Drobo data storage robot: Too good to be true?

This morning, while browsing the web, I stumbled on this:

Basically, the Drobo is a RAID-like, USB 2.0 drive enclosure that can contain up to four hot-swappable SATA hard drives.

“Drobo manages storage, so you don’t have to… just connect Drobo to your Mac or PC. No software required. No RAID levels. No management or configuration. Drobo does everything for you. Get rid of multiple external drives. Avoid the complexity of RAID. Attach a Drobo storage robot to your system and let it manage your storage so you don’t have to.”

If you are like me, the first thing you thought after watching the video was,”Wow, this really is the next best thing since sliced bread.”

I’ve looked all over the Web for reviews on the product, and it’s the same all over the place: everybody wants one. Unfortunately, I can see a few things that are questionable about the technology:

  1. The Drobo can work with only one drive. OK, so far, so good.
  2. You can add drives to Drobo on the fly, and the total capacity of the unit will adjust without you losing access to the drive at any time, even while copying files over.
  3. If you have two drives, and remove the first one, the unit will respond just like a RAID-1 device and keep on working.
  4. If you have three drives, and remove one of them, it will act as a RAID-5 array.
  5. Now here is where things are starting to get strange: If you have three drives, and remove two of them, guess what? The darn thing will still run!
  6. In any case, when “healthy” drives are added back to the unit, the Drobo looks like it can rebuild itself in a matter of seconds.

By using the Drobolator Capacity Calculator, you can see that each time you add a drive to the unit, the total capacity of the device raises by about half the size of the added disk, and that’s a normal thing, particularly if you consider that the Drobo has to support drive redundancy.

But in the case where we had three drives, and removed two, how could the Drobo actually continue running on only one drive, especially if the total capacity of the device was filled? By looking at Data Robotics’s capacity calculator, we can see that this scenario could actually work, but only if one of the three drives has very little data on it, and I think this should have been mentioned in the video.
 
So, dear readers, what are your thoughts on the Drobo? Do you see this new technology being used in your corporate environment?

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8 Responses to Drobo data storage robot: Too good to be true?

  1. This looks really cool to me, but I would never find any use for it until there's an NAS (network-attached storage) version. It just doesn't make sense to have it attached to only one machine with all that redundant storage, unless of course one user is creating massive amounts of data.

    I think the gadget would work a whole lot better if multiple users on a network could all access Drobo's storage resources.

    • Definitely! Adding a gigabit network interface and a proprietary embedded OS in there would make the Drobo a lot more versatile. its price would probably double, but I think it would be worth it anyways.

  2. This looks really cool to me, but I would never find any use for it until there’s an NAS (network-attached storage) version. It just doesn’t make sense to have it attached to only one machine with all that redundant storage, unless of course one user is creating massive amounts of data.

    I think the gadget would work a whole lot better if multiple users on a network could all access Drobo’s storage resources.

    • Definitely! Adding a gigabit network interface and a proprietary embedded OS in there would make the Drobo a lot more versatile. its price would probably double, but I think it would be worth it anyways.

  3. I think that the 3 to 2 to 1 drives is manly dependent on the actual data vs available data. The drobo probably actively changes its state as drives are added and removed. Remove one drive, the system check have X data, is it below the value of the dobolator for the 2 drives, if yes move things around to act as if the 2 drives are is the new premenant state, if not, keep the error state to say you need a new drive.

  4. I think that the 3 to 2 to 1 drives is manly dependent on the actual data vs available data. The drobo probably actively changes its state as drives are added and removed. Remove one drive, the system check have X data, is it below the value of the dobolator for the 2 drives, if yes move things around to act as if the 2 drives are is the new premenant state, if not, keep the error state to say you need a new drive.

  5. In the home work place I think this is attractive to the vloggers of the world that are finding themselves with large amounts of Raw video and edited video that they need to hold onto for backup and to use in future episodes.

    For me, I am not sure if this type of device is useful enough to justify the cost, I might like it more if it was an eSata. It could be that I am bringing needs that it just wasn't built for, but after the second time my MCE ran a HD into the ground with all the read/writes of recording and watching tv, I have started to eye the possibility of having a a iSCSI target with 6 or so drives to spread the punishment across. I just wish that there was a cost effective byod iSCSI target that supported Hot swap. All the appliances that I have seen so far look to be in the 2k range. That feels little much for watching tv, especially since it is just my wife watching the damn thing.

  6. In the home work place I think this is attractive to the vloggers of the world that are finding themselves with large amounts of Raw video and edited video that they need to hold onto for backup and to use in future episodes.

    For me, I am not sure if this type of device is useful enough to justify the cost, I might like it more if it was an eSata. It could be that I am bringing needs that it just wasn’t built for, but after the second time my MCE ran a HD into the ground with all the read/writes of recording and watching tv, I have started to eye the possibility of having a a iSCSI target with 6 or so drives to spread the punishment across. I just wish that there was a cost effective byod iSCSI target that supported Hot swap. All the appliances that I have seen so far look to be in the 2k range. That feels little much for watching tv, especially since it is just my wife watching the damn thing.