Drobo Pro: a 'data robot' for SMEs

Drobo's original USB 'data robot' combined an attractive chassis with the company's BeyondRAID technology to deliver a well-received and user-friendly storage device, mainly aimed at creative professionals requiring large amounts of direct-attached storage. Subsequently the company has added a second-generation device with FireWire support and a networking module (DroboShare) to broaden its appeal.

Drobo's original USB 'data robot' combined an attractive chassis with the company's BeyondRAID technology to deliver a well-received and user-friendly storage device, mainly aimed at creative professionals requiring large amounts of direct-attached storage. Subsequently the company has added a second-generation device with FireWire support and a networking module (DroboShare) to broaden its appeal. When Drobo's CEO Dr Geoff Barrall dropped into ZDNet UK a couple of weeks ago to show off the new Drobo Pro (below), he revealed that the company had sold a lot more Drobos into large enterprises than had at first been envisaged.

A combination of usability and a competitive price point is always likely to do well, especially in a recession, and these are the buttons that Drobo is pressing with the SME-focussed Drobo Pro. The new product is an 8-slot device, in either standalone or 3U rack-mount format, that can accommodate up to 16TB of flexible storage capacity. To USB 2.0 and FireWire 800, Drobo Pro adds iSCSI (over Gigabit Ethernet) — and claims performance at "full iSCSI line speed". As well as allowing you to mix and match disk capacities, brand and speeds (something that conventional RAID technology does not), Drobo's BeyondRAID technology also makes it simple to enable or disable dual disk redundancy — the ability to cope with two simultaneous hard disk failures. Drobo's storage virtualisation technology also allows Smart Volumes (up to 16 x 16TB) to be created and managed that pull storage from the common pool of disks without the need for time-consuming resizing and migrating.

The Drobo Pro will sell for £1,099 (inc. VAT) — without disks — in the UK. We will be reviewing the device in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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