Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Drobo Files for Bankruptcy

Gannon Burgett:

Drobo was founded in San Jose, California back in May 2005 under the name Data Robotics. Over the years, its line of Drobo products took hold in the data storage market, offering simple solutions for anyone needing to store and back up their digital data. Unlike many of its competitors, Drobo succeeded in simplicity, with a proprietary technology that allowed users to hot-swap hard drives without the need to manually migrate data.


At a time when RAID solutions weren’t necessarily commonplace in the consumer world, Drobo offered a lifeline to creatives who wanted a simple solution to keeping their data safe. Things started taking a turn, however, at the turn of the decade, with a few notable names in the photography industry publicly announcing they were no longer using Drobo products due to their unreliability and slow speeds.


Over the years under this ownership, Drobo release new products on an annual basis, but started to feel the heat as the likes of Buffalo, Lacie, Promise Technology, QNAP, Synology, Western Digitals and others improved their simplicity and expanded their respective product lines at a price below what Drobo’s proprietary technology came in at.

William Gallagher (Hacker News):

[The] company appears to have been badly affected by the coronavirus. In February 2020, the company tweeted about production delays, and in March 2020, its CEO Mihir Shah addressed concerns over how the coronavirus would affect the company.


When expressing a concern about sending my unit into Drobo (post bankruptcy filing) my support person reassured me with this:

For the company bankruptcy, we are not closing.

“The restructuring process will enable us to continue servicing our customers and partners and make the necessary investments to achieve our strategic objectives.”

“StorCentric concluded that the voluntary Ch 11 reorganization is the best way to fix our balance sheet and we will remain fully functional during the restructuring process.”

Update (2023-05-16): Kevin Purdy:

Now, AppleInsider reports that, based on an email sent by StorCentric, the bankruptcy shifted from reorganization-minded Chapter 11 to liquidation-focused Chapter 7 in late April.

The writing for Drobo was on the wall, or at least on its website. Text at the top of the homepage notes that, as of January 27, 2023, Drobo products and support for them are no longer available. “Drobo support has transitioned to a self-service model,” the site reads. “We thank you for being a Drobo customer and entrusting us with your data.”

Chris Espinosa:

The death of Drobo also means the end of Retrospect, the first major file backup system for Macs which dated from 1989.

Update (2023-05-17): Adam Engst:

The initial version of this article raised the question of what would happen to Retrospect, which was also owned by StorCentric. I’ve now heard from Robin Mayoff, director of Retrospect Support (and a Retrospect employee since 1995), that Retrospect (and another StorCentric subsidiary Nexsan) has emerged from Chapter 11 under new company ownership. Mayoff posted this Alive and well note in Retrospect’s support forum yesterday[…]


If my math is correct, Retrospect’s new ownership marks the company’s eighth incarnation across 33 years, a history that exceeds even our own.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

The only surprising thing about this is that Drobo was still in business (or their parent) to declare bankruptcy. They haven't introduced a new product in years, they've had zero stock anywhere for the better part of a year, and even *before* all of that their units lagged seriously behind their competitors. In the last five years, their NAS added... an ethernet port. And their DAS increased speed slightly. Compare that to the multitude of upgrades and capabilities on anything from Synology or QNAP. It's just been a sad slow slide for a once-pioneering firm.

Drobo was fantastic, except for one critical thing: it used proprietary algorithms. That was a deal breaker for our University. They lost thousands of sales, and here is the result…

@MeX agree with you there. I loved the idea of Drobo, and for a while the animation studio I worked at used one, but the fact that you couldn't get at your data if something went wrong, and in my experience something always inevitably goes wrong, is a dealbreaker. I need to have all of the tools I need on hand to do whatever it is I need to do.

Over the years, I've enjoyed using snapraid because a) it's free software, and b) all of my data is always accessible because it's just a normal filesystem. Not the most convenient, though. I'd love something like it that's more convenient, so long as it can run on macOS and Linux and my data is not at risk of being lost within a proprietary black box.

I'll like to mention a nice RAID solution from Areca, the ARC-8050T3U series H/W RAID box with thunderbolt 3/USB-C 3.2 connection to host, bonus with a SAS expansion port for cascading further down.

The H/W RAID chip is from LSI, the de facto industry standard. If the Areca box died, you pull out the disk trays and connect them to a LSI H/W RAID adapter (200~300 US$), the RAID data will be there for your further actions.

Another nice thing of this is its speed.
You get more than 1000 MB/s read/write speed with a configuration of 5 or 6 spinning SATA disks.

The last nice thing is easeness in expanding the capacity.
I just replaced the 5 filled up 6T disks (24T of data) with 4 16T disks in two days, without going through the pain by doing it in conventional wary of replacing the disks one by one incurring possible failure of RAID rebuild in each step and then manually fix the partition meta dat to accommodate the enlarged partition size, a half month stressing period to both the RAID box and human mind according to my prior experience.

All I did was connecting an SAS expander board (hooked with the 4 16T disk on its downstream port) to the box's SAS expansion port, creating a new 48T RAID off the new disks, copying the data on the old RAID to the new RAID, and finally replacing the 5 6T disks in the box with the 4 16T disks. All are done with my iMac 2017, without any fuss. (It took 24 hours to copy 24TB of data; the write speed: 150MB/s per-disk x 4 = 600MB/s)

(In SAS nature, the SAS expander board shouldn't be necessary since the box's SAS expansion port is 4x and is capable of directly connecting to 4 SAS or SATA disk powered by external SATA power from modern PC power supply. I tried it but the box failed to recognize any of the disks, obviously Areca tweaked the SAS firmware to not allow such usage. I'm planning to write a letter to Areca to fix this stupid restriction.)

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