Drobo

Why I got a drobo S over a faster RAID box

I had a 2nd gen drobo connected with FW, but it was running out of space and I was dealing with larger and larger files so I wanted to get a faster array.

The drobo FS looked nice, but I really wanted to connect with eSATA for maximum speed. That meant a Drobo S. Amazon has them for $700 with no tax. Good price, but I didn’t want to spend that much.

During this same period of time, a friend of mine was looking to move to a RAID array. I told him about the drobo, so he was considering one along with other hardware. A few weeks ago, OWC (macsales.com and an authorized drobo reseller) had a garage sale. A garage sale at OWC is a great time to purchase good equipment really cheap. I saw that they had a single 4 bay RAID quad interface box for an open box price of $230. Normally they are $300. I called him and told him about it. He purchased it immediately and bought 4 2TB 5900 RPM Seagate drives from newegg. He put everything together in a few days and was getting 220 Meg/sec read and write speeds. Very seductive.

A week or so later I decided to get the OWC box. I wanted the speed so I placed the order for $300. That means I would be saving $400 over the drobo. A considerable sum of cash.

About a hour later, I remembered that I would need to purchase a spare hard drive to have on hand. With a hardware RAID, a spare drive of the same model and firmware has to be on hand in case a drive fails. My second gen drobo had spoiled me for years. So I looked on newegg and the drive would be @ $80. Sure, I could have waited for a sale to save $10, but a spare always has to be available so I really should wait. Now, the price comparison was $700 to $380; a savings of $320. Still too much to go with the drobo.

I checked eBay again and no deals there. Checked amazon again, no deals. Hmm. I started googling and found the drobo s on B&H Photo for $650. Now the difference is $270. Still too much, but it was getting closer. I went to B&H’s website and started browsing around. $650 was the cheapest drobo s, however, in very tiny print I saw “used for $550.” Hmm, what was that? I clicked on the link and they had an open box drobo s (with full warranty) for $550. $550 is only $170 more than the OWC hardware RAID box. The drobo is worth that premium. Easily. I placed the order immediately and got the drobo S last monday.

I pulled the drives out of my FW drobo and put them in the drobo s. Booted right up. I’ve gotten as high as 105 Meg/sec read and write speeds, but usually I get @ 80 Meg/reads and 70 Meg/sec writes with eSATA. Very happy with that.

Best things about the drobo? I needed to add another drive. Turns out I was using a WD 2TB drive for my time machine backups. I swapped out the 2 TB for a 1TB WD Black Caviar drive and put the 2TB in the last spot in the drobo s. Couldn’t have done that with the 4 bay hardware RAID. The other thing was a seagate drive died in my friend’s RAID array. He hadn’t ordered a spare yet and has to send the drive back to newegg to get a replacement. Luckily, he still has the data on the external drives he copied the data from, but if this had happened a few months down the road he would be down to a single disk catastrophe situation. The drobo would have automatically moved the data across the three remaining drives.

As soon as the 3TB drives, or larger, drop to $90, I’ll be swapping in a few of those without having to destroy and rebuild the array. Yes, the drobo is more expensive and slower than hardware arrays. But to me, it is worth it because that extra money purchases flexibility that other RAID arrays just do not have.

That’s a bingo! I’m always a bit disappointed about posts on these forums complaining that a RAID solution is cheaper and faster. That is most likely true, but it also misses the point.

In my case, I have filled my FS with a bunch of 500 GB drives pulled from several USB casings. As the 2 TB prices fall, I replace those old 500 GB one by one at the best price point. There is no way I would have the budget to buy 5x 2 TB drives when I got the FS, neither would I have the budget to buy the spare space necessary to migrate data when replacing the whole disk pack on a RAID configuration. Don’t get me started on the emergency spares that would have just been sitting pretty on a shelf going completely unused.

I wonder if you take into account the costs over the lifetime of the storage pool (i.e., disk pack upgrades, duplicated storage during upgrades, unused spares, etc), if it actually comes out more expensive than a RAID solution. My guess is that a Drobo solution will be cheaper in the long run.

I can’t blame anyone, though. If it is anyone’s fault, it is DRI’s. They really made a bad choice by calling their technology “BeyondRAID”. I think that name creates false expectations about what the tech really is.

Also, I still think that the whole Drobo family (especially the FS ones) could use better hardware (faster CPU, more RAM) and a somewhat more polished embedded software suite (hint hint, DRI).

yeah a nice “success story” dpuett :slight_smile:

Simple math suggests the Drobo needs to have a long life to make it economically competitive.

The nature of Drobo is such that without tech support it could have a very limited life even if the hardware is fully functional. I’ve talked about this recently.

DRI only promises that you will be able to buy Drobocare as long as the product is in their current lineup. The Drobo V1 is no longer offered Drobocare. Drobo V1 was sold new by DRI as recently as two years ago today. The Drobo V2 is offered only 1 year contracts, not 3 year. I think that says something about it’s expected life, and how long DRI plans to offer Drobocare for it. They are already clearing the decks 3 years out. Or less; I’m not sure when they stopped selling 3 year contracts on V2.

DRI’s standard written policy is that 3 year contracts are not renewable. Since you arguably need to buy it within 90 days of purchase, that puts a 3 year, 3 month life on the array. I will admit that I recently offered a tortuous way to maybe push that to 4 years, but that involves end-running a couple of DRI policies.

If DRI put a faster processor and more memory in the Drobo FS they would charge accordingly. I think they call those units “Elites”. Drobo will never be a good value purely in terms of hardware. That is fundamental to their business plan.

dpuett laid out a very long and tortured rationalization for the very high price of a Drobo S. In part he had to compare new prices to used to help make the numbers work. The fact is, you could buy that OWC box and 5 2TB drives (@ $80) for $700, the same as a Drobo S without disks. To say that the S will save money getting to a 5x2TB array is a bit of a stretch, especially since most (smart/educated) people keep their old drives to back up their arrays, whatever they are, and buy fresh drives.

(edit: I’m not adding in the $250 for 3 years of Drobocare- that would just add salt to the wound of the comparison based on economics. But I should…)

Sans Digital makes a 4 bay hardware raid box for under $200 and a 5 bay for about $300. The only major thing it’s missing is Raid 6 dual redundancy. Just to say that the market is getting quite competitive.

When I bought my Drobo V2 two years ago, 1TB drives were $130 and 2TB drives were $300. Now a 2TB drive is $80. Two years ago the disk market favored the Drobo (more than it does now) and over those two years I did save some money. But if I were starting from scratch today I would have to consider just loading up a cheaper box with 4x2TB even if I didn’t need the capacity for the foreseeable future.

A Drobo V2 with 3TB of total stored data requires 64 hours PER DRIVE to update. In the event of a 4 disk upgrade (250 hours) it would be far faster and easier just to reformat and reload. Even if the V2 gets 3TB support some day, few users will use the “easy upgrade” feature to expand their arrays. We’d be talking closer to 120 hours per disk. I don’t know about the S. I researched that point back into the S forum archives recently and found little if any hard numbers on the rebuild times but what little I saw was not encouraging.

With a 4 bay array two drives need to be updated to see any increase in storage. With a 5 disk running dual redundancy 3 are required. So the difference between the very expensive Drobo vs a cheaper Raid box is only two disks, at $160 the pair, and dropping. It’s hard to justify paying $400-$500 for a premium box with a very uncertain lifespan in order to save $160 down the road someday.

Consider the above, and the very few promises DRI makes about supporting our quest for a long “lifetime” to amortize the very high cost, and you will start to understand why I’ve been so critical about the support policies lately.

You raise interesting points, Neil. But if it is not too much to ask, could you elaborate on a few things?

As I said, I would like to see that math. The prices that you gave for 2TB a while ago seem to be evidence of the opposite.

I’m not sure I understand your point here. Could you please elaborate?

It seems to me that even if there is no support from DRI you could still have a functioning Drobo for many, many years, since they have no moving parts (besides the fan, which can be easily replaced, or so I’m told). The power supply is just a generic power brick, which could also be easily replaced. The motherboard is a low-power, low-heat ARM platform, and I see no reason why it couldn’t work for many many years.

In fact, as far as anecdotal evidence goes, I have a Linkstation Live v2 that has been chugging along for many years now, way after its warranty expired. It is the same processor as the FS, but on a different motherboard (and lower CPU clock). It’s a shame the power supply is inside the box, so I’m pretty sure that is the thing that is going to give up first, because other than that there is no reason for it to stop working.

To me it says that they want to have a fast moving product lineup. Other companies offer lifetime warranties (e.g. HP), but those companies are several orders of magnitude larger than DRI. Given that Drobos are already somewhat behind the competition hardware-wise, I wouldn’t mind that they actually made use of that “fast moving product lineup” potential.

I am sorry for you, but in EMEA the terms are quite clear:

In other words, I could have 5 years of DroboCare support. Not HP level, but already very reasonable.

But all of that seems irrelevant to me anyway. Do RAID products (such as the OWC box) come with extended warranties? Are they offering the same level of support as DroboCare? How long are they? What I’m trying to say is why even complain about DroboCare if the competition does not even have equivalent offerings?

Not necessarily. Was the Drobo v2 more expensive than the Drobo v1 when it was launched? Prices for embedded ARM hardware drops just as much as desktop hardware. Given that the top of line today is 1.2 GHZ ARM processors, a DroboFS v2 could easily have a dual-core 1 GHz ARM CPU and 1GB total of RAM (512 MB of RAM just for the Linux OS). I don’t think this would increase the production costs of the FS in a significant way.

You seem to make the same mistake as others when comparing the costs of maintaining a Drobo. With a Drobo there is no need to buy fresh drives. That is the entirety of their value proposition. Of course you need to backup the content of the Drobo, but surely you agree that there is a cost difference between buying a whole disk-pack every time, and just buying a couple of extra drives to keep copies in case the Drobo itself goes kaputt?

What I have done when I migrating to my FS was exactly that: I would copy the content of some disk to another, then add that disk to the FS. Then copy the content from the other disk to the FS. Lather, rinse, repeat. At the end, I needed to buy only one extra drive (to host the data in transit, but also because I only had 4 drives laying around). How is this not much cheaper than buying a new disk pack of identical drives?

I don’t see why. Does the OWC come with a 3 year warranty? As far as I can tell, a naked enclosure comes only with a 1 year warranty. Not only that, but the terms of OWC’s 3 year warranty seem less generous than the DroboCare equivalent. I could not find information on the 5 year warranty.

You could argue that DroboCare costs something while the OWC warranty is free if you buy the drives from them as well. From their website a 4-bay enclosure filled with 2TB drives costs USD 880. That means USD 145 for each 2TB drive. That means you are paying a USD 260 premium for OWC drives (I’m using your USD 80/2TB figure). In other words, each extra year of OWC warranty costs USD 130, while DroboCare costs USD 69 for a Drobo per year.

Please correct me if these are not the terms of the OWC warranty, but if they are, I can’t see what the problem is.

I couldn’t find them on the Sans Digital website for that price. But as far as I can tell all of Sans devices only have a 1 year warranty. And you are yet again comparing Drobo’s redundancy tech to a RAID system, which I do not think is a fair comparison.

But what will you do when the 3TB drives get cheaper? Buy them wholesale? How are you going to migrate your data to those new drives? Buy a second enclosure? If you do any of these things, then you are again most likely having a more expensive solution than a Drobo.

That is a fair point (although I wonder where the 64 hour number comes from). I never argued for the speed of the Drobo. In fact, my constant complaint in these forums is for an updated version of the FS (the mythical FS v2) that would address the performance issue.

That is a big assumption. Everyone I know that has a Drobo only bought a Drobo because of the easy upgrade. If they did not need the easy upgrade, they bought a RAID device instead.

So you are faulting the Drobo for a fundamental theoretical limit of data redundancy algorithms? This makes no sense. In a RAID device, you can upgrade all of the drives and you will not see any increase storage. What is the point you are trying to make here?

And yet again you are thinking of the Drobo like a RAID device, which it isn’t. You assume that everyone starts with a fresh set of identical drives, which is not always the case. If you take the Drobo Calculator and drag 3x 1TB drives and 1x 500GB drives, if you replace that one 500GB for another 1GB drive you have an immediate increase in storage space. No need to update two drives.

I can stress this enough: forget about identical sets of drives. That is not the core value proposition of the Drobos.

I can relate to your problems with the support policies, although personally I think I won’t be needing them.

Richard,

You don’t seem to understand my math. For the cost of a Drobo S I can buy a competing product AND a full set of 2TB drives, totally eliminating all the need to start with second hand drives and work my way up vias painfully slow (and arguably “dangerous”) array expansions. You argue that starting with scrounged drives and working your way up is “the entirety of their value proposition” yet the reason for doing that is that after spending $700 or $800 for a Drobo S we have no money left to buy any drives :-). That makes it a specious argument. What exactly do you not understand about that math? Be precise with your question.

The only way to get a guaranteed 5 years of some sort of support is to:

  1. Move to Europe
  2. Give up advance exchange of defective units the first year - return unit and wait how many weeks for a replacement?
  1. Give up “tech support”, which is specifically denied after 90 days, per the terms of the warranty.

We’ve talked about ways to try to end-run that, but the fact is that DRI’s policies “highly encourage” a 3 year, 3 month lifetime. That’s to get advanced replacement and uninterrupted tech support.

You question my assertion that it takes 64 hours to upgrade a Drobo that has only 3TB of data on it. That is exactly how long it took me to upgrade each of two drives last year, and how long it has taken everyone else who has reported upgrading 3TB or so of data. This is a fact embedded in the archives here. And, after going through that (130 hours of relay) just to upgrade two drives to get more capacity, I had to do it a 3rd time because Drobo did not like one of my otherwise perfectly good new drives.

It is fair to assume that going from 2TB to 3TB (then having about 5TB of stored data) will take about twice as long, or about 120 hours PER drive, or 480 hours for the array. For a 4 disk machine that is 480 hours when the machine is barely usable (throughput is necessarily terrible since DRI chose to give the relay priority) and, more importantly, the drives are banging away 24/7 for TWENTY DAYS STRAIGHT and subject to a single drive failure. The chances of a drive failure under those circumstances is likely quite high. Anyone that does a disk upgrade of a substantial array without a full backup is nuts. They are nuts not to have a backup at all times, but especially in this case.

It is my firm belief that the “expandability” of the Drobo is just not going to scale up well. It works great in the Cali Lewis demos when the Drobo has a couple of gigabytes of data. But upgrading past a set of 2TB drives is going to be extremely problematic because the Drobo is software heavy and processor light. The numbers just do not work. When and if DRI ever gives Drobo V1 and V2 the promised 2TB upgrade you will see this reflected in forum threads about never-ending relays of 5TB of data.

The idea of a Drobo V2 supporting a 16TB array is a fantasy. Going from 3 to 4TB drives will take a WEEK per drive, at least. Just reloading a failed array, assuming one was smart enough to have a backup, would take 250 hours at 10MB/s, which is my estimate on the actual real world reload time- and that could be optimistic depending on the nature/size of the files.

While I spent 190 hours to get my last disk upgrade completed and then stable and working, I came to the conclusion that the next time I do this, I’m probably just going to reformat and start over. It should go much faster (but maybe not!). And as a side benefit there has been much speculation here that that may result in much better performance, at least in some cases. My only concern is that I might never get the thing reloaded, given the dismal throughput performance of the V2 on USB. That is not much of a vote of confidence in the BeyondRaid concept but that is what the numbers tell me- I don’t have any good way to keep my Drobo array expanding.

If you question those relay times, find me a thread reporting less time for upgrading with 3TB or more of data. Try finding a thread reporting relay times for an FS with over 3TB of data- I couldn’t find one. Maybe instead of questioning my numbers you should try it yourself and report the results.

My point here is to try to reinforce that very arguably the current technology does not support drives much beyond 2TB fairly well. It is not going to scale up as easily as people think. The capacity of the drives are exceeding the ability of the hardware, especially in the case of Drobos with relatively wimpy performance. That is why I’m not excited about the promises of expandability. I can, here and now, buy a competing unit and 4 or 5x2TB drives for the price of an S. By the time I need substantially more space I will need substantially more hardware to support that capacity and I will need or severely want a new, even faster box anyway. And the S is about as good as it gets in the consumer line. I will predict that by the time you actually have 5-6TB of data on your FS and you are ready to seriously upgrade that, you won’t be happy with the results. I want to see how long it takes an FS to upgrade to 3TB drives (or 4TB drives next year or so).

Other storage devices have similar scaling problems but they are more disposable because they cost half as much. My issue here is relying on this idea of “it will pay for itself with it’s long lifetime of expansion”. That assumes too many things- that it will have a long lifetime without needing serious tech support, and that you are willing to live with the scaling problems. I’m becoming less willing to buy into that, especially since DRI is intent on limiting the supported lifetime.

Now, why do I say Drobo needs to be kept on Drobocare?

Conventional Raid is fairly stupid. As long as the hardware works the Raid will probably work. Drobo is different. It is very “smart” or, you might say, extremely complicated in terms of how it stores the data. There is a reason that the logs contain almost a megabyte of text. But we are not allowed to see those logs- by intent. Some suggest it’s to hide proprietary information, but that is just an assumption. Most of the proprietary concepts they are supposedly hiding is in the public patent document, which I’ve read.

It could also be argued that the logs are encrypted because DRI doesn’t want you to know what’s going on- they want you to call support. They want you reliant on support. They want to “force” or “highly encourage” you to buy Drobocare. The problem with that strategy (for us, the customers) is that if they do not guarantee a long life of Drobocare they are effectively placing a far more certain (and rather short) life span on the Drobo.

Last year, after replacing a couple of drives, my Drobo performance slowed to an unusable crawl of 1-2MB/s. The result of my support ticket was that a drive that works perfectly fine in any other application was “struggling” (in the words of the DRI tech) in the Drobo.

If I did not have Drobocare it would have been impossible to diagnose the problem because the logs are encrypted and in any event are not “user readable” to that extent. The “bad” drive tested perfectly using WD tools and HDTune, and performs identically to a same model drive when connected as a JBOD disk on eSata.

People that crack the logs only get temperature and a little overall performance data from it. I know; I used to be able to crack my logs but I don’t have Php so I can’t use the algorithm. And I know it’s a waste of time because the logs were designed only to be understood by the engineers, not the end user. The logs, as they are structured, even decrypted, are not much use to end users.

My experience made it very clear to me that a Drobo without a support contract is a time bomb- and effectively it was designed that way from the ground up.

You don’t understand this because you’ve been lucky and have not run across a similar problem.

Regarding the quick discontinuation of support, you said “To me it says that they want to have a fast moving product lineup… I wouldn’t mind that they actually made use of that “fast moving product lineup” potential.”

You are saying that you are happy to see your product discontinued and you don’t mind being “forced” into replacements to keep a Drobo under support, for the good of the cause, I guess? I don’t understand that. And surely, there is no law saying they must discontinue support when a product is discontinued. They can offer support as long as they choose. But apparently they choose to end support as soon as possible.

You try to compare to other products and question their lifespan. Fair enough, but at $300 that is more “disposable” than an $800 product. I don’t consider an $800 box “disposable”. We will have to agree to disagree there.

I am saying that for the ultra extreme premium price (relative to throughput) of the Drobo, and given the way they have eliminated any possibility of user diagnostics, there should be a far longer assured useful and SUPPORTED life. There is no law that says that a discontinued product cannot be supported. That is a policy choice. And for the cost of support ($69-$100/year) they can afford to continue supporting discontinued products. But they apparently choose not to.. I emphasize this because this one paragraph is the entire point of my previous response, which you completely missed.

You said “Not necessarily. Was the Drobo v2 more expensive than the Drobo v1 when it was launched? Prices for embedded ARM hardware drops just as much as desktop hardware. Given that the top of line today is 1.2 GHZ ARM processors, a DroboFS v2 could easily have a dual-core 1 GHz ARM CPU and 1GB total of RAM (512 MB of RAM just for the Linux OS). I don’t think this would increase the production costs of the FS in a significant way.”

What the incremental price of an ARM costs has nothing to do with DRI’s pricing. They are mainly selling SOFTWARE AND SUPPORT, not hardware. The Drobo V2 was a very minor update to Drobo V1, adding only Firewire. And in fact, after making great hay over the “improvement”, DRI’s advice to us Windows users was “don’t use it”. That is a fact embedded in this forum archive. It may work for Mac’s but it DOES NOT WORK for most or all windows users, and is frequently discussed here.

The Drobo S was that incremental improvement… at over 2x the cost! How much more do you think they paid for the upgraded processor in the S? That is the only difference, except the eSata interface (something you see in $30 external docks now) ajnd the 5th bay. You are right that they could speed up your FS for very little cost- but any suggestion they will is pure speculation and likely fantasy, unless accompanied by a very steep price increase (like 2x). As proof, I offer you the DroboPro FS - at $1800!

As far as “You seem to make the same mistake as others when comparing the costs of maintaining a Drobo. With a Drobo there is no need to buy fresh drives…” and so on, I won’t get into all the math beyond what I already have. I’m just suggesting that if “That is the entirety of their value proposition”, as you suggest, then maybe we actually agree that it makes no sense whatsoever to buy a Drobo UNLESS the whole purpose is to store terabytes of precious data with scrounged drives. By my way of thinking, at this point in time and with 2 years of Drobo V2 under my belt, I would rather spend that money on a cheaper box and full blown set of fresh 2 or 3TB drives for the same money :-). Your logic totally escapes me.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the past two years and looked hard at economical alternatives. Given the practical implications, and the growing disparity in pricing between Drobo and competing units, and the need to maintain SERIOUS backups- more than one copy on the residue of the upgrades - that the expansion ability has very little practical economic value. It is swamped by the premium price of the Drobo, the apparent limited supported lifespan and the need for multiple backups. Growing data arrays and protecting them is far more complex and expensive than what goes into the Drobo.

I will also point out that Synology, for example, now supports expandable mixed capacity volumes, exactly like Drobo. Linux allows for expanding volumes although they need to be done in sets. That’s here and now. I expect that to continue, with more competition for BeyondRaid as time goes on.

Here is a $149 Sans Digital USB2.0/eSata 4 bay box with hardware raid that probably performs better than an FS and maybe a little slower than an S. Here is the updated $180 version with USB 3.0. These are nice “disposable” products that will store up to 6TB of data. They may never handle 3TB drives (I don’t know) but at that price, who cares unless they imminently need to store more than 6TB of data? By the time many people need to go beyond 6TB they will need a new box anyway, no matter what they buy.

I will conclude this already too long post by saying that I think there are very valid reasons for choosing a Drobo. My hypothetical Aunt Sara and Uncle Frank (both totally un-knowledgeable computer users) are more likely to have their data survive on a Drobo than conventional Raid, which would be very inappropriate for them. If Aunt Sara can’t figure out a Drobo she is unlikely to amass more than a single WD Mybook’s worth of data and keep it intact for 5 or more years (although she may need to buy a new Drobo after 3 years or less just to keep DRI holding her hand when the lights start flashing).

What I don’t buy is your reasoning- based on the economics or maybe the mostly illusory convenience of array expansion. The math just doesn’t work, mainly because of the low price/performance but also because DRI seems Hell Bent on obsoleting our units in the shortest time possible. Everything I’ve said is based on a reasonably knowledgeable user looking for an economical way to manage a multi-disk multi-terabyte array.

Neil makes some good points, especially more closer to home regarding the support side of things.

as ive mentioned before, DRI needs to keep supporting the “little guys” - that means both the low end consumer (who probably makes up the bulk of their unit purchases), and the staple units such as the 4slot drobo’s themselves.

i recently found out that i can log support tickets as my care pack isnt due to run out until a few days time - one reply to a query of mine said i can get 1-3 years of extra support by way of care package, but they they followed up with another guy saying i can only get 1 more year - so i’ve queried that to make sure what the options are etc.

but in terms of upgrades - even though ive been fortunate with the drobo so far, (despite the fact that i have 2 units) i wouldnt have felt comfortable in upgrading firmwares/dashboards softwares let alone drive upgrades, without a 2nd (even just local) copy of the data.

ive had powercuts before, and have been fortunate, (sure there a ups option) but if relayouts are taking days its still risky. technically, id have thought that theres in-built protection so that the re-layouts tackle things block by block/file by file etc, and that it should just be a case of stopping/restarting a defrag process, but ultimatley we should still be able to access logs in a meaninful (consumer-readable/understandable) way, and should still be given the option of “hand-holding” via support (even if theres a yearly renewal fee) - otherwise theres no peace of mind.

One way to deal with things that are out of DroboCare may be a “per-incident” support rate, along with UNENCRYPTED LOGS!

Paul,

You pointed out where two people at DRI told you two different things. That is very common, and oft reported here. Personally I would not rely on anything I was told by DRI unless it was in writing by at least a supervisory level rep. That is a reflection of how ambiguous, convoluted and counterintuitive their policies have become. I think they need to work on that. And I think they need to work toward fair policies such that individual DRI reps don’t have to promise things beyond policy, likely because they know in their hearts that the policies are unfair and indefensible. They can fix that without changing their basic business model.

If you consider your data effectively irreplaceable, then you are making a huge mistake by trying to thread the needle to the point where you are comfortable without a backup and only uncomfortable under certain situations such as firmware upgrades and relays. For two reasons:

  1. There are well defined risks that are totally beyond the control of the Drobo. OS corruption, viruses, operator error (a huge risk!), fire, flood, theft, power surges, etc. ad nauseum

  2. We live in a world of cheap hard drives that are very unreliable. That is also beyond Drobo’s control, to the extent that you run out of redundancy.

Most of the economic arguments about Drobo require use of old, presumably unreliable drives and, most critically, relying on Drobo as either a fail safe mechanism or maybe assuming the data is more replaceable than I consider mine. Most of these arguments look at the Drobo in a vacuum, without any concern whatsoever for required backups. This is part of what I am trying to get across to Richard.

If your Drobo loses power during a relay it is supposed to recover from that, by virtue of it’s internal battery. And I have no doubt most of the time it will because people have done just that and reported here a happy ending. However, DRI will not guarantee that it will. They won’t, for example, pay for data recovery. We, the users, are forced to try to ascertain the likelihood of such events or, alternatively, just maintain backups, as even DRI strongly suggests in their warranty and Best Practices FAQ.

Very perversely, Drobos promise of economic efficiency only works if you ignore their recommendations (always buried deep) to maintain full backups, and multiple backups, at all times.

Paul, you advertise in your sig that you got 13.2MB/s sustained writes fpr 6 hours. That is very consistent with what I see, although I am not convinced you would get the same throughput reloading 3TB of data. I suspect your 13MB/s is best case and not the most likely case. But, assuming the best, that’s 47GB/hour. That’s 20 hours per terabyte. You have 4x1TB or up to 3TB of capacity on your Drobos. That means that if you do not have a backup, and in the event that you are fortunate enough to have a problem that is not sudden and immediate, that you are up to 60 hours away from getting backed up. And to get there you have to run your presumably troubled Drobo at full bore for those up to 60 hours. With 4x2TB disks you would be up to 120 hours away. With 4x3TB disks (should we be fortunate to have our promise upheld) you would be up to 180 hours (7.5 days) away from safety. Just something to ponder as you ponder scaling up your Drobo…

(I know you, Paul, back up- you dedicated a 2nd Drobo to that task. But I’m talking to the majority that do not do a proper job of it and incorporate that lax attitude into economic benefits of Drobo expansion)[hr]

Per incident support is mentioned in the warranty. But not the cost.

When I last talked to a DRI rep I was told that if I had a broken Drobo V1 they would “fix” it for a fixed price. $300. I did not bother to ask what warranty came with that fix.

The amazing thing is that I think the rep maintained a straight face when he quoted me the number. Of course, I could not see his face :-).

I did not mention out of warranty repairs because it is an unknown number that may (likely?) not be economical. I’d be curious to hear any actual real world experiences with per incident support and the price charged.

Just a comment about the log encryption. The problem is not so much the encryption as the readability.

About a year ago there was some discussion here about a change in the encryption in a FW release more or less coincident with the support for Advanced Format drives. Prior to that time many of us were decrypting logs using a very simple Ruby script. At around that time I had “lost” my Ruby install due to a roll back of my OS drive, which I do from time to time to clean out the garbage. Based on that thread I did not bother to reinstall Ruby to see if the old decrypting logic still worked.

Based on a comment in a thread the other day, I reinstalled Ruby and, sure enough, a fresh log taken with Drobo V2 FW 1.3.7 and Dashboard 2.0 decrypted. Apparently nothing has changed in the encryption department, at least for Drobo V2. In re-reading the old thread I see the change may have been made to DroboPro only?

Anyway, now that I could decrypt my logs I decrypted the log I sent to my DRI tech rep reporting very slow performance, as mentioned above. The response from the rep was that a certain drive was “struggling” in the Drobo although it may work fine in other configurations.

I spent some time going through the log, trying to find whatever DRI relied upon to determine the problem drive. I see nothing in that log that indicates a struggling or bad drive.

I don’t doubt that it is there. But I can’t find it and I consider myself a reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable user. Others with more patience of imagination might find it?

This is just to say that, while decrypting the existing logs has some value - temperature, CPU utilization and throughput graphs, for example, it is not the solution to the core problem. It does not even directly indicate SMART stats in any way that I’ve discovered.

It is obvious to me that DRI would have to do a fair amount of work to make it user readable, aside from the removal of any proprietary data. But that is a (IMO bad) decision they made in the early days to keep their users in the dark, short of Drobocare support.

I agree 200%.
No support after 3 years + low/decreasing performance + incredibly long upgrade per disk (I doubt the 2TB->3TB upgrade on the Drobo-V2 will not be much worse than 64h/disk) => poor long term price/performance ratio.
Furthermore, the obviously complicated (and not too well supported) Drobo firmware worries me : while trying to overcome some rare hardware failures, one may actually be generating more frequent software failures, especially during disks upgrades and rebuilds.
Data Robotics is aiming at the semi-professional market, expecting there much higher margins, but I am afraid they will also find there people with much higher expectations and very low tolerance for “half-good” implementations.
They may regret neglecting the “prosumer” market when they get badly burned by disappointed professionals for delivering much less than they promise…

Just speaking for myself, I am least concerned with the BeyondRaid firmware. And I figure that if I was uncomfortable with that, then there would be no reason at all to pay the huge added value tab for it. I haven’t seen much indication of BeyondRaid failure here. It is very difficult to discern, of course. People lose their arrays, but sometimes it is OS corruption and sometimes seems to be multi-disk failure.

Back when I bought my Drobo was right in the middle of the Seagate 7200.11 firmware fiasco. At that time there were a lot of concerns here, but I think in retrospect when those bad drives went away most of the array failures disappeared too.

I think you are right about the business market. I’m surprised to see performance complaints from DroboPro users (which I consider a solid business level product- at least gauges by price, although others may not) and even some of the higher end products. Interestingly, the only model I don’t see performance complaints for is the S model, which seems to get fairly consistent 70-80MB/s performance, which I consider very good. But that is priced at high end NAS prices, not eSata DAS prices.