Sweet Drobo Home RAID


I’m not sure who Robin Harris is, but he’s mighty sure home RAID won’t fly. He’s just so certain that consumers are stupider than him and that vendors’ imaginations are as limited as his. And if Harris was right, we’d probably still be using 8088 microprocessors and getting by on less than a megabyte of RAM, because “nobody needs more than 640K.”

Too bad then that Data Robotics‘s Drobo seems to do everything Harris says home RAID can’t. Actually, it seems to do some incredibly complex things under the hood, but Cali Lewis demonstrates that all we have to do is pop drives in. You can put in one to four drives and they don’t have to be the same capacity (really). You can add drives and expand storage without having to reformat. You don’t have to chose what kind of RAID you need. And if a disk fails, all you do is replace the drive with the flashing light next to it. Drobo keeps working despite the failed disk (though slower, and with less redundancy), and automatically rebuilds the array when you pop in a new drive. Scott Beale/Laughing Squid likes his.

It’s pretty easy to guess that if you have only two drives in there, it’ll do RAID 1. And if you have three or four drives, it’ll do RAID 5. But, let’s say you start with two (RAID 1) and add a third: it’ll seamlessly remap the data into a RAID 5. Who knows how fast it is, but how fast does it need to be? (Thomas Hawk says the new version does 50MB/s reads) I need storage for my photo library. I need big and reliable, I’ll pass on fast if it means I can have it cheap.

And that’s the thing. $350 gets you the original Drobo with USB2 ($500 for FireWire 800/USB2 model). You’ll have to add disks, but you can get 750GB SATA drives for under $100, and 1TB drives are getting close to $150 (and it’s not like you can’t put 750s in it now and upgrade to 2TB drives later). You can pick up simple 1TB external drives for under $250, but then you have to worry about losing everything because a single disk failed. (And are you really going to back up that 1TB music/video collection? Really? Where?) Anne de Haas says it changed her life and calls it ridiculously easy to use.

And if that isn’t cool enough, the DroboShare NAS accessory will make it shareable on the network (NAS, duh), but also run BitTorrent servers or other exciting stuff. DroboSpace is the hopeful hub for hacking on this.

Where have I been for the past year since this was released? I want.

5 thoughts on “Sweet Drobo Home RAID

  1. Thanks for the great summary – I am really lusting after the Drobo now. I do video and photography and I’m juggling a bunch of big external drives. It’s silly, really. NewEgg has 2 different 1 TB drives for $150.

  2. I bit the bullet on the Drobo when they released the Firewire version and dropped the USB 2.0 to $350. Right now I’m running 2x 750ig, 1x 500 gig, and 1x 1 tera in mine, giving me a little over 2 terabytes of total storage.

    It is freaking incredible. It is sometimes a bit slow, but for holding ALL of my pics and my music collection…well, I’m never using anything else if I can help it. I’m considering getting a second next year to set up at my parents house for offsite redundancy, but for simple onsite backup, it is seriously like magic.

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  4. Actually, Robin Harris quite likes the Drobo, since it is _not_ a RAID solution and also manages to hide most of the replication and redundancy stuff from the user: http://blogs.zdnet.com/storage/?p=117.

    One of his points against home RAID remains valid, though. Drobo still protects you only against hard drive failure and little else.

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