Drobo FS, Where does it fit?

DroboFS-Front-Angle-Press

During GestalIT TechFieldDay, myself and the other bloggers were introduced to the new Data Robotic’s product called the Drobo FS.

About the Drobo FS

The revolutionary Drobo FS was designed with one purpose in mind: to deliver the best file sharing experience ever. From the moment you plug it in and see it instantly appear on your desktop, you’ll know there’s nothing like it. The all-in-one Drobo FS is perfect any connected home, home office, or small office environment needing a simple, safe device for sharing and backing up files over the network.

Drobo FS Specs

  • Host Interface – 10/100/1000 Ethernet Port
  • Supported data transfer protocols –  AFP and CIFS/SMB
  • Drives – Accommodates from one to five 3.5” SATA I / SATA II hard drives of any manufacturer, capacity, spindle speed, and/or cache. No carriers or tools required.
  • Operating System Support
    Windows 2008 Server
    Windows 2003 Server
    Windows XP
    Windows Vista
    Windows 7
    Mac OS 10.5 or later
    Linux

BeyondRAID

All of the Drobo products run on a proprietary RAID system called BeyondRAID. BeyondRAID offers all of the of the main advantages of traditional RAID systems, whilst leaving all of the limitations behind.  For a more in-depth details about BeyondRAID please click here.

So where does the Drobo FS fit?

This is the question I have been asking myself since Data Robotics demo’ed the products to myself and the other delegates. If I’m honest, I’m still not sure.

To purchase the Drobo FS without any disks you would need to fork out approx £450. For a home NAS system I would personally consider this to be quite expensive. Yes it has the BeyondRAID system and the ability to offer up to 10TB of storage space, but as a home user, do I really require this? Some would argue that yes it’s needed, but I would argue that there are cheaper ways to get a RAID’ed storage solution to house your films, music and family photos.

DroboFS-Back-Press

So if it’s not for home use what about in an office of an SMB? Personally, I wouldn’t use it. Not because I fear for the safety of my data, I am impressed by the BeyondRAID system and I believe it offers better data protection methodologies than a standard RAID'ed NAS. It’s purely from an availability point of view that I am a little weary. The Drobo FS only offers a single Gbit NIC and a single PSU. There isn't the option to add a second of either. From what I can tell, if either the NIC or the PSU were to fail, you would need to purchase a whole new base unit as you can’t just swap out the individual modules. I know that the chance of these modules failing are slim, but imagine if the Drobo FS was storing your companies Shared data. How would this effect your companies ability to continue working? You could be without data for at least a day as you would have to order in a new base unit. I maybe being a little picky? What do you think? Would you use this at home or in the office?

If your thinking about using the Drobo FS as a shared storage device for VMware vSphere 4, think again. Drobo announced that the Drobo FS would not be added to the VMware HCL even though other Drobo products are supported on ESX3.5.

DroboApps

One thing I did find quite interesting was the introduction of DroboApps. DroboApps aren’t dissimilar from Iphone Apps. It allows 3rd parties to write their own applications/plugins to run directly with the Drobo FS. Here is an example of a few DroboApps that are currently available.

Although I think the concept of the DroboApps is good, I also get the feeling that there might not be a large amount of apps created. Most companies who decide to create an application to run on their Drobo would probably heavily customise it for their needs. Because of this I  don’t think many applications will be published. Drobo did state that they have employed a team just to create DroboApp’s so watch this space, If I’m wrong there could be some useful tools being created.

Summary

So as you can see, I’m neither here nor there when it comes to the Drobo FS. I think the BeyondRAID System behind it is really really good, but I feel restricted by the lack of hardware redundancy and put off by the high start-up price. If you have spare money to burn and you need a new NAS, then definitely give the Drobo FS a look. Likewise if you need a NAS for the office but don’t necessarily require high availability, the Drobo FS could be for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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