Introduction and Packaging
Data Robotics shipped their first product 10 years ago. Dubbed the Drobo (short for Data Robot), it was a 4-bay hot-swappable USB 2.0 connected external storage device. At a time where RAID was still a term mostly unknown to typical PC users, the Drobo was already pushing the concept of data redundancy past what those familiar with RAID were used to. BeyondRAID offered a form of redundant data storage that decoupled rigid RAID structures from fixed capacity disk packs. While most RAID volumes were 'dumb', BeyondRAID was aware of what was stored within its partitions, distributing that data in block format across the available disks. This not only significantly speed up rebuilding (only used portions of the disks need be recopied), it allowed for other cool tricks like the ability to mix drive capacities within the same array. Switching between parity levels could also be done on-the-fly and with significantly less effort than traditional RAID migrations.
While all of the above was great, the original Drobo saw performance hits from its block level management, which was limited by the processing overhead combined with the available processing power for such a device at the time. The first Drobo model was lucky to break 15 MB/s, which could not even fully saturate a USB 2.0 link. After the launch, requests for network attached capability led to the launch of the DroboShare, which could act as a USB to ethernet bridge. It worked but was still limited by the link speed of the connected Drobo. A Drobo FS launched a few years later, but it was not much quicker. Three years after that we got the 5N, which was finally a worthy contender in the space.
10 years and nearly a dozen models later, we now have the Drobo 5N2, which will replace the aging 5N. The newer model retains the same 5-bay form factor and mSATA bay for optional SSD cache but adds a second bondable Gigabit Ethernet port and upgrades most of the internals. Faster hardware specs and newer more capable firmware enables increased throughput and volume sizes up to 64TB. Since BeyondRAID is thin provisioned, you always make the volume as large as it can be and simply add disk capacity as the amount of stored content grows over time.
Subject: Storage | June 21, 2016 - 02:43 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: usb 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, raid, hdd, drobo, DAS, BeyondRAID, 5Dt, 5D
Today Drobo updated their 5D, shifting to Thunderbolt 2, an included mSATA caching SSD, and faster internals:
The new 5Dt (t for Turbo Edition) builds on the strengths of the 5D, which launched three years ago. The distinguishing features remain the same, as this is still a 5-bay model with USB 3.0, but the processor has been upgraded, as well as the USB 3.0 chipset, which was a bit finicky with some earlier implementations of the technology.
The changes present themselves at the rear, as we now have a pair of Thunderbolt 2 (20 Gb/s) ports which support display pass-through (up to 4k). Rates speeds climb to 540 MB/s read and 250 MB/s write when using HDDs. SSDs bump those figures up to 545 / 285 MB/s, respectively.
Another feature that has remained was their Hot Data Cache technology, but while the mSATA part was optional on the 5D, a 128GB unit comes standard and pre-installed on the 5Dt.
The Drobo 5Dt is available today starting at $899. That price is a premium over the 5D, but the increased performance specs, included SSD, and Thunderbolt connectivity come at a price.
The current (updated) Drobo product lineup.
Full press blast after the break.
Drobo is frequently referred to as ‘the Apple of external storage products’. They got this name because their products go for the simplest possible out-of-the-box experience. Despite their simplicity, the BeyondRAID concept these units employ remains extremely robust and highly resistant to data loss in even the most extreme cases of drive failures and data loss. I reviewed the DroboPro 8-bay unit over 5 years ago and was so impressed by it that I continue to use one to this day (and it has never lost data, despite occasional hard drive failures).
Over those past 5 years since our review of the DroboPro, Drobo (then known as Data Robotics) has also had a bit of an Apple story. Their original CEO started the company but was ousted by the board in late 2009. He then started Connected Data in 2011, quickly growing to the point where they merged with Drobo in 2013. This was not just a merger of companies, it was a merger of their respective products. The original Transporter was only a single drive unit, where Drobo’s tech supercharged that personal cloud capability to scale all the way up to corporate environments.
Many would say that for that period where their original CEO was absent, Drobo’s products turned more towards profitability, perhaps too soon for the company, as the products released during that period were less than stellar. We actually got a few of those Drobos in for review, but their performance was so inconsistent that we spent more time trying to figure out what was causing the issues than completing a review we could stand behind. With their founder back in the CEO chair, Drobo's path was turned back to its roots - making a good, fast, and low cost product for their customers. This was what they wanted to accomplish back in 2009, but in many ways the available tech was not up to speed yet. USB 2.0 was the fastest widely available standard, aside from iSCSI over Gigabit (but that was pricey to implement and appeared in the DroboPro). Nowadays things are very different. USB 3.0 controllers are vastly more compatible and faster than they used to be, as is SATA controller hardware and ARM microcontrollers. These developments would ultimately enable Drobo to introduce what they wanted to in the first place:
This is the third generation 4-Bay Drobo. The 4-Bay model is what started it all for them, but was a bit underpowered and limited to USB 2.0 speeds. The second gen unit launched mid 2008, adding FireWire as a faster connection option, but it was still slower than most would have liked given its $500 price tag. This third generation unit promises to change all of that.
USB is once again the only connectivity option, but this time it’s USB 3.0. There have previously been other 5-bay Drobos with this as an option (Drobo S, S gen 2, 5D, Mini), but many of those units saw compatibility issues with some USB 3.0 host controllers. We experienced some of these same frustrating incompatibilities first hand, and can confirm those frustrations. Drobo is putting that behind them with a revised chipset, and today we will put it all to the test.
Subject: Storage | August 24, 2011 - 10:03 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: drobo, SAS, BeyondRAID
SAN JOSE, Calif. – August 24, 2011 – Drobo, makers of award-winning data storage products for businesses and professionals, today introduced a new Drobo for business solution, the Drobo B1200i, which features technological breakthroughs and an unprecedented combination of automation, affordability and application awareness for the small and medium business (SMB) market.
The new 12-bay Drobo provides business customers with a unique storage solution for VMware, Microsoft Exchange and other business applications – offering advanced and sophisticated capabilities for customers without large enterprise budgets or deep storage expertise. The new Drobo takes an application-driven approach to storage, cutting cost and complexity while automating modern data protection, capacity planning and application performance.
The new Drobo B1200i builds on Drobo’s track record of providing “Small Box, Big Storage” by delivering a solution that is uniquely:
- Automated BeyondRAID™ technology optimizes advanced data protection without the need for specific storage expertise or configuration
- Automated thin provisioning and reclamation delivers enterprise-class expandability and storage utilization features in a simplified, automated manner
- New, automated data-aware tiering solves performance tuning issues that have traditionally taken storage administrators weeks or months to address
- Adjusts in real-time to changes in application workload, without the need for user or admin intervention and tuning
- Uniquely utilizes SSD technology in the same pool as conventional disk drives to accelerate the most demanding operations – automatically, based on application workload Affordable
- Available at prices starting under $10,000 for 12 TB of SAS storage
- The most efficient and cost-effective way to utilize SSD technology – unlike traditional tiering or SSD solutions, Drobo allows customers to incrementally add SSD drives in the same box and in the same storage pool as traditional media – resulting in optimal price-performance
- Designed, like all Drobos, to be the easiest to use and most automated product in the market, resulting in reduced configuration and tuning time, and lower operating costs
- B1200i Overview: http://info.drobo.com/resources/b1200i
- The Automated Tiering Experience: http://www.drobo.com/resources/tiering.php
- Drobo for Business: http://www.drobo.com/products/drobosanbusiness.php
The new Drobo 12-Bay iSCSI SAN storage for business model B1200i is available now for purchase at http://www.Drobo.com and through select partners and resellers.