Storage

iSCSI Gets Dirt Cheap With DroboPro

Data Robotics Corporation thinks highly of its Drobo units. It calls them “the world’s first data robot.” It calls its technology “beyond RAID.” I like the product, but I think maybe Data Robotics is a little full of itself.

Last week, the DroboPro I ordered arrived at my desk. I’d been looking for a cheap way to augment my backup to disk solution with some spacious, cheap, and redundant storage. This seemed like a good fit.

For what it is, the DroboPro is very inexpensive. For $1300, you get a drive enclosure which supports eight SATA drives and automatically provides the appropriate amount of RAID protection. OK, again, they call their technology “beyond RAID,” but it sounds a lot like RAID 1, 5, or 6, depending on the number of disks and amount of protection you choose.

The nice thing about the technology is that it automatically grows the array if you add disks later on. You can even yank out a smaller disk, replace it with a larger disk, and the DroboPro will automatically adjust the array size. You can even toggle back and forth between RAID 5 and RAID 6. You can use different sizes of disks, but you’re always throwing away the equivalent of your largest disk in the name of redundancy (or two disks in the case of RAID 6)

Let’s, be clear: This isn’t Enterprise-class stuff. There are no redundant power supplies, no redundant RAID engines, and despite the fact that it’s an iSCSI device, it is only designed to be attached to one computer at a time.

Installation was about as easy as could be. I installed the Microsoft iSCSI initiator, the Drobo software, eight Seagate 1.5TB drives (at $129 each) and used a patch cable to connect the DroboPro to my computer. After accounting for redundancy and overhead, I immediately had 9.31TB of storage available. Not bad for under $2500!

Since I’m using this for backups, I took advantage of the fact that it uses Ethernet to put the DroboPro in a physically separate data closet. If a fire, flood or other act of God ever destroyed my server room, my most recent backups have a good chance of survival.

DroboPro also provides USB2.0 and Firewire 800 connectivity, although you can only use one interface at a time. I don’t know why you’d bother though since iSCSI is faster and much more flexible.

Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.

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