Firmware v1.20 Kills DroboFS Performance

So, in preparation for a Lion upgrade, I installed the latest version of the Drobo Firmware - v1.20 last night. I also upgraded the Dashboard to v2.03 with the shiny new black UI. Well, THAT was a disappointment. Absolutely nothing else has changed, but the R/W performance has been slaughtered.

With the v1.12 firmware I was getting:

  • 65MB/sec READS
  • 39MB/sec WRITES

(And, quite consistently too - I was more than impressed & pleased)

Now, the v1.20 firmware has slashed that performance:

  • 33MB/sec READS
  • 20MB/sec WRITES

That’s HALF boys & girls. HALF! Does anyone have any clue as to what’s going on?!?

Well, you’re lucky, I started a 643MB copy to the droboFS nearly 2 hours ago, and it’s still got 240MB to go (and 41 minutes estimated). 2.0.3 and 1.2 and 10.7.1. People are complaining all over the web - just do a google search. The consensus seems to be not to upgrade to the latest firmware, some are even downgrading having made the move. You do lose TM on Lion, if you don’t move to 2.0.3. Yet nowhere on the Datarobotics site is there any mention of performance issues with the latest firmware and Lion. Just banal claims of compatibility with Lion.

The root appears to be “Apple disables support for the “DHCAST128″ in OS X 10.7 LION , which is commonly used by NAS boxes”. That means Netatalk. I presume DR is using this. But that was known at least 9 months ago. Are data robotics so brain dead that they couldn’t have started working on it back then? I read somewhere that they were asking users to get Apple to reverse the change - as if!

Synology released a fix in late July. Buffalo users got a fix mid august. QNAP got a fix mid july. Data robotics ???

Just as a note, this halving of performance if for me on 10.6.8 - not even Lion. And, I don’t even care about TimeMachine.

FYI, someone from Drobo support called me this morning and talked me through downgrading the firmware from 1.2.0, to 1.1.2. She stated that the only difference was support for time machine in Lion (and I don’t use TM), and the performance hit that was introduced. It’s very easy to downgrade, ftp the firmware from upgrades.drobo.com (look in the drobofs directory towards the bottom). Select upgrade in the tools section of the dashboard and navigate to the downloaded file.

No thanks on the suggestion of a firmware downgrade - my time is too valuable, and while it could be argued that I want & NEED the file access speed back, I think it’s more important to keep up-and-running, and wait for Drobo to fix this issue. I got the DroboFS for a few simple reasons:

  • Its simplicity & elegant approach to NAS
  • Its ability to share a single, huge volume to multiple users
  • Its speed was comparable/better than FW800

So, all they need to do is bring the speed back up, and I’ll be a happy camper. Actually, while the AJA System Test app is showing lower overall R/W performance, Apple’s own Activity Monitor is telling the real story: performance has gone from steady R/Ws to very bursty R/Ws.[hr]
P.S. - Drobo: PLEASE FIX the performance issues with the DroboFS v1.20 firmware updates!

“Its speed was comparable/better than FW800”

Never in a million, million, million years. A Synology or NetGear ReadyNAS, but the Drobo series has always been known for abysmal performance.

Honestly, your “degraded” performance is my normal speed, and always has been.

“Never in a million, million, million years. A Synology or NetGear ReadyNAS, but the Drobo series has always been known for abysmal performance.”

Well, I don’t know what incredible Firewire 800 devices that you use, but here are the real results for my OWC FW800 (a dual disk RAID 0 device):

Extended Ave 18.881 MB/Sec 23.542 MB/Sec

And, here are the performance results of my 5x1TB DroboFS with the v1.12:

Extended Ave 37.284 MB/Sec 21.926 MB/Sec

Each of those tests was an average of 10 R/W cycles of a 25MB file, which is an average size for me. Using the AJA System Test, I was indeed getting the numbers I stated in my initial post (with their smallest 128MB file):

  • 65MB/sec READS
  • 39MB/sec WRITES

With a FW800 device, the AJA System Tests were reporting:

  • 55MB/sec READS
  • 45MB/sec WRITES

Looks better than FW800 to me. Look, I have internal SATAs, so I know how fast a disk bus can be. Furthermore, I have a generic iSCSI JBOD that gets 100MB/sec. over GigE all day long, but that thing is a 500w jet engine beast that’s not fun to admin & keep running just right. I bought the DroboFS because it was a reasonable trade-off between RAID 5 like redundancy and performance. I’m not in denial that it’s slower than other stuff, but with the older firmware it was quite reasonable.

I was completely happy with the v.1.12 firmware. Just sayin’.

That is some terrible FW800 performance. I don’t have a device handy, but ~19MB/sec means you’re only getting 20% of the interface speed.

TCP/IP NAS devices are known for providing something less than full efficiency due to the overhead of ethernet, TCP/IP, file sharing protocols, etc - but a direct connection like FireWire should be providing near 100% of the available bandwidth. The bridge board quality may vary, but something is just wrong to provide performance that bad. Even their own spec sheet says it should handle 80MB/sec over FW800, which is 80% efficiency.

If you look at speeds that others have posted for the DroboFS, you’ll find your new numbers are more in-line with what others have seen - maybe a little lower, but in the right ballpark. Your original numbers are off the high end, to which all I can really say is - well, good for you. :slight_smile: Meanwhile, competing products like Synology and NetGear routinely clock in significantly higher according to all reports and benchmarks.

As for AJA System Test, 128MB is not a good value to use - you’re going to be getting a lot of caching which will skew the values significantly upward. 1GB is going to give you more realistic numbers.

Sigh, I can only dream of speeds measured in mega. I am back in kilo unless I use NFS. I should really downgrade, but the whole Drobo FS thing has had me set up alternatives until they fix it properly. Even my WD NAS has had an upgrade to fix issues with Lion. I just don’t understand why Drobo is taking so long with this. I guess they want to be on the safe side but they have basically rendered my Drobo FS less than useful since upgrading to 1.2 .


Chris, did you upgrade this way?
1] Dashboard shut down the Drobo.
2] Pull out the disk pack
3] Start up the empty Drobo and downgraded the Firmware
4] Rebooted to confirm the downgrade
5] Shut down
6] Place the pack back in
7] Booted normally… and I guess back to the normal before update…

TIA … The key here is - did you downgrade with the pack out of the Drobo box?


Is Data Robotics even listening? Hello?!? We’re a bunch of DroboFS owners that want some decent performance out of these devices! It would be nice if someone would at least acknowledge us.

From what I’ve heard, they do have people who watch the forums (although I have no idea as to how often), but as you’ve noticed, they don’t seem to have anyone employed to actually post anything back.

Re downgrade

No, I didn’t pull the disks. The DR tech did not tell me to, just had me make sure there was no IO ( which mean’t unmounting the drobo on several other machines). I used the dashboard to do the downgrade. I didn’t get performance back, which I put down to the netatalk stack issues with Lion.

Curious observation: I mostly use the DroboFS as Crashplan local storage. Crashplan seems to get reasonable speeds on Lion to the FS, it’s just Finder copies which are terribly slow.

I ahd so many problems with Lion and the speed debacle that I even went out and bought a new Mac Mini with Snow Leopard on it to get everything back to normal. I could not afford the time to down grade Lion and try to down grade the DFS firmware.

Despite two tickets into DRI nothing came of it. The tests they asked me to do would have needed me taking a Bachelor of computer science!!. It didn’t seem to occur to them that I am a plug and play user who just wants what it says on the tin and not a “coder” that enjoys computer science for a hobby…its a tool for me only.

I have 7TB of data which I am considering to move elsewhere to a different manufacturer as my experience with DRI has been shocking and is something I tell anyone considering buying one of their products at every opportunity…


In fairness to Drobo support, you are having a problem that can only be diagnosed on your end, on your network, with your gear. It is unfair to expect that they won’t ask you to do more complex things than what it says on the box. You’d likely be in the same boat with any other NAS maker trying to diagnose a similar problem.


I appreciate your objectivity but lets be honest, the problem I am experiencing is something that is well documented with many DFS users and could have been foreseen by DRI before Lion was out. I am not talking about some little fault that bothers just me and is one of my pet hates, I am talking about a serious firmware design flaw that had crippled the transfer speed just because I updated the operating system.

Given that this is such a fundamental flaw and basic requirement of the device then I would exact DRI support to not only be be cognizant of the problem but be expected to manage it for their users that are not computer engineers.

The problem is not at my end with respect. The problem is that DRI allowed users to upgrade to Lion without at least advising that there maybe a problem and proceed at your own risk (while they find the fault) and once they did proceeded to bury their head in the sand hoping it would go away.

Asking me to find answers that they should already have is a bit rich…

DRI certainly backported more code than just the new authentication requirements, and from all evidence the newer netatalkd code just isn’t very good (oh, it may be more portable, but the functionality is worse, something seemingly lost on the developers). Furthermore, when shares were vanishing, they should have issued an update that cleared the old AppleDB directories and caches without needing the user to resort to DroboApps and the like to clean up their mess.

And of course, we have this lovely radio silence and lack of accountability that we’ve come to expect from DRI.

If I wanted to start worrying about Linux hassles I would have bought a cheaper and faster unit from somewhere else. I didn’t mind spending the extra money to not have to think. Since Lion and the firmware upgrade I have been forced to think so much that I have put it towards ways of moving everything off the FS. The FS is now just an NFS server powered by a 3rd party unsupported add-on. It works great that way. Of course no one in their right mind would buy a $700 unit or whatever the price is to run it as an NFS server unsupported.

What appears to be the case is that for a lot of people Lion and Drobo don’t work, no matter what you do. I have other NAS units. They all work with Lion and they cost nowhere near what the FS did.

If I weren’t so exhausted from this whole firmware thing I’d be annoyed.

Basically, I feel that the FS does not work with Lion at all, and since my network is full of Lions that means it doesn’t work.

Even my Western Digital NAS has had a firmware upgrade to make it work with Lion. Works great.

I don’t understand what the folks at Drobo are thinking. It must be that only a few FS units are affected. Otherwise there would be an uproar.


[quote=“pmcd, post:18, topic:3007”]If I wanted to start worrying about Linux hassles I would have bought a cheaper and faster unit from somewhere else.[/quote]Which would be based on Linux and netatalkd, and suffer just about the same problems.

[quote=“pmcd, post:18, topic:3007”]I have other NAS units. They all work with Lion and they cost nowhere near what the FS did.[/quote]Fascinating, since they all use the same base for their AFP support - others must have done a better job backporting the patches, but the base code is all the same.

[quote=“pmcd, post:18, topic:3007”]Basically, I feel that the FS does not work with Lion at all, and since my network is full of Lions that means it doesn’t work.[/quote]For you. Works here, as well as the DroboFS ever works. Which isn’t saying much.

[quote=“pmcd, post:18, topic:3007”]Even my Western Digital NAS has had a firmware upgrade to make it work with Lion. Works great.[/quote]So did the DroboFS - v1.2. Just because it’s not working for you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m sure there are users who are unlucky with their WD units as well.

I don’t think they care in the first place - they got your/our money.

Despite what it may look like above, I’m not defending DRI. I think they’ve done a spectacularly poor job here, they’ve done no follow-up, they provide no support, and quite simply they should be sued.

The only thing I am defending is the idea that these NAS products are different in some way - outside of Apple’s Time Capsule, they all run Linux, and all run netatalkd for AFP support, samba for SMB, etc. The only difference is support, and that’s where DRI is a complete and utter failure.

Very much so. At this point in time I just wish that DRI would admit they’ve given up on the FS and would just release full instructions for us to make our own firmware for it.

Seriously, how hard can it be for them to just cooperate with the Debian guys? If we could only get a working bootstrap…