GestaltIT TFD - Day 2: Top secret at Data Robotics?

By Renegade on Tuesday 24 November 2009 12:13
Categories: Gestatl IT, NAS, Views: 6.614

So, during the afternoon of the GestaltIT Tech Field Day, we were invited to join Data Robotics for something that would turn out to be quite interesting. Since pictures say more than words I didn't want to hold back this picture from you guys just to show that we are all work and no play:

So, once we pulled Greg Knieriemen off of the sign, we went inside and entered a meeting room where we had the next issue with some signs:

How's that for a greeting....? Yeah, I thought so.

So, once everyone settled down things got a little more interesting.

Now, in case you don't know Data Robotics yet, they have built quite a name for themselves with two products called the "Drobo" and the DroboPro.
Basically the Drobo is a small NAS device that holds up to four drives and offers you a Fire-wire 800 and a USB 2.0 interface. Besides that you get a connector for your power supply and a hole to plug in your Kensington lock.
The DroboPro is something that will offer you a bit more. It has bays for 8 drives, a Gbit Ethernet interface that allows you to use iSCSI. The other features are more or less the same, although this unit can be rack-mounted and even supports a dual parity setup (RAID6) and smart volumes.

So, one of the features that Data Robotics advertises with is something called "BeyondRAID", or as Data Robotics CEO Geoff Barrall states "The core differentiator for Drobo is BeyondRAID. BeyondRAID is what Drobo think RAID would be if RAID were designed today".

That's a bold statement to make, but the numbers that were presented seems to show that this product is in high demand, and it's gaining momentum quite rapidly.
Data Robotics actually had 100% growth in 2009 over 2008 with over 85,000 units shipped in just two years. Of those 85,000 there were more than 5,000 DroboPro's, and that's just since April.

Now, they also mentioned that the future market for the Drobo is seen in the SMB storage market, or to be more specific, they will focus on sub $15,000.- DAS and SAN attached storage market.
This brought up questions what will happen with the DroboShare that didn't receive as warm a welcome by customers as the Drobo itself. No real statement was made about the future of the DroboShare, but with a focus on the SMB, one can only assume that there is an uncertain future for the DroboShare.

So, after a quick introduction we finally got a clearer view of what was so top secret. Two new units the were actually introduced yesterday. The Drobo S and the DroboElite.

The Drobo S has some small but welcome changes. The number of drives has now been upgraded to a total of five. Besides the FireWire 800 and the USB 2.0 interface, you can also hook up your Drobo S via eSATA which should make a lot of people happy, even though eSATA is not available on any of the Apple Macs that are released to date. Supposedly you will get up to 50% more performance when compared to the regular Drobo.

The new unit also increases it's redundancy so you can actually lose (or pull out) two drives at the same time and continue to work with the data that is stored on it.
I should note that pulling all drives at the same time will actually stop you from accessing the data on the unit, as tested by Devang Panchigar, but since the disk layout and parity is stored on the disks, you can just power off the unit, insert all disks back in and your data will be back once you powered it back on.

The theoretical limit for the amount of storage is only limited by the size of the drives that are currently for sale, but the number of volumes also changed from just one 16TB volume on the Drobo to up to 15 on the Drobo S.

The DroboElite has some nice new changes that include a dual Gb Ethernet port with iSCSI support that will allow up to 16 hosts to connect to the unit. The number of volumes has been increased from 16 on the DroboPro to 255 on the DroboElite. All in all nothing to really shock anyone on this unit, but the dual interface is something that a lot of people will probably be quite happy about.

Pricing will start at $799.- RSP for the Drobo S and at $3499.- RSP for the DroboElite, but you will probably find other prices through various other channels.

I will do a deep dive in to the technology behind BeyondRAID as this is probably something that is interesting to a lot of people, and I will make sure to add a comparison to that which comes up quite regularly. "Can't I do the same much cheaper and easier with Linux and an LVM". The short answer is just a simple "No.", the longer answer will be contained in the post BeyondRAID post, so stay tuned!

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