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Drobo Finally Announces NAS Drive

Gordon Kelly


Drobo Finally Announces NAS Drive

Drobo is an exciting brand. Along with Netgear's X-RAID products like the ReadyNAS and NVX, Drobo's 'BeyondRAID' technology makes it the only other attached storage line which can dynamically swap in and out drives of any size, automatically resize the total storage capacity and not lose any data (shocking that's it's only two, I know). The problem was, BeyondRAID aside, Drobos were always a bit basic. Until now...

After three years on the market parent company US startup Data Robotics has at last released a NAS version giving Netgear some serious competition. Dubbed the 'Drobo FS' (File Server), it adds that all important gigabit Ethernet port to centralise content on your network. Until now, such a solution had required an additional 'DroboShare' box (now to be phased out) which plugged into a Drobo, sat underneath and looked - well, rather ridiculous.

Joining the grown up NAS sector also means the FS has learnt new (and essential) tricks such as network backup (PC and Mac), iTunes server support, UPnP and DLNA streaming, has a native bittorent client for scheduled downloading and offers remote access via its 'Oxygen Cloud' sharing software. Powering all this is a new dual core CPU, bolstered RAM and an upgraded Linux kernel all of which lead to claims of 30-40MB per second file transfers.

This still doesn't come close to the near maxed out 105MB per second rates we achieved with the Netgear NVX, but then again the Drobo FS will support up to five drives compared to the NVX's four. It also also - arguably - the better looking of the two units, though there is no word on operational noise (the NVX's Achilles heel is it sounds like a Jumbo Jet taking off).

Pricing for the Drobo FS will come in at NVX levels with an unpopulated unit selling for $699 (£459). 4.5TB (3x 1.5TB), 7.5TB (5x 1.5TB) and 10TB (5 x 2TB) pre-populated editions will also be made immediately available for $999, $1,149 and $1,449 respectively.

Welcome to the big leagues Drobo - and about time. As for everyone else not called Drobo or Netgear, please feel free to start panicking.


Drobo FS

via engadget


April 7, 2010, 2:05 pm

These Drobos are interesting. Especially the "BeyondRAID" technology they use which sounds a lot better than normal versions of RAID in many ways. I've been considering buying the "Drobo S" for a while for personal use, but what other products should I take a look at before deciding? Any good alternatives to Drobo/"BeyondRAID" out there?


April 7, 2010, 2:18 pm

"for everyone else not called Drobo or Netgear, please feel free to start panicking."

Seriously? Panicking about what? Sorry if I'm missing some unique functionality here, but this just seems to be a late entrant into a pretty crammed NAS sector? For instance, the Synology 410j would appear to match all the functionality this unit has, and then some.


April 7, 2010, 4:24 pm

You forgot about Windows Home Server. Add and remove drives of different sizes, not lose data... Ok, you need to do some of it manually (eg tell a directory to be duplicated) but it's still a player in this price range (e.g. Tranquil's SQA-5H). That's without considering the sheer level of configurability and add-ins.


April 7, 2010, 4:34 pm

@Mike337 - pretty sure I just spelt out Netgear and the NVX (and linked to our review of it too ;)

@Edlem - first paragraph: BeyondRAID. Along with Netgear's X-RAID it's a game changer.

Matt Ross

April 7, 2010, 5:19 pm

I'd like one of these if it supported USB3, but I find Gigabit ethernet too slow for mass data storage and so I continue to cram disks into my desktop case instead. I get about 48MB/s peak over ethernet to my Linux server.


April 7, 2010, 5:44 pm

@Matt Ross - agreed USB 3.0 would be a superb addition, though we managed to get 105MB per second over gigabit Ethernet on the Netgear NVX which is faster than many HDDs can consistently manage so little bottleneck there.


April 7, 2010, 6:17 pm

I like the DROBO, but not at that price. Here in Canada I can get an Acer Easy Store for $400 and that includes a 1TB drive. Are these "game-changing" features worth an extra $300 plus another $100 for a drive to put in it? That isn't a rhetorical question...I wonder if anyone has an answer to this.


April 7, 2010, 6:31 pm

@Matt,@Gordon: In theory Gigabit ethernet gives 128MB/s, of course there will be protocol overhead on top / handshaking etc. So 105MB's sounds very good :), and must be pretty close to the max you could expect. The Drobo S appears to have E-Sata that's not far off USB3 speed.


April 8, 2010, 3:34 pm

"BeyondRAID. Along with Netgear's X-RAID it's a game changer."

Maybe...but it's doubtful. I'm pretty experienced on corporate level data storage systems, and there's been a number of attempts to allow redundant splitting of data across different sized disks. None of them really worked that well. What is really concerning me is that Drobo's explanation of their technology is rather vague - http://www.drobo.com/resources.... It seems like it's just reasonably smart system that is applying standard raid levels across blocks of data rather than whole disks ("Since the technology works at the block level, it can write blocks of data that alternate between data protection methodologies"). Convenient stuff, I'm sure - but not really getting around the fact that if a disk dies, it doesn't matter whether you've striped your data at block level or whatever, you need to have a redundant copy of all the data on that disk located across other disks. It also appears that proper redundancy (i.e. more than one disk to failure) is only an option, and I'd love to see whether implementing that doesn't rule out the nice features they claim.

Basically, without much more detailed info (for instance how do they implement 2 disk resilience if the disks are different sizes) I'm very sceptical, and will stick with a bug standard NAS running Raid 6.


April 8, 2010, 6:41 pm

@Edlem: From what I can gather, Beyond Raid is a self managed RAID, it decides what RAID type to use and how it's spanned to create redundancy. And because it's at the block level it can span the redundancy in more efficient ways.

Maybe an example will help explain. I may be wrong, but this is just how I envisage it.

Say I had 4 disks, 1tb 1tb 1tb 1/2tb and I was after only single parity protection, eg. RAID5 style (single disk fail protection, rather than raid6 duel parity). If I wanted to RAID5 this the 0.5tb would be pointless, and just using the 3 1tb to give a 2tb space is the best I could do.

But what if I RAID5 4 0.5tbs of each disk first to give -> 1.5tb usable space

Plus then RAID 5 the 3 0.5tb left to give -> 1tb space

Total space = 2.5tb instead of just 2tb using standard Raid 5.

Your question about 2 disk resilience, I would expect would just create a RAID 1 based on the smallest drive, and sticking with RAID6 isn't even an option here anyway :)


April 8, 2010, 6:56 pm

@Edlem: 2 disk resilience if the disks are different sizes

Oops, miss read that bit first time.. :) Anyway my previous post still makes sense when then going to (raid 6)(2 disk resilience). And how it could be used to make better use of mixed sized disks.

eg. 1tb,1tb,1tb,1/2tb.. Doing a standard RAID6 would only allow you 1tb space.

But doing block level you could get. 1tb + 0.5tb = 1.5tb space and still have the protection of any 2 disks dying, and then later when you upgrade the last 0.5tb you'll have 2tb space.


August 1, 2010, 8:24 pm

Any chance of a review of the Drobo FS anytime soon? Please?!?

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