Drobo

First impressions of the second generation Drobo
Drobo Storage

So, i’ve had my Drobo for almost a month now and so far it’s performed wonderfully.

I purchased it from Amazon for £293.48 but the price has since risen to £367.87 (after briefly touching £421) so i’m satisfied that i got it at a reasonable price. The price i paid doesn’t include the £35 rebate from Drobo that i’ve sent off for (and which i will probably use towards another 1TB HDD).

The Drobo arrived in a very large, well-padded, box and was much more sturdy than i had anticipated as it is constructed out of quite hefty metal.

I unpacked it all and inserted the only SATA hard drive i had lying around (a 500GB drive pulled from a malfunctioning Western Digital MyBook Premium) then connected the Drobo to my Macbook using a Firewire 400 to 800 cable.

Using the Drobo dashboard software i formatted as a single 16TB volume using the HFS+ filesystem even though i only had a single 500GB drive installed.

This worked fine and i happily copied some data across to the Drobo. Of course the Drobo would only allow me to use 250GB of the drive since the other half is reserved for expansion, but this wasn’t a major problem since i had been using a 300GB external drive for data storage up until then.

The 1.3.0 Drobo firmware had been released the same day that mine arrived so i grabbed that and upgraded without any problems. The 1.3.0 release purports to fix a disconnect problem with Macs using USB but since i use Firewire i hadn’t encountered it (1.3.0 also supposedly has Firewire compatibility improvements so hopefully i’m seeing some benefit there but, obviously, i hadn’t used the Drobo long enough before i upgraded to be able to tell).

A couple of days later i purchased a 1TB drive and the Drobo added redundancy to my data and expanded my available storage to 500GB. As soon as i get the £35 rebate from Drobo i’ll buy another 1TB drive which will give me 1.5TB of fully redundant storage. With any luck that should take me through until the end of 2009.

It’s not all roses however.

So far my only complaint is with the Drobo Dashboard software. It requires an admin account to run and i (along with anyone sensible) typically run my Mac using a standard account, only using an admin account to install software or make system-level changes. This requirement to run the dashboard as an admin user means that there is no easy way to see how much actual space you’re using (discounting the percentage LEDs on the front of the actual device) since the OS sees it as a 16TB drive.

My feature wishes come in the form of official support for more filesystems, namely ZFS and BTRFS. ZFS is a Sun-developed filesystem that is supported in Sun’s Solaris, FreeBSD, Mac OS 10.5 (development binaries required) and Mac OS 10.6 (server will have GUI but client will probably have to manage it using the command-line). BTRFS is a Linux filesystem in development at the moment and is sort of Linux’s answer to ZFS (although without some of the features) since the license Sun release ZFS under is incompatible with the GPL.

I’m hopeful that we’ll get to see official support for at least ZFS (since BTRFS isn’t ready yet) in a future Drobo firmware release some time next year. If that happens and they fix the admin issue with Drobo Dashboard the Drobo will be pretty much the perfect storage solution.

9.0 / 10

Blog revisit: Drobo

A revisit of an earlier blog entry on Drobo
Blog Revisit Drobo Storage