Last year we talked to Data Robotics and asked them when we could have a Drobo with more drive slots. Today they delivered with the announcement of the 8 bay DroboPro. Read on for all the juicy details, the photos and the prices.
Data Robotics also revealed to us that the Pro is not just a classic Drobo and DroboShare bundled into a single enclosure. Unlike the existing Drobo / Drobo Share combo, the Pro cannot operate stand-alone. Instead it must be connected to a computer using one of the built in interfaces – USB 2.0, FireWire 800 or for the first time on a Drobo – iSCSI via the Gigabit Ethernet port.
iSCSI is an IP based storage networking standard with provides a high speed link to your server or desktop. Windows XP and Vista support iSCSI (Vista has a driver built in and the XP driver is available on the Drobo Dashboard CD). Mac OSX doesn’t have a driver out of the box so DR have created their own and it’s also included on the Dashboard CD. Linux can support iSCSI but with the variety of distributions available DR aren’t going to officially support this in the foreseeable future (as with Drobo classic there’s full support for EXT3).
The system is still built on the Unix-like VXWorks operating system, but has had a ground up re-write bringing many performance gains. The speed of the Pro is said to be at least double that of the classic unit. DR told us that the “Business Class” Pro will provide 70-80 meg per second, with peak speeds over 100 compared with around 30 meg per second on the classic unit.
Drobo Apps will not work on the Pro, however this isn’t really an issue as all the server duties (think FTP, iTunes etc) can be handled by the attached computer.
Data Robotics have christened their proprietary technology at the heart of the system “BeyondRAID” and the table below shows their breakdown of the additional features the system offers over standard RAID.
For the terminally paranoid the Pro offers a “Dual Disk Redundancy” feature on top of the standard single disk feature of the classic unit. This allows you to recover from two simultaneous hard drive failures instead of just one, although this obviously has an effect on the useable space on the array. Simply checking and un-checking a box in Drobo Dashboard switches you between single or dual disk and DR say that unlike moving between RAID 5 and RAID 6, there’s no need to reformat or migrate data off of the array to do this.
The Pro will max out at 16TB using 8 x 2TB drives – the largest currently available. Classic Drobo has the ability to create a single 16TB “smart Volume” which can grow or shrink as required. The Pro can have up to 16 x 16TB Smart Volumes, allowing access to a theoretical limit of 256TB if disks were available and allowing different departments in an organization to have their own volumes for example. Rights to access the individual volumes would be set in the OS of the machine attached to the Pro.
DR say the Pro is much quieter than other enterprise storage solutions and the new face plate (still magnetic) has been designed to further reduce noise emitted.
Another small improvement is the ability to choose whether or not to have your disk spin down after 15 minutes of inactivity with a simple checkbox in the Drobo Dashboard.
The Pro can be set on a desktop or mounted in 19″ rack with the optional rack-mount kit (the unit is 3U high). The power supply is built into the Drobo Pro and the unit also has a power-switch – a first for a Drobo. Unfortunately if you are rack mounting it, it’s been inconveniently placed on the rear panel.
So what price this data robot heaven. UK price of the base model without any drives is £1,099 including VAT (the rack-mount kit is an additional £169). Various options are available populated with disks, topping out at £3,299 for the 16TB rack mount version. Drobo are launching with a customer loyalty program, which will see them giving $200 off to existing Drobo owners from participating resellers.
At almost £1,300 in your rack, without any drives, DroboPro is a high-end product. But as DroboPro moves the company into new markets who would bet against it repeating the success of the first Drobo, especially as it has few rivals in its feature set and its ability to provide users with a robust storage solution that required virtually no management.
The unit is shipping in limited quantities in the US today and should be available in the UK and Europe within the week from Amazon and Misco (full availability from end of April on).