Drobo announces Gen3 4-bay array

Drobo announces Gen3 4-bay array

Summary: Drobo's popular 4-drive array is now faster, better - native Time Machine support - and cheaper. Here's what you need to know.

TOPICS: Storage, Hardware

The new/old team at Drobo—now part of Connected Data—is climbing back in the saddle with an upgraded 4-drive unit. Key features include:

  • Time Machine support. You can now choose to have one TM volume and one main volume. Or not.
  • USB 3.0. They claim a 3x improvement.
  • Faster rebuild times. Takes less than half the former time.
  • Lower price: $349. That's with no drives.

What hasn't changed is that Drobo is still the easiest array to manage. If you can tell green from red and yellow you can manage a Drobo. Add or replace a drive when it fills up to get more capacity. If a drive fails, slide it out and plug in a new one without any tools. 

Drobo uses a simple form of thin-provisioning—it fools your OS into believing it has more capacity than it does - so that when you add a larger drive you don't have to reformat and reload your data.

You can also opt for dual-failure protection. This reduces your total capacity, but it also means that two drives can fail and you still won't lose data. As regular readers know, as drive capacities grow, unrecoverable read failures—and rebuild failures—are much more common. This protection is a good feature.

The Storage Bits take
Geoff Barrall, who founded Drobo, Connected Data, and enterprise storage vendor BlueArc, has again taken control of Drobo through a merger with Connected Data. Drobo had some product transition and execution issues that killed growth for a few quarters, leading the VCs to walk away.

Geoff is a brilliant computer scientist and serial entreprenuer, so here's hoping he can breathe new life into the innovative Drobo product line.

Comments welcome, as always.  I like my Thunderbolt Drobo mini, but what do you other Drobo users think?

Topics: Storage, Hardware

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  • I have desperately tried to like Drobos

    As someone who has followed and experimented with Drobo over the years, I really want them to be great. But no matter how many times I have tried, they don't do it for me.

    First and foremost, Drobo is slow. No getting around that. I have tried all their interfaces, and for shared drive usage, they are painfully slow. Sometimes to the point of not being usable. Drobo may claim some kind of technical numbers to prove they're fast, but in reality it means nothing.

    Also, if you want high capacity (many drives) in your home, forget it. For example, if you want an 8- or 12-unit home media unit, you're SOL. They are strictly for business, and they really want you to use the iSCSI interface.

    I have also found that Drobo units sometimes just plain give up and sit there unresponsive, forcing you to reboot them. I installed a drobo in a remote datacenter so that it would be easy for technicians to monitor and swap out bad drives, and it is in fact good for that, but sometimes it just goes unresponsive. I had to hook it up to a remote power unit so that I could remotely power cycle it.

    All in all, not very happy with Drobo, despite the fact that I really want to be.
  • Terribly slow with dismounts

    I have a Drobo FS-5, the precursor to the 5N (5 bay networked model). In addition to it being embarrassingly slow, I have constant problems with OSX using it as a Time Machine location for backups. Doesn't matter if I mount through OSX or the Drobo app, connection is dropping multiple times/week. I'm not alone with this problem as a quick Google search will support.

    I have to also add that from personal experience, their customer support is terrible. I very clearly spelled out my problem and they answered it like I just gave them a generic incident. Before my Apple type warranty was up, all they were interested in doing was upgrading me to the new 5N at a rather significant price.

    Piss-poor performance;
    Piss-poor reliability;
    Piss-poor customer support;
    Pissed off customer.

    Sorry, but I'm with Speednet. I *really* wanted to like my Drobo, too, but frustration is like cancer...