Drobo 5N vs Synology DS1512+

So I’m at an inflection point - I have a stack of hard drives on my desk since selling my FS, and now need to replace that unit. Until recently that was a straightforward decision - 5N - but with the lack of apps I’m thrown back into analyzing datasheets and such. No apps is a Big Deal for me.

After comparing the two products, here are the pros/cons I’ve found:

Drobo 5N:
[list][]Simple data migration - just pop in the disk pack.
]Based on past devices, should be cheaper than the 1512+ (anyone see official pricing on this yet?)
[]SSD data tiering; possibly better concurrent I/O performance as a result
]Trayless design more convenient for swapping drives
[*]Single fan; from 5D design should be much quieter[/list]

[list][]When using link aggregation, much faster than the Drobo 5N (200MBps possible; single gigabit link tops out just past 100MBps)
]3 year warranty (Drobo 5N has 2 - better than the 1 of the FS)
[]Expandable to additional arrays; 15 drives total
]DSM has more protocol and feature support than even I know what to do with. The spec sheet on it is simply astounding.[/list]

In general, the Synology seems higher end - especially the software - but I wonder how much of this is theoretical. For instance, while the link aggregation and higher performance sounds good, I don’t know how often (if ever) I’ll be pushing that much data around, seeing as my machines all max out at a single gigabit ethernet connection. Likewise, I’m certain I’ll never use the disk expansion chassis support.

As for the Drobo 5N, I don’t know how much the SSD will do for performance. It might be huge, it might be unnoticeable. It’s all up to how they designed it.

The Synology has far more robust built-in features (just look at the protocol, server, and monitoring support!), but I’m very hazy on how “hackable” the thing is beyond those apps. The FS let me do whatever I wanted - including running local perl scripts for batch processing. Then again, the app situation on the 5N might be much worse.

Finally, I don’t have any knowledge on the pros and cons of Drobo’s BeyondRAID versus Synology Hybrid RAID. They appear to do the same thing, but are there corner cases where one is better than the other?

you missed out what for me was a crucial pint, and why i now have 20 drives in my synology…

WHEN somethign goes wrong (it will… at some point…)

Synology can actually SSH DIRECTLY into your unit and troublshoot it from command line…

which really beats the pants off emailing encyrpted logs to Drobo tech support then waiting days for a reply only to be told they cant fix it (as has happened to me TWICE)

and in terms of data recovery - the synology use standard linux raid - any company can “easily” rcover it

and synology have a lot of apps

and even if you dont use link aggregation - that extra speed an be put to good use when rebuilding![hr]
and as for how hackable it is - increidbly, im not a linux person so have no idea what im doing, but you have full linux root command line access to it

heck, apparnlty some peopel have even installed windows home server on the hardware!!! (its just an atom powered pc in a nice case…)

feel free to ask me any questions, i went:

Ds1010+ & DX510


DS1511+ & TWO DX510

to RS2211+

to DS2411+

to DS2411+ & DX1211 - my currnet setup[hr]
and dare i say… i havent seen any spam on their forums…

I kind of hinted at it in the other thread but I think apps vs no apps is a bit of a market differentiator.

Sure, the current FS units were marketed with “all this expansion potential” but how many people actually succeeded in it compared to how many got frustrated and scared off?

I think Docchris has it in terms of “hackability” - there are definitely better options out there for a “hackable” unit.

synology have apps… and a nice GUI to install/manage them (my synology is running sickbeard, sabnzbd and crashplan!)

they have the capacity for you to add addditional third party unsupported repo’s for additional apps in the gui

and on top of those two options - you can still telnet direct into the unit and install whatever the hell you like if you have that level of expertise

something for everyone

hi diamond, couple of things to mention…

maybe looking at the patent records will help show the differences?

the ssd card i think will help overall, because you’re bound to have smaller files in some quantity stored on your drobo(unless your files are simply large blu ray files in multi-GB’s, etc, in which case i dont really see much of a speed boost)

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I’m also looking at the DS1512+ - I wish Synology did a 5-bay version of their 413j, then I’d be sold. 4 drives just doesn’t offer enough expansion for me, particularly if I want dual-redundancy.

This leads me to one of the differences between Synology and Drobo’s proprietary raid-like controllers (SHR and BeyondRaid), which was overlooked above, and may not be as important to some as others. With Drobo, as long as you have enough spare space, you can switch between 1 and 2 disk redundancy whenever you like. With Synology, as far as I can tell, once you choose, you can’t go back (even if you’re going from 2 to 1 disk and therefore creating extra space).

Synology are definitely hackable from an apps perspective. I’m pretty sure some of Ricardo’s Drobo ports were based on some of the Synology hacking that others have done.

I’ve also managed to get Serviio onto the Drobo based on Synology hacks I’ve found on other forums (got it on there, got it running, but it pretty much slowed to a crawl and became unusable).

while you cant go back - you can convert from Raid 5 to RAID 6

but you cant convert if you are using SHR

“but you cant convert if you are using SHR”

I do wonder why this is the case - I’m guessing the single and dual redundancy must have a different layout scheme. It makes a lot of sense to me that if you were using dual, and wanted to revert to single, it should be able to wipe one of the drives (and still have redundancy), and then rearrange/heal/expand (whatever you want to call it) volumes such that the extra space is allocated and used.

It seems that the underlying layout on Drobo must be quite different and (possibly?) better thought through. My understanding is

  1. if you have enough space you can convert from single to dual redundancy
  2. if you’re running out of space and decide you don’t need dual redundancy you can go back to single and the extra space is allocated to the filesystem
  3. if a drive fails and you remove it (and don’t replace it), if there is enough space it will rearrange things so you still have the same level of redundancy as before the drive failed (although this is a slow process).

Although more flexible, I wonder if the underlying layout is one of the reasons we don’t see the same speeds in the Drobo FS as with the Synologys?

Synology uses standard linux software RAID (as i understand it)

going from RAID 5 to RAID 6 seems to be trivial, going the other way is possible in linux (i think) but not supported

under SHR, Synology uses LVM to combine several differnet arrays into one large volume, i would imagine that changing these underlying arrays one at a time carries and unacceptable additional level of risk/complexity which is why it is not supported

Dual redundancy is not just a second copy of the parity disk. If it were, then a failure of any two “data disks” would fail the array. Only a parity disk failure would be survivable. The 2nd parity disk/stripe/block is a very different and very complex computation. Wikipedia explains it if you like complicated math :-).

Drobos store their data in 1 or 2 GB “zones”. A Drobo array can have any mix of mirrored or parity zones, and that is how it is able to morph itself about. In order to maintain those Zones, the Drobo maintains a very complex table of the locations of all those zones on all the drives, including location and type (parity or mirror).

Synology is standard software Raid (MDADM style). As Chris mentioned, it does its magic by creating multiple LVMs as needed to fully utilize available mixed capacity drives. All Synology does is to put the administration of those LVM’s underneath a simple GUI interface to isolate the user from the complexity of building those LVMs, which is typically done in Linux in command line mode.

I don’t think Beyond Raid is “better or worse” than Synology SHR. I think of it as a different set of compromises and trade-offs.

Standard Raid is far more efficient because the Raid controller just reads the same sector on each drive, concatenating the results into the real data. For an array rebuild, for example, it simply does a sequential read of the “good drives”, and does a sequential write to the rebuilding drive. It typically runs at disk speed (if the controller has enough horsepower).

For standard Raid (and MDADM/LVM Raid), each related bit of data within a given Logical Volume on all the parity and data disks are in the same place in each respective drive).

To read some data, Beyond Raid needs to find the zones for that data on the zone map, and then individually read each of those zones on all the data drives (or the parity drive and the data drives less one bad data drive). The related zone on each physical drive is likely in a completely different place. That is far more like “random access” than traditional Raid.

Standard Raid has much less flexibility and Synology SHR has more flexibility than standard Raid, but less flexibility than BeyondRaid, but probably the same general efficiency as standard Software Raid in terms of reads, writes, and rebuilds because at the core it is dealing with (perhaps multiple logical ) standard Raid partitions and all its reading and writing is “sequential”, just like standard Raid, and the mappings on each drive are identical.

Personally I think Synology SHR is a better overall compromise of feature set/performance than BeyondRaid but that is in the eyes of the beholder. For example, basic performance is more important to me than the ability to shrink arrays or go flipping back and forth between dual and single redundancy.

In other words, Synology SHR only deals with a small handful of LVM’s at worst, where BeyondRaid is always dealing with many thousands of those 1 or 2 GB zones and the zone mapping.

And I also have noted over time a number of reports of problems with Drobos flipping back and forth between single and dual parity. That is probably not due to “defective firmware” but the risk you endure any time you completely rebuild one or more sets of parity, plus do all that shuffling about of data on the various drives. It is just more susceptible to multiple drive failures of various sorts.

Because BeyondRaid has a more complex mapping of data it requires more horsepower in the processor than standard Raid or SHR to achieve the same results. That would require Drobo to spend relatively more money on the processor(s) per final retail dollar of the enclosure. My sense is that Drobo charges a relatively high premium for their processing power, higher than Synology, for example, and certainly when looking at the final results and not just the absolute cost of the processor. For that reason, I don’t think we will ever see Drobos outperforming Synology’s at any given price point.

If someone made a DAS enclosure based on Linux LVM I would be on it in a heartbeat because, at least in principle, I like the performance/feature trade-offs better. But no one does, and it may not even be feasible. Keeping in mind that, for example, in principle a Drobo can work with any file system - Mac, NTFS, or Linux, where MDADM only works with specific Linux file systems and that may somehow be inherent to what it does.

Keep in mind that Linux is an entire OS, and NAS boxes are totally independent computers, including that OS’s file system(s) of choice, whereas DAS Raid is just a middle-man layer. Because of that I don’t think comparisons of Drobo DAS boxes verses Synology boxes are “fair”. Comparing Drobo FS boxes against Synology is very fair, for course.

I spent a while looking for something like a *nix or Windows OS-driven box that could act as a direct-attached storage device connected to another host…

In theory any OS that can act as an iSCSI target could do it (like the Microsoft iSCSI target for Windows Server 2008 R2), but after reading how to configure it I came full-circle and decided I don’t want to maintain a full OS on my storage “appliance.” :slight_smile:

“close” to DAS could well be using the synology with iSCSI…

plus (also a consideration for me - having once lost EVERYTHING on a drobo due to a simple firmware issue!!!) since synology is using standard linux configurations - the drives can be taken out, given to any halfway competent data recovery company, and they will be able to get right to work.

At the point when i had my issue there were ZERO companies which could do drobo data recovery.

i believe there may be some now - but you can bet it will be MUCh more complicated (which will almost certainly equal MUCh more expensive)

the other advanatage of NAS… the only time i have had minor synology issues… their tech support has been able to remotely log in (from taipei!) direct to the synology and use linux command line tools to achieve what i coudnlt do via the GUI)

The other day, on Amazon, I think, I saw “Data Recovery Insurance” being offered as an option, for about $29/yr (could buy multiple years). That is a neat idea for those that refuse to back up their Drobos. But on a quick look right now I didn’t see it.

Just as a comment while on the subject of Synology Support, I know you have reported good support from them, but I see a LOT of complaints in Amazon and Newegg reviews about “abysmal” or “nonexistent” support. I’ve never understood that or had a reason to spend more time trying to unravel that, user reviews being what they are.

I’ve seen the same inconsistent reports here about Drobo support, but I have always had very good experiences although most of it was with one particular 3rd tier rep for whom I “had her direct line” for a couple of years (and may still have it).

I’ve had three support tickets with Drobo in the three years I have owned them. I’ve never waited more than 24 hours for a response.

Last year, when I thought I had lost my entire diskpack, Support called me 20 minutes after I opened the ticket.

Drobo phone support is excellent. Drobo’s trouble ticketing system will drive you to insanity.

ive raised probaly more (overall) support tickets which were questions than actual issues it think :slight_smile: but yes the phone support is very good, last time i think it went to a team in germany and it was very good.
a lot of companies go out of their way to hide the contact numbers, so i was glad droboinc kept a contact number.

contactable support = a very good service differentiator :slight_smile:

also Neil:
when you mention those 1 or 2 GB zones and the zone mapping, is that like subdividing the data areas?

eg if you take all your data and make it into 4 star trek Quadrants like a 2x2 grid, (alpha1, beta2, gamma3, delta quadrant4)

and subdivide alpha (1) into another grid of 2x2
eg= human sol (1), bajoran (2), cardassian (3), ferengi (4)

and further subdivide human sol (1) into 4:
(federation homeworld hq (1), federation outpost (2), fed starbase (3), and fed research station (4)

then if you want to access data from the federation research station, would the grid reference be at:
Sector 1-1-4?

is that how the drobo calculates the data locations? if so theres a lot of processing at work :slight_smile:

have you been drinking?

they are probably just linearly numbered, gigabyte 1 one disk 1 is “Paritied” with gigabyte 6 on disk 3 and the result store in Gigabyte 5 on disk 4

at a very conceptual level

Years ago now someone here (or more likely in the old forum) posted a link to the BeyondRaid patent. It was a good read and explained the zone scheme, how it is created and how it is repaired, as well as how the disk expansion works. It’s worth googling or searching if you know how to search patents. I don’t have the link but I did save a copy.