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?