Translation: protect Klaatu's home videos! Meet Drobo, what his inventors call the world's first storage robot. It is an important step in the consumerization of IT: a storage array that manages storage protection and capacity so you don't have to. Drobo is a USB black box that stores and protects your data about as effortlessly as possible.
Think Roomba for storage The robot tag is a bit of a stretch if you are hoping for a sleek arm rummaging through a stack of hard drives. The only arm inserting drives is yours.
Drobo takes SATA drives of any size and automatically formats them and uses all their capacity.
The robot part is the automation: Drobo recognizes the new drive and automatically starts moving data around to protect it. The website video is a nice intro to what the product does. Very little info on *how* the product does it, though I can guess about some of it.
Not a RAID box The Drobo community website specifically disavows the use of RAID. Which means, I assume, that all replication is block, not disk, based. I also suspect they have some persistent storage built into the box, perhaps a small disk or flash drive, to enable the rapid replacement of drives shown in their demo. If not, I'd guess they have very little data on the drives in the demo.
Consumerization of IT For under a thousand dollars consumers can now buy a storage system whose automated management is more advanced than any commercial product. For IT professionals this means that your end-users won't believe the management contortions you have to go through to *sorta-kinda* emulate the Drobo appliance.
The CFO will be thinking "if Drobo can do it, why not EMC?" Consumerization of IT brings a whole new dimension to the normal process of defending tech choices. Non-techies who don't understand your problems today will turn into non-techies who don't understand why you have problems tomorrow.
The Storage Bits take Drobo is headed by Geoff Barrall, the smart guy who developed the enterprise-class Blue Arc NAS. So I'm sure it really is packed with cool technology. Yet this is tech in the service of simple, not fast or cheap.
While the product isn't cheap today ($700 at the company store with no drives) I'll be surprised if it isn't a success, especially as volume ramps and distribution widens. Non-geeks don't want to manage storage or drives. They just want to store their stuff, safely. Drobo gets that and makes it easy. It is the iPod of mass storage.
Comments welcome, of course.