Friday, July 31, 2009

Data Robotics's Drobo

So the Data Robotics' Drobo was something I'd always lusted after. A disk array that you can shove in any size disk, as long as you have at least two of them, and which allows you to expand/grow the volume when you need to and prompts you for capacity, failure or impending failure via lights, is cool!

It was always damn expensive, and had rubbish connectivity options (USB and Firewire 400)though. That's changed now; the distributor price of the device (ex-VAT) is under R5k, and it now sports Firewire 800. So, I got one, and shoved in 4 x 1.5TB Seagate drives. This gives you 6TB of raw storage, and about 4.2TB given the proprietary filesystem tech (BeyondRAID) they use.

Paritioning though was complicated by several logical layout options; I naturally chose the one to create a 16TB volume. None of the other options gave me the kind of life-span I would want out of a device like this. I want, in 3 years time, to take all 4 drives out, and stick in either 3 or 4TB drives. That'll give me 12 or 16TB, and by the time that isn't enough, I'll have other problems and solutions that will be sexier.

Given my 16TB configuration, this means that when I fill the 4.2TB of disk I have, the Drobo will prompt me to replace one or more of the existing 4 drives with bigger capacity drives (e.g. 2TB drives), and after some rebuild time, the volume will be redundant again. Great, no moving data around! Of course, a file-system integrity check on a logical volume that is 16TB big (but for now is only really 4.2TB big) does take some time.

Performance on Firewire 800 was sluggish, and frankly disappointing; 22Mb/s, which was under the ZFS-based array I have on my desk (consisting of 4 x 500GB Lacie d2 Quadra drives) which could hit 30Mb/s. The Drobo is however a lot easier to manage.

I've got it hooked up to an Apple Airport Extreme via USB, and its serving as an uber-NAS for home. Much easier, and in the long run, cheaper than a FreeNAS implementation.

Definitely a thumbs up!