Been waiting 3 months for Drobo to get their act together so I can backup reliably via Time Machine on OSX Lion. My backups need to be reliable, not randomly disappear into oblivion and I’d like to get a backup to complete at least once. It would also be helpful if they weren’t as slow as molasses.
So yesterday, I decided to do something about it, sell my Drobos to windows users and never purchase or recommend a drobo again.
This solution is slightly cheaper than a Drobo FS and has more capabilities and drive bays.
Here’s how I did it, it was easier than I expected it to be and finally I have reliable, fast backups and a bunch of additional features for free.
Drobo FS versus FreeNas comparison for Time Machine backups on Lion.
This comparison is using the same quiescent Network, the same Gigabit switches and the same hard disks, so you can consider it a direct performance comparison between the two. It’s for 1.5TB on a 2.66TB volume (5 x 1TB) using dual disk redundancy.
Bottom line, I managed to figure out what hardware I needed, drive to the shop and buy it, run a few errands, build it, install FreeNas, sleep, zero 5 x 1TB disks, run comparison performance tests, backup 1.5TB of total data encrypted on 4 separate machines via Time Machine, all in less time than it would have taken to backup one machine to a Drobo (750MB of data). (Assuming that the Drobo would complete the backup, which it doesn’t).
The hardware I used: Antec Nine Hundred II V3 Gamer Case (9 x 5.25" bays), Zalman Modular 3 Bay HDD Rack x 2, Asus P8H67-M PRO/CSM Rev 3.0 motherboard, Intel Core i3 2100, 8GB DDR-1333 DIMM, 4GB USB Key, Antec EarthWatts 650W Green PSU. You could also use an old PC to run FreeNas.
Drive Bays: 5
Asthetics: 5 RGB Leds and About 10 Blue Leds. Black Case. Small Case.
iScsi: NO (only available on B800i, B1200i and Drobo Pro)
Supports Time Machine/Lion: Data Robotics claim it does, but it doesn’t due to reliability issues
Supports 10GigE: NO
Remote Replication: NO (only available on B800fs)
Raid: (Mirror, Stripe, Hot Spare, Dual Disk Redundancy)
Network Link Aggregation: NO
Drive Assembly: Plugs straight in
Software Stability: Flakey
Configuration: Dashboard (separate package install and drivers)
Replacing Drives: Easy, however performance takes a hit from now on because of the way Drobo moves data when a drive dies (wipe data and rebuild drobo array from scratch to avoid).
Increasing Volume Capacity: Easy (but again, potential performance hit)
— Performance —
Time taken for the Drobo to be seen after client startup: 2 mins
Mount time: 13 mins
Time to produce list of files on volume: 7 mins (on 2nd try, 1st try timed out)
Copy of 11GB file via AFP: Read 50MB/s Write 14MB/s (the write froze midway for 2 mins (not included in the speed))
Time Machine Backup (750MB): 52Hours (estimate from Time Machine progress bar, as backup never completes)
Drive Bays: 6 (expandable to 9 bays for $140)
Asthetics: 16 Blue Leds. Black Case. Large Case.
Supports Time Machine/Lion: YES
Supports 10GigE: YES
Remote Replication: YES
Raid (ZFS): (Mirror, Stripe, Hot Spare, Dual Disk Redundancy)
Network Link Aggregation: YES
Drive Assembly: On a pushbutton screwless carrier
Software Stability: Mostly Stable
Configuration: Via a web browser
Replacing Drives: (if using ZFS, a few command lines)
Increasing Volume Capacity: A few command lines
— Performance —
Time taken for the Drobo to be seen after client startup: Instant
Mount time: 1 second
Time to produce list of files on volume: 2 seconds
Copy of 11GB file via AFP: Read 86MB/s Write 87MB/s
Time Machine Backup (750MB): 6.5 Hours
Note that in my testing, FreeNas reaches very close to the theoretical speed limit of GigE for both read and write, i.e. 100MB/s transfer. (1GBit / 10 bits per byte (8 + 2 protocol overhead)). The Drobo doesn’t even come close. A good quality GigE switch is a must.
Information about FreeNas can be found here: http://www.freenas.org
Information on configuring Time Machine backups can be found here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sT3F5at4cM&feature=youtu.be (ignore the part about terminal, it doesn’t apply).
I’m done with Drobo !