

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"eye-wateringly expensive Thunderbolt cable and connector"

Pretty sure the spec sheet for both the new TB models mentions a supplied cable.....

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Big news in Drobo-land

These two new models look pretty nifty. Drobo's big selling point has always been the ability to incrementally upgrade storage capacity. Now they've added the ability to upgrade performance too.

The Mini fills a hole in their product line. None of their products were really portable (are other RAID products?) This could be a great device for photographers and video editors in the field. When you're out shooting as much as possible on a trip, you can't afford to lose your data to a drive failure, and any time spent fixing or preventing computer problems is a distraction. DVDs are good for backup, but you still lose any work since the last DVD.

I thought the Drobo S was a pretty sweet little RAID box. Like other Drobo products, its use is intuitive: insert drives, perform basic configuration via their software utility, and go. Its weakness is a slow CPU. On this basis alone, the Drobo 5D should be a real improvement. Also, the use of SSDs with their faster seek times could cut the cost of Drobo's internal "housekeeping" quite a lot.

Data tiering is where this gets really interesting. Drobos don't blindly stripe across disks the way RAID5/6 does. They basically pool the storage and then distribute and re-distribute data around in a way that provides redundancy, levels data across disks, defragments files, recovers from a drive failure...whatever will maintain redundancy and improve performance. It's not hard to see how Drobo could rewrite their software to take advantage of low-latency SSD. I have no experience with their B1200i, but expect they'll do some pretty creative stuff with data tiering on their business products. Of course, this is early days, and we'll probably see improvements in future firmware updates.

Disclosure: I'm not affiliated with Drobo. I've been a Drobo customer for 4 years with a 4-bay, a Drobo S, and now a DroboPro.

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Anonymous Coward

I like the idea but waaay too expensive!

So I like the simplicity of the Drobo products but no 5 drive RAID box is worth $800 plus the cost of drives.

In addition I just don't see how this idea of being able to loose 2 or 3 drives from a 5 drive box works unless your array is basically empty, if it's >50% full then loosing 3 drives will result in loss of data, I understand how beyond RAID shares out the data across the drives etc. but unless there's an unmentioned data compressing feature it just doesn't work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I like the idea but waaay too expensive!

"no 5 drive RAID box is worth $800 plus the cost of drives"

What a truly pointless comment - so for something that could be the data storage for a small company or to store high value video content - it's not worth $800. Not worth it to you maybe but that's like saying no car is worth over £15k.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I like the idea but waaay too expensive!

"so for something that could be the data storage for a small company or to store high value video content - it's not worth $800."

No it's not, there are much cheaper, more flexible and non-propriety solutions available, any small company would be much better off spending the money on something that relates to their actual business rather than wasting it on a Drobo box.

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Stop

FWIW my ReadyNAS Pro is still beating every NAS out there...

...even with only 4 drives installed (RAID6 or X-RAID2, not sure which one - first can be recovered in any PC, latter is proprietary.)

But there is another side of the story: a HUGE PROBLEM with ReadyNAS is their uber-shitty, PoS proprietary OS support.

Awful-looking, long-outdated (my first ReadyNAS unit came with EXACTLY the same GUI in 2005!!!), inconvenient, counter-intuitive web GUI aside (I use it as a NAS, I don't go there too often) it's the OS/SW quality that sucks. It's basically one half-clueless (arrogant) clown rolling his own Debian-based (Debian!!!) pile of junk for *YEARS* now (seems he sold the company to Netgear but apparently retained the development of 'his' OS), producing one bugfest release after the other, unable to provide a f'n OS update without (re-)introducing another show-stopping bug for (literally) years now...

...it is truly painful to watch how an otherwise well-performing platform is suffering from more and more problems due to the mis-management/incompetence/negligence of Netgear, the lack of funds to bring in more, competent soiftware engineers, the grip of the clueless original developer/founder or rather the combination of all these issues.

In short I think performance/speed is one thing, having proper support and a developer team who knows his mojo is another and both are equally important - I never used Drobo but I bet it comes with less glaring CIFS problems, does not sport disappearing or randomly renamed shares, mysteriously shitty transfer speeds, they don't tell you to start tweaking your Windows' MTU size, to get a different brand of jumbo frame-enabled switch in order to utilize JF etc etc.

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Trollface

thunderbolt is nice

and if you need performance for a single use, that's fine.

But I can't help thinking *starting* at 650/user is a bit on the pricey side.

Ethernet with LACP anyone?

Oh wait, Macbook Pro user - too bad! ;)

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