More hardware that I have to have: Drobo

Gizmodo wrote about Drobo. But, I saw it about a week ago and was asked to keep it quiet. Obviously someone else couldn’t keep it under wraps. So, what the heck.

What is it? Well, you know to keep your data on two seperate hard drives, or more, right?

How do you do that? RAID? Yep.

But this thing is RAID made simple. You just slide in a new SATA hard drive (Seagate is gonna love this) and it automatically senses it, and uses it.

Stick in only one drive (it has four slots) and it isn’t happy. It knows your stuff isn’t stored on two drives. So, it’s at risk. It’ll tell you. Warns you with a yellow light that your data isn’t safe.

Slide in a second drive. It takes a few seconds to reconfigure (it does this while live — you can even be copying, or storing, data to the first drive while you slide in a second drive). It will turn both lights green after it makes sure everything has a second drive.

Slide in a third drive. Same thing. It goes yellow while it reconfigures everything to share across three drives.

Take out the first drive. All your data is still there. But the lights go yellow while the drives reconfigure the data and make sure you’re safe.

Take out the second drive, leaving only the third (assuming all are the same size). Now things still work, but the lights don’t go back to green. Yellow all the way.

Along the bottom it tells you how much space is available.

This thing rocks. I can see buying quite a few of these for PodTech.

Won’t be on the market for another month or two. Can’t wait to be able to buy them. Here’s the official Web site.

147 thoughts on “More hardware that I have to have: Drobo

  1. Fazal says:


    From my reading of their (sketchy) docs, it is not block storage. The Drobo unit pretends to be a virtual 2TB USB block storage unit, but under the hood it knows about the filesystem you are using (NTFS and HFS+) and does the file replication to multiple drives. In a way, it’s a USB-NAS. That’s why Linux is not yet supported, they need to add support for ext3 in the filesystem before that can happen.

    It’s a USB storage device. That means SCSI over USB.

    Do you know what sort of a performance hit you would take translating LBAs to file offsets and back again and understanding two or three or ten file systems.

    It’s a block storage device.

  2. Fazal says:


    From my reading of their (sketchy) docs, it is not block storage. The Drobo unit pretends to be a virtual 2TB USB block storage unit, but under the hood it knows about the filesystem you are using (NTFS and HFS+) and does the file replication to multiple drives. In a way, it’s a USB-NAS. That’s why Linux is not yet supported, they need to add support for ext3 in the filesystem before that can happen.

    It’s a USB storage device. That means SCSI over USB.

    Do you know what sort of a performance hit you would take translating LBAs to file offsets and back again and understanding two or three or ten file systems.

    It’s a block storage device.

  3. After reading through the majority of posts here, it’s clear that most people don’t quite “get” the Drobo. Everyone wants to pit it against NAS devices, complain that building an Ubuntu RAID 5 file server is less expensive, that it doesn’t support ext3 for Linux, etc.

    You see, therein lies the problem. Drobo’s greatest strength turns into it’s largest weakness… the fact that it’s protected storage. As soon as that fact is known, it’s immediately thrown into a class of product where it doesn’t belong. Drobo isn’t destined to supplant users like you who can setup and configure RAID 5 machines, or can configure RAID NAS devices that directly connect to networks through CAT 5 cables. Why? Because you know what the heck those things are, how to use them, and how to fix them when they break. You, my friends, are in the minority.

    So what are the facts:

    1. All computer users have important data
    2. All computer users want a reliable backup solution

    Where do most turn? To burning discs or buying a USB drive like the Western Digital Passport. They copy files there and think they’re safe. However, users like us know that’s “better than nothing”, but a load of crap.

    That’s what Drobo is for… to provide a simple, user friendly device that does the things the common user doesn’t understand, and do it well. In fact, the way Drobo handles multi-drive sizes, multiple layers of RAID, instantaneous ability to add space, and the way it can easily grow with the users needs is nothing short of brilliant. Users CAN buy hard drives and slide them into a bay. How do I know that, because people can buy frozen pizzas and slide them into an oven.

    Would networking be a really cool feature? I think so, but I’ve read some pretty good arguments in the Drobo Forums why it’s not really necessary. And there’s an article on how to network the Drobo with an Apple Airport Extreme that was pretty interesting.

  4. After reading through the majority of posts here, it’s clear that most people don’t quite “get” the Drobo. Everyone wants to pit it against NAS devices, complain that building an Ubuntu RAID 5 file server is less expensive, that it doesn’t support ext3 for Linux, etc.

    You see, therein lies the problem. Drobo’s greatest strength turns into it’s largest weakness… the fact that it’s protected storage. As soon as that fact is known, it’s immediately thrown into a class of product where it doesn’t belong. Drobo isn’t destined to supplant users like you who can setup and configure RAID 5 machines, or can configure RAID NAS devices that directly connect to networks through CAT 5 cables. Why? Because you know what the heck those things are, how to use them, and how to fix them when they break. You, my friends, are in the minority.

    So what are the facts:

    1. All computer users have important data
    2. All computer users want a reliable backup solution

    Where do most turn? To burning discs or buying a USB drive like the Western Digital Passport. They copy files there and think they’re safe. However, users like us know that’s “better than nothing”, but a load of crap.

    That’s what Drobo is for… to provide a simple, user friendly device that does the things the common user doesn’t understand, and do it well. In fact, the way Drobo handles multi-drive sizes, multiple layers of RAID, instantaneous ability to add space, and the way it can easily grow with the users needs is nothing short of brilliant. Users CAN buy hard drives and slide them into a bay. How do I know that, because people can buy frozen pizzas and slide them into an oven.

    Would networking be a really cool feature? I think so, but I’ve read some pretty good arguments in the Drobo Forums why it’s not really necessary. And there’s an article on how to network the Drobo with an Apple Airport Extreme that was pretty interesting.

  5. From my reading of their (sketchy) docs, it is not block storage. The Drobo unit pretends to be a virtual 2TB USB block storage unit, but under the hood it knows about the filesystem you are using (NTFS and HFS+) and does the file replication to multiple drives. In a way, it’s a USB-NAS. That’s why Linux is not yet supported, they need to add support for ext3 in the filesystem before that can happen.

    It certainly does not use ZFS. ZFS is insanely great, but it does not have the flexibility to add or remove drives at random like Drobo can.

  6. From my reading of their (sketchy) docs, it is not block storage. The Drobo unit pretends to be a virtual 2TB USB block storage unit, but under the hood it knows about the filesystem you are using (NTFS and HFS+) and does the file replication to multiple drives. In a way, it’s a USB-NAS. That’s why Linux is not yet supported, they need to add support for ext3 in the filesystem before that can happen.

    It certainly does not use ZFS. ZFS is insanely great, but it does not have the flexibility to add or remove drives at random like Drobo can.

  7. After all the complaints about Drobo’s price —

    Now it has been slashed. The foxy new black cube will sotre your terabytes for less.

    Data Robotics, the manufacturer of the Drobo, has announced that the cube’s price is being cut from $699 to $499.

    And, in an unusual move, the company is offering a rebate to anyone who already bought a Drobo above $499.

  8. After all the complaints about Drobo’s price —

    Now it has been slashed. The foxy new black cube will sotre your terabytes for less.

    Data Robotics, the manufacturer of the Drobo, has announced that the cube’s price is being cut from $699 to $499.

    And, in an unusual move, the company is offering a rebate to anyone who already bought a Drobo above $499.

  9. If you really wanna try this out, here’s a discount code that will get you $100 off at the drobo store: REFDANA

    (good thru may 31)

  10. If you really wanna try this out, here’s a discount code that will get you $100 off at the drobo store: REFDANA

    (good thru may 31)

  11. I want to learn more — this sound interesting.

    If its based on ZFS then its a pile of shit. I hope not.

    ZFS is a turd buried in a cream puff … its typical SUN crap … s…. I tried it on a Panther develper release … command line only, not all implemented, a total waste of time. This could be Apple’s fault, but a friend tried it on Opensolaris — ZFS works, but its SLOWWWW…. Sun removed negative comments about performance from their site…. you can still find them on waybackmachine …..

  12. I want to learn more — this sound interesting.

    If its based on ZFS then its a pile of shit. I hope not.

    ZFS is a turd buried in a cream puff … its typical SUN crap … s…. I tried it on a Panther develper release … command line only, not all implemented, a total waste of time. This could be Apple’s fault, but a friend tried it on Opensolaris — ZFS works, but its SLOWWWW…. Sun removed negative comments about performance from their site…. you can still find them on waybackmachine …..


  13. Maybe the guy at Lime Technology can figure out how to add some of Drobo’s slick hardware features in their UnRaid product.

    Ha ha. That UnRaid technology is just UnReal. Look at all the down time and screwing around just to add a drive. Great move, that!


  14. Maybe the guy at Lime Technology can figure out how to add some of Drobo’s slick hardware features in their UnRaid product.

    Ha ha. That UnRaid technology is just UnReal. Look at all the down time and screwing around just to add a drive. Great move, that!

  15. For ~$700, I’d like to see a version that is networkable, has 8-12 drive bays and includes the slick software utilities that are coming with Microsoft’s Windows Home Server for backing up systems on the home network and remote access. Maybe the guy at Lime Technology can figure out how to add some of Drobo’s slick hardware features in their UnRaid product.

  16. For ~$700, I’d like to see a version that is networkable, has 8-12 drive bays and includes the slick software utilities that are coming with Microsoft’s Windows Home Server for backing up systems on the home network and remote access. Maybe the guy at Lime Technology can figure out how to add some of Drobo’s slick hardware features in their UnRaid product.

  17. “Chris: sorry to burst your bubble here. I need my media on a faster bus than on a network drive somewhere.”

    You need a better router.
    Basically you’re saying that the drive is going to fail the instant you dump the movie in from the camera. If that’s the case just dump it back in.

    Also you’re worrying about something that won’t happen in the first place. I would go with the network drive and a good router using NFS, but that’s just me.

    You can do other work while the data is transferring to the networked file system. Computers now a days can multiprocess.

  18. “Chris: sorry to burst your bubble here. I need my media on a faster bus than on a network drive somewhere.”

    You need a better router.
    Basically you’re saying that the drive is going to fail the instant you dump the movie in from the camera. If that’s the case just dump it back in.

    Also you’re worrying about something that won’t happen in the first place. I would go with the network drive and a good router using NFS, but that’s just me.

    You can do other work while the data is transferring to the networked file system. Computers now a days can multiprocess.

  19. USB isn’t really fast enough for some of the work I’d like to do

    eSata, baby, eSata…and Seagate is offa that ship seemingly. :(

  20. USB isn’t really fast enough for some of the work I’d like to do

    eSata, baby, eSata…and Seagate is offa that ship seemingly. :(

  21. Zian says:


    I also have reservations about the proprietary (sp?) format.

    What propietary format? It’s a block storage device.

    In any event, NTFS and all the stuff Microsoft are doing in WHS are all propietary.

    According to Paul Thurrott:


    With WHS, storage is hot-swappable. You can plug in an 80 GB hard drive, for example, and configure it quickly with the WHS Add Drive wizard. When you want to remove it and replace it with a 500 GB drive, there’s a simple wizard for that as well.

    Well, that’s neat, but with the Drobo, you just plug a drive into the unit, and you have more storage. No wizard, no nothing. Unit full? No problem. Remove the smallest drive and plug in a larger drive. No wizard there either.

    And there is still no ZFS under the hood. It’s just block storage.

  22. Zian says:


    I also have reservations about the proprietary (sp?) format.

    What propietary format? It’s a block storage device.

    In any event, NTFS and all the stuff Microsoft are doing in WHS are all propietary.

    According to Paul Thurrott:


    With WHS, storage is hot-swappable. You can plug in an 80 GB hard drive, for example, and configure it quickly with the WHS Add Drive wizard. When you want to remove it and replace it with a 500 GB drive, there’s a simple wizard for that as well.

    Well, that’s neat, but with the Drobo, you just plug a drive into the unit, and you have more storage. No wizard, no nothing. Unit full? No problem. Remove the smallest drive and plug in a larger drive. No wizard there either.

    And there is still no ZFS under the hood. It’s just block storage.

  23. I don’t edit HD yet. This setup should work fine for the kind of work I do.

    LayZ is correct. We have an engineering team that chose the OS’s we use on server side.

    Chris: sorry to burst your bubble here. I need my media on a faster bus than on a network drive somewhere. USB isn’t really fast enough for some of the work I’d like to do (Maxtor/Seagate has RAID drives I’ll use for that). But for much of the work we do these Drobos are just great.

  24. I don’t edit HD yet. This setup should work fine for the kind of work I do.

    LayZ is correct. We have an engineering team that chose the OS’s we use on server side.

    Chris: sorry to burst your bubble here. I need my media on a faster bus than on a network drive somewhere. USB isn’t really fast enough for some of the work I’d like to do (Maxtor/Seagate has RAID drives I’ll use for that). But for much of the work we do these Drobos are just great.

  25. I want to learn more — this sound interesting.

    If its based on ZFS then its a pile of shit. I hope not.

    ZFS is a turd buried in a cream puff … its typical SUN crap … s…. I tried it on a Panther develper release … command line only, not all implemented, a total waste of time. This could be Apple’s fault, but a friend tried it on Opensolaris — ZFS works, but its SLOWWWW…. Sun removed negative comments about performance from their site…. you can still find them on waybackmachine …..

  26. I want to learn more — this sound interesting.

    If its based on ZFS then its a pile of shit. I hope not.

    ZFS is a turd buried in a cream puff … its typical SUN crap … s…. I tried it on a Panther develper release … command line only, not all implemented, a total waste of time. This could be Apple’s fault, but a friend tried it on Opensolaris — ZFS works, but its SLOWWWW…. Sun removed negative comments about performance from their site…. you can still find them on waybackmachine …..

  27. I also have reservations about the proprietary (sp?) format.

    With WHS, it’s just a normal NTFS format and from what I recall, the user can just pull the disk out when he wants and be able to read the data (or something along these lines). I may be wrong though. Feel free to correct me.

  28. I also have reservations about the proprietary (sp?) format.

    With WHS, it’s just a normal NTFS format and from what I recall, the user can just pull the disk out when he wants and be able to read the data (or something along these lines). I may be wrong though. Feel free to correct me.

  29. @54 “At least Scoble is using Fedora Core and now Ubuntu….So at least he should be applauded for making one super wise technology choice.”

    Given his record and pedigree, I rather doubt he had any involvement whatsoever in that decision..

  30. @54 “At least Scoble is using Fedora Core and now Ubuntu….So at least he should be applauded for making one super wise technology choice.”

    Given his record and pedigree, I rather doubt he had any involvement whatsoever in that decision..

  31. @gary,

    You’re being absolutely silly. Scoble has NFS and Samba with the Ubuntu server. On an internal lan he could drag and drop a video file raw onto a RAID Ubuntu cluster through Samba in a minute or so.

    The reason that solution is INFINITELY more attractive than patching each machine is because it’s centrally managed.
    Each person, using Linux, Windows or Mac can use this solution transparently and that server can get backed up nightly or in real time with free software that comes with Ubuntu.

    In an office situation, what Scoble is proposing is probably the most wasteful way you could go about solving that problem.
    Again, Scoble is far from an IT specialist or manager, so who can blame him for wanting the shiny new engadget toy.
    At least Scoble is using Fedora Core and now Ubuntu. He could have used Windows server and that would have lead to some huge problems on the server side. So at least he should be applauded for making one super wise technology choice.

    Supported RHEL4-5 wouldn’t have been a bad choice either, because RH road tests the configurations way more than Ubuntu. Which is part of the reason it costs so much more.

  32. @gary,

    You’re being absolutely silly. Scoble has NFS and Samba with the Ubuntu server. On an internal lan he could drag and drop a video file raw onto a RAID Ubuntu cluster through Samba in a minute or so.

    The reason that solution is INFINITELY more attractive than patching each machine is because it’s centrally managed.
    Each person, using Linux, Windows or Mac can use this solution transparently and that server can get backed up nightly or in real time with free software that comes with Ubuntu.

    In an office situation, what Scoble is proposing is probably the most wasteful way you could go about solving that problem.
    Again, Scoble is far from an IT specialist or manager, so who can blame him for wanting the shiny new engadget toy.
    At least Scoble is using Fedora Core and now Ubuntu. He could have used Windows server and that would have lead to some huge problems on the server side. So at least he should be applauded for making one super wise technology choice.

    Supported RHEL4-5 wouldn’t have been a bad choice either, because RH road tests the configurations way more than Ubuntu. Which is part of the reason it costs so much more.

  33. “Robert, presumably you’re not thinking of using these for HD video editing?”

    The company reps I talked to specifically said no to that idea…for the time being. Firewire is obviously coming eventually.

  34. “Robert, presumably you’re not thinking of using these for HD video editing?”

    The company reps I talked to specifically said no to that idea…for the time being. Firewire is obviously coming eventually.

  35. “Obviously someone else couldn’t keep it under wraps.”

    Not sure what you mean by that – they were showing the Drobo off at Photoshop World in Boston this past week.

  36. “Obviously someone else couldn’t keep it under wraps.”

    Not sure what you mean by that – they were showing the Drobo off at Photoshop World in Boston this past week.


  37. As for my own thoughts on the product, it’s niffty for home storage, but without eSATA or at the very least FW 800, it has no place on a professional editing station.

    Shhhh! Their product management might hear you.


  38. As for my own thoughts on the product, it’s niffty for home storage, but without eSATA or at the very least FW 800, it has no place on a professional editing station.

    Shhhh! Their product management might hear you.

  39. Anyone that thinks that you don’t need reliable desktop storage for projects because drives don’t fail, or that large companies lease their desktop machines and get them replaced every 1-2 years is just not living in the real world.

    In the real world, the one that I live in, drives fail all the time and MTBF numbers mean nothing when a drive drops dead right in front of your eyes. Its MTBF was actually two weeks, not 50,000 hours. Oops, they’ll have to adjust that average failure rate down by .000001% now. That might not affect their product line much, but to me that was a 100% failure. Again, if you don’t think it happens, then you have never, and I stress never, worked in an IT support department in your life. It happens all the time.

    This is why you need resilient desktop workspace. We’re not talking about long-term SAN storage or backed up web sites. We’re talking about all of the raw footage and project files that you are working on now. RAID 0 is great and I use it for my primary drive on this machine, but it only increases your chances of drive failure. SAN’s are a wonderful resilient NETWORK storage technology, but it is virutaly useless for desktop editing, even on gig ehternet.

    As for my own thoughts on the product, it’s niffty for home storage, but without eSATA or at the very least FW 800, it has no place on a professional editing station.

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