A Better RAID?

April 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm Leave a comment

My previous post outlined the problem that I have with RAID.  To ensure you have a reliable RAID array, you buy the Enterprise level drives, which are about 40-50% (or so) more expensive than your run-of-the-mill desktop drives.  It’s important that all drives in your array are the same model, to ensure peak performance.

Before the ReadyNAS line of appliances, if you need more space, you had to rebuild the array with more or larger drives.

With the ReadyNAS, if you need more space, just add more of the same model of drives.  Convenient, right?  If your RAID’s drive cage is full, though, you must buy all new drives and replace them, one at a time.  When they are all replaced, it will expand the RAID capacity on the next reboot.  It’s not a cheap solution, but it’s pretty easy to manage.

Drobo has a better way.  With a Drobo, you pop in whatever drives you have available, and it will build a redundant array of the maximum capacity that it can come up with, given the drives you provide.  Automatically.

Need more capacity?  Buy whatever drive is on sale that has a greater capacity than your smallest drive, and replace that smallest drive.  It will reshuffle your data around, expanding the redundant capacity.  Automatically.

If your Drobo isn’t full, it’s even easier.  Just buy a new drive and pop it in and Drobo does the rest.  Automatically.

This sounds amazingly wonderful from my perspective.  Is it really possible that it could be this easy?  Just use off-the-shelf desktop drives, whatever brand you want, whatever is on sale?

There must be some problem with a Drobo, right?

Until recently, I would have agreed. It handles RAID in software, making it relatively slow.  The original Drobo was a USB device.  Even the new 5 bay Drobo S that came out late last year is still a USB/Firewire/ESATA device, not a true NAS. (Though, the Drobo S is supposed to be much faster than the original Drobo units)

They do offer the DroboShare, to “turn” your Drobo into a NAS, but I’m a purist and don’t consider that an acceptable solution.  Part of me has been hoping they would come out with a real NAS solution, but I really didn’t expect to see one, given their track record.

April 6, 2010.  Enter the Drobo FS.  It’s the Drobo I’ve been waiting for, an actual NAS.  And it is supposed to be even faster than the Drobo S, capable of speeds in the 30MB to 40MB/sec range, according to the Drobo people.  That’s a good bit slower than my ReadyNAS Pro, which is in the mid 40 MB/sec range on AFP.  (But a great deal slower than the ReadyNAS Pro on CIFS, at 65-70MB/sec)

I was waiting for reviews of the Drobo FS to hit the web, but yesterday decided to pull the trigger.  Mine should arrive Thursday.  I hope to be able to post a review here in the next week or so.

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Entry filed under: General, Networking.

The downfall of most RAIDs Drobo FS Review, part 1

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