Drobo

Any real problem with using an unsupported eSATA card?

Do I absolutely have to purchase a Sonnet e2p card or can I run a Drobo S off an unsupported eSATA port? The Drobo S mounts and benchmarks just fine, but it doesn’t show in the dashboard app. Is there a real chance of data corruption or the drobo s blowing up?

My own opinion on this is that for $60 in your case you get the privilege of contacting support if you have a problem and eliminating any question about interface cards. That is worth the price of admission, plus your time and maybe data risk if you do have a problem.

Since their compatibility list includes a rather long list of cards that don’t work, I paid the $30 (in my case) and was happy to get past that.

If my data is worth the cost of a Drobo I figure it’s worth getting a tested card. It’s a religious thing, though, learned after spending too many hours fighting compatibility issues with other things.

I had a Firmtek card before; it worked great for everything except the Drobo. The lack of information about the Drobo bothered me, so I got the Sonnet card instead.

Thanks for the replies. I agree completely and I had already ordered a e2p (stupid 3G card) before my post. I wondered what others thought.

duett, you are asking about esata for for MAC OS, right? I don’t think using an unsupported card will blow up your DroboS, but now that you suggest it corrupting your data on the DroboS, I would agree that would not be unimaginable.
I agree with NeilR, and would only use a supported card, unless I had an expense account to test card with. My bad experience: I thought I had a supported card for FW800, but according to the “offical KB” it is not listed. And I have only gotten the FW800 to work properly in Windows with my Drobov2 on one occasion. Wasting money is not something I do for fun.

I would go further and suggest that data corruption is not just unimaginable but in the event of incompatibility it approaches inevitable.

My reasoning is that in the event of incompatibility there are two most likely outcomes:

  1. The box just doesn’t connect at all (fails solid). That is the best outcome because you know where you stand as soon as you plug it in :-).

  2. The box connects but it won’t stay connected. It might disconnect a couple times a day, maybe once a week. From what I’ve seen researching other storage boxes this may be the more likely outcome. In this case when it does disconnect from the machine it is no different than yanking the interface cord out of the device. Whatever was in the process of being written was interrupted and even if you weren’t writing data the OS likes to write to drives in the background (at least Win surely does).

In Windows this sometimes results in “Delayed Write Failures” which are insidious errors that are easy to ignore but the plain English translation of that error is “I just corrupted some data”.

At that point it is only a matter of time before some data gets corrupted or the entire file system directory gets corrupted. At least that is my conservative thinking in this regard.

I used the Rosewill RC-219 eSata card listed on the Drobo HCL. It works fine for the DroboS but I’ve only had it up and running for a couple weeks. I don’t have any errors thrown into the Win7 event log.

The only thing I don’t like about that card is that it is spec’d for “Hot Plug” and not “Hot Swap”. That means you can plug a device in while the machine is booted but you cannot safely remove it because in Windows it won’t show up in the Safe Remove icon. It also does not seem to pass SMART data through like my MOBO ICH10R sata connections do. Since the card has two ports it would be nice to be able to use the other port for something else, such as a simple JBOD device like my BlacX docks.

Interestingly, the DroboS, via eSata, does not show up in the Safe Removal option as it does when connected via USB but DashBoard comes to the rescue with it’s own “Save Removal” option.

All of the cards specified for Windows are Sil3132 based. Only one of the cards appears to be specified for Hot Swap - the IOGear card - but that card is no longer available. And that spec may not have been legit. I can only assume that the problems passing SMART data are generic to the Sil3132 chip but I’m not interested in buying another half dozen cards to research that point.

I personally think the computer industry is in a sad, sad state of affairs. It’s 2011. The IBM XT and early apple machines were introduced almost 30 years ago now and still simple things like getting SMART data and getting devices to truly hot swap (using modern recently innovated interfaces) is a black art at best and if you’re really lucky your device might actually stay mounted.

This is just to say that all the complaints about Drobo interfaces are not unique to Drobo. I’m going through this now with a cheap SansDigital DAS box I bought. Fundamentally it’s a nice box and a fast box but because of a few “broken promises” in the way it was marketed and spec’d it may be not much more than useless for me.

As I understand any eSATA controller with full port multiplier support will work, though if it’s not one of the listed controllers they support you will not receive trouble shooting help from the support line.

This bit me in the ass when I picked up a small form factor Dell Zino HD as a server to attach to my drobo. Apparently it used the AMD 780G chipset in which the sata controller had a bug causing port multiplier to not function properly in Linux.

I have had to run the damned thing in USB2 ever since, which is a bummer.

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