Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Drobo Review

I just came across a link to Lloyd Chambers’s epic Drobo review from 2009:

The DiskTester results are shown below. These are the slowest results with Firewire 800 I’ve ever seen, by at least a factor of two, and about 1/3 the speed achievable with a laptop hard drive in an OWC On-The-Go case.

I didn’t understand the fascination when Drobo first came out and still don’t really see the appeal. It’s not fast, it’s not cheap, and you need at least two if you want to have a backup. What are you really gaining from all the custom hardware and software?

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I think the point is that if you're going to use it as backup, those things applies to pretty much every other good NAS too, but it is a lot more forgiving about what to do in an emergency. If you have to remove a disk in a RAID, you have to work out which disk is going to be which successor because they have to go back in the same order.

Drobo's counterpart, think of proprietary solutions what you want, has you being able to remove any disk at any time. They don't market it as "one disk may fail and it'll still work as long as you follow these steps", they market it as "you can remove one disk at any point in time and it'll still work, just mind the LEDs - go ahead, try it now". I don't have practical experience in reconstructing a RAID array and I've never seen a Drobo, but they make it seem like it's not rocket surgery, which is reassuring.

I also think they won a lot of folks over with their videos that often show something being streamed from it and never skipping a beat. It seems many people don't use it for backup but as a large, more-reliable-than-a-single-disk, Ship-of-Thesus scratch disk to which they can add capacity on an ongoing basis without having to sit down and build a new RAID every now and then.

Ship of Theseus. Damn it.

Of course!

I work with Drobo:

I've seen this review a few times in the past but not recently. Before jumping in on behalf of Drobo I would like to acknowledge that this blog is written by a reputable source with a great deal of expertise in data storage. That said, the blog was relevant when it was written, and indeed the complaints were valid. However, Drobo has improved by leaps and bounds, constantly looking to end-users for feedback.

In a nutshell, Drobo units have not been the fastest in the past but the new Thunderbolt products are going to change that completely. These new revolutionary products incorporate not only a completely new interface but also an mSATA slot; the performance of these new devices is phenomenal.

To touch on a different subject, Jesper has brought up a good point that I think everyone can appreciate. Imagine you are busy working away editing and re-editing a file that you need for later that same day. All of the sudden a drive fails. No, two drives fail, and the lights on your unit begin to flash notifying you that it has begun instantly rebuilding and re-tiering your data across the remaining drives. Interesting, you will need to replace that later, but for the time being you can continue to work with the file still open. No lag. No interruption. No panic. It is this peace of mind, ease of use and flexibility that has catapulted Drobo into the spot light.

Sure there are many other great aspects of our various units but these are the themes that really seem to stick across all audiences.


@Anonymous Thanks for the info. I look forward to seeing some benchmarks of the new Thunderbolt products.

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