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Drobo Performance Stats

December 1st, 2009 10 comments

Some discussions on twitter last week triggered the topic of performance relating to the Drobo’s. This is the 5th consecutive post on Drobo Series of products.

To read other Drobo related posts:

Drobo S and DroboElite – Introduced 11/23/2009

Some very interesting articles on Drobo S and DroboElite

The Drobo Math

I totally love my Drobo but


Here are some performance stats collected with running Drobo as a direct attached storage and using some benchmarking tools to compile these results.  All the performance stats are collected using different criteria’s that can affect the performance of the Drobo. Also used various connection methods including USB and Firewire to obtain these stats.

The entire series of tests have been performed using Mac OSX 10.6.2 host with either USB attached or Firewire attached to the Drobo.

These results are limited to the Drobo and cannot be compared to the Drobo Pro or Drobo Elite or Drobo S.

The test were carried out with using various combination of drives, rebuilt data protection, best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, 1 drive, 2 drives, 4 drives, different drive cache & capacity.

Drobo Stats


I totally love my Drobo but….

November 25th, 2009 3 comments

I totally love my Drobo but….I have to honestly say, its missing some key features…

So over the past two days, I have covered the Drobo technology pretty extensively, all the way from the introduction of the 2 new Drobo’s to what the technology offers today, configuration, setup, overhead, data protection, etc.

There is a collaborative effort ongoing behind the scenes with the GestaltIT Tech Field Day Delegates working on some BeyondRAID technology blog posts.

Here are the previous blog posts on Drobo Technology….

Drobo S and DroboElite – Introduced 11/23/2009

Some very interesting articles on Drobo S and DroboElite

The Drobo Math


Drobo_5bay_Right Front

Though I think the Drobo technology (BeyondRAID) is a pretty solid offering in the industry today, there are some very features that at least the Drobo and Drobo S are missing today.

Note: This is not a comparison of the Drobo to any other industry products, but certainly some items mentioned below would help further drive the value of the Drobo from a consumer’s viewpoint.

  • Enable NAS support (Ethernet). A very important feature that is missing today related to the NAS offerings, a ton of new features could be easily introduced in the Drobo if it was NAS enabled.
  • Drobo manageable through the Ethernet
  • Drobo and the data on the Drobo should be password protected
  • Support for iSCSI
  • Multiple host access, with multiple user access for NAS.
  • File shares based on usernames and passwords.
  • Haven’t yet tried this, but connect a Drobo or a Drobo S behind an Iomega Ix4-200d or a Synology NAS device to natively use the features supported within those devices and use the Drobo’s BeyondRAID technology in the backend.
  • Built in FTP Server
  • Built in Photo Sharing
  • Built in iTunes Library
  • Built in internal mail server (not a must have, but good to have feature)
  • Built in web server for web hosting
  • NAS Shares
  • Active Directory authentication for users on the Drobo
  • Some sort of high-speed expansion to connect between multiple Drobo’s using a 1GB interface or higher, in short some sort of expandable Drobo daisy chain.
  • USB Printer connection
  • Spin down drives if no activity
  • Spin down fans if no activity
  • Spin down and spin up the Drobo based on time of the day
  • Some sort of interface to view activity inside the Drobo related to memory, CPU and other components.
  • Safe eject drives before drive replacements or drive upgrades
  • Some sort of integration with various media appliances from a household including playstation, TiVo, live streaming that would enable data sharing between these devices.

I understand the value Drobo and Drobo S brings on the table with the BeyondRAID technology, but to compete in the consumer (home) market, a device can’t just be a single standalone device and not talk to any other devices in the environment.

We are collecting data at an enormous pace today, but as I say, “We are” indeed means a group of individuals, family, friends. There is just no way to collaborate on the collected data without physically moving the Drobo from place to place and computer to computer for data share.

I totally get the picture of what the Drobo and Drobo S brings on the table, but if I have to spend $800 or around that number to buy a storage unit, I absolutely think it should talk to and share my data between multiple computers, users, appliances, gadgets I have in the household.

There is only one option I can think that would enable NAS data share, which is to use the Drobo behind a DroboShare or a traditional NAS.. Though not sure if it loses any of it’s features by doing so. This option will cost you additional money.

DroboPro / DroboElite

Lets talk a bit about the DroboPro and DroboElite. These products are made for SMB space. They offer great features including having 2 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet, iSCSI support, VMware support, 16 host, 255 smart volumes, etc. The price on the DroboPro / DroboElite is way beyond what a consumer (home) will spend for data storage.

DroboElite Front

Though here is a short list of items I think the DroboPro and DroboElite should have.

  • Removable back-panel to replace power supplies without turning the unit offline.
  • Online replacement of any FRU’s.
  • Redundant power supplies.
  • DroboPro / DroboElite manageable through the Ethernet
  • DroboPro / DroboElite and the data on the unit should be password protected
  • Multiple user access to NAS Shares
  • Active Directory integration for user authentication
  • Built in FTP Server
  • Built in internal mail server
  • Built in web server for web hosting
  • Spin down drives with no activity
  • Spin down fans with no activity
  • At least support 15 drives.
  • Expandable to may be 30 drives through some sort of high-speed bus/loop/port connect.
  • SCSI 3 PGR’s
  • Some sort of management interface to better manage the components, processes, activities, CPU, memory, stats (Read/Write I/O), port stats, etc through this interface
  • Safe eject drives before drive replacements or drive upgrades.

Again the argument stays that the DroboPro and DroboElite offers great technology, plug and play features, VMware compatibility, lower cost and BeyondRAID technology, but are those the only features that I am truly looking from a SAN.

One thing I have learned, it’s hard to survive in the home (consumer) market and SMB space with the same product name. At times its better to have two distinct products one defined for consumer market while the other for the SMB space. The product can still be the same product under-the-hood but with different processing powers and different product names.

Just some thoughts!! IMHO

The Storage Economics Practice – (Post on ITKE)

November 25th, 2009 No comments

A Featured Guest post by StorageNerve on ITKE (IT Knowledge Exchange) – TechTarget about the importance of Storage Economics and some important aspects to consider with establishing a Storage Economics practice for your organization.
Screen shot 2009-11-22 at 1.39.23 PM

The Drobo Math

November 24th, 2009 6 comments

In the previous blog post, I covered the newly introduced Drobo S and Drobo Elite storage systems, they are new product offerings from Data Robotics, you can read about them here.

Today we will jump into installing and configuring a new Drobo.

So after writing this post in its entirety, I decided to change the title of it. Though we will walk through an install of the Drobo during this post, it uncovers the details on writable / usable storage based on what you insert and the amount of overhead it creates with using the BeyondRaid technology.

Here is a video, created while unpacking, installing and configuring the Drobo, you may probably like the sound track of the video.

Song: Jai Ho (Movie: Slumdog Millionaire)

As for the installation and setup, here are some important things to look forward to..

I have to honestly say, this configuration exercise was a piece of cake, but we have uncovered some details around usable space with the Drobo. With the installation of Drobo you do not need to be a storage expert neither a person with a technical background and that makes it a big selling point in the home / SMB space.

For this blog post,  I have used the MAC OSX 10.6.2 installation along with HFS+ file system. But a windows installation with FAT32 file system will be on similar lines.

  • Insert the CD in the CD Rom Drive….let the magic begin…
  • Welcome Screen.
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 1.35.49 PM.
  • Accept the licensing agreement and click on Continue, to install the Drobo dashboard.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 1.39.13 PM.
  • During the installation you will be prompted to register your Drobo with Data Robotics. You can skip this step and register later. If you decide to register now, you will need your name, address, phone, Drobo serial number (found at the bottom of the unit) and some other additional information.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 1.43.10 PM.
  • If you have any Drobo’s connected to the computer where you are installing the Dashboard, please disconnect them at this point.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 1.44.20 PM.
  • It will take about couple of minutes to install the necessary files on Mac OSX or Windows.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 1.48.32 PM.
  • Reconnect the Drobo to the computer. Drives can be installed or uninstalled within the Drobo at this point. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.01.38 PM.
  • As seen in the picture, we have connected the Drobo with no drives in it.  Drobo Volume shows 0 TB usable.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.02.19 PM.
  • Drobo showing no drives present in any slots.  Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.03.34 PM.
  • Insert 1 x 1TB drive in the Drobo, alerts showing the Drobo will not be able to protect the drive until another drive is inserted. You can only obtain data protection through atleast 2 drives in the Drobo. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.04.36 PM.
  • Insert 1TB drive with 32MB cache drive in Slot 0, Insert 500 GB with 16MB cache drive in slot 1. Two drives have same speed but different onboard cache and drive sizes.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.05.58 PM

Note: The beauty of the Drobo is it can accept drives with multiple speeds, sizes and cache on board to create a Drobo thin provisioned volume.

  • Going through Data Protection process now.  It may take about 24 mins for a 1TB drive and a 500GB drive to creat the necessary data protection. During this data protection build, the drives and data on the Drobo is not protected from failures (in short your data will stay intact if no additional drives fail during the data protection build).Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.06.12 PM.
  • After about 21 mins of wait, the data is finally protected. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.13.12 PM.
  • As you can see we have 449GB of available space to create volumes, there are no volumes created so far. Creating volumes in a Drobo world means installing a file system on the volume and making it available to the attached host. Volumes can be bigger than the actual drive sizes installed in the system. Standard Volume sizes offered within the Drobo are 2TB, 4TB, 8TB and 16TB. With 16TB, is possibly only supported with Drobo Pro and not with a Drobo. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.37.48 PM.
  • On the Tools tab, lets setup some values.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.41.04 PM.
  • Blink Lights” will start flashing lights on the front of the Drobo, “Standby” will put the Drobo in Standby mode for maintenance or possibly to turn it off if not needed. “Format” allows you for format the Drobo in HFS+ or FAT32 formats. “Reset” will reset your Drobo to factory setting. “Rename the Drobo and Volumes” will rename your Drobo and the volume names.
  • Drobo will send alerts based on your selection. I like to leave the option on for “when a situation is important” send me an email. This option will only work when an actual computer is connected to the Drobo. If you plan to leave your Drobo unconnected for longer duration of times, you may not get an notifications for failed drives or components.
  • Register your Drobo if you haven’t so far, Check for updates for the Drobo dashboard and Drobo firmware.
  • Format Volume, Here we are creating a 4TB volume, even though the drives we are inserting in the Drobo do not add up to total 4 TB’s right now. We are creating a max volume size at this point based on what we think we may use within this Drobo (Again remember the concept of the Drobo is to expand your storage on the fly). That means if the Drobo was running at full capacity, we would be able to use 4TB of storage with 4 x 1TB drives. Create a volume name, hit continue and wait for about 5 mins for volume format.
  • Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.42.48 PM.
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 2.43.13 PM
  • A confirmation screen pops up and an icon of your Drobo named volume shows up. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.17.57 PM
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.18.14 PM
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.20.35 PM
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.20.42 PM
  • Volume created now is a 4TB volume, though the usable space on this volume will only be 455GB. Remember our total volume is 4TB (Max). Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.23.41 PM.
  • To setup email alerts, go to the Drobo Dashboard email settings.  Include your TO email address, FROM email address, mail server address, port address (generally 25 or 587)Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 3.24.20 PM.
  • To Create Drobo CopyScreen shot 2009-11-23 at 4.53.44 PM.
  • Advanced settings within Drobo CopyScreen shot 2009-11-23 at 4.54.13 PM.
  • Email settings within  Drobo Copy
  • Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 4.54.45 PM.

One obvious disadvantage of the Drobo I see is, the drive writable size with two drives is still limited to the smallest drive in place. With a 1TB drive and a 500GB drive, we have a usable space of 455 GBs. With additional two drives we install, the limitation of the smallest drive will be ignored. Again remember our total max volume size is 4TB, so your host see 4TB of storage but can only save uptoo 455 GB of storage on the disk unless you are able to add other disk in the Drobo.

Lets see by adding other drives if things change.

Lets add a 640GB drive into the mix now. I suspect the total usable storage will now be close to 1.0 TB and not 1.1TB. Lets see….


  • Another drive inserted alert Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 4.59.56 PM.
  • It now seems we have 1.02 TB of usable data. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 5.01.03 PM
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 5.02.15 PM.
  • Added a new 1TB drive in the system, lets see what results we get with this new drive. Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 5.06.20 PM.
  • 1.93GB of data is now usable.Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 5.07.28 PM
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 5.08.35 PM.

Total inserted storage in our case is 3.14 TB, total usable storage is 1.93TB, Total volume size is 4TB, giving us 61% usable storage ration to our inserted storage. About 941 GB of data is used for protection, or call it parity or call is some bit that is used to recover the data.

With traditional RAID 5 (3+1), you will have around 25% overhead.

With traditional RAID 6 (6+2), you will have around 25% overhead.

With Drobo (4) drives, we have around 39% overhead, the cost of BeyondRAID technology.

  • By Rearranging and reformatting the drives, Slot 0: 1TB, Slot 1: 1TB, Slot 2: 640GB, Slot 3: 500GB, the usable space now is 1.94TB, with 2TB of maximum volume size
  • By Rearranging and reformatting the drives, Slot 0: 1TB, Slot 1: 1TB, Slot 2: 640GB, Slot 3: 500GB, the usable space now is 1.93TB with 4TB maximum volume size.
  • Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 6.16.14 PM
    Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 6.16.38 PM
  • Quick Notes:.
  • Volume size of 4TB that we created in this case cannot be changed without a reformat of the drives. So select the write volume size from the get go.
  • End result is at least 39% overhead, If you look at it, its kinda high….
  • Need to test Drobo with 4 x 1 TB drives to see what is the usable storage…i suspect even though you have created a 4TB volume, it is not 4TB usable space.
  • The DROBO offers easy installation, easy setup, easy configuration, easy use and data in place upgrades if well planned.
  • Stay tuned for a deep dive session on how the Drobo works internally….Note: Will update the post around 11:00 Am tomorrow with my finding on overhead with 2 x 1TB drives in the system. So 4TB volume configured, 2 x 1 TB inserted, how much is the usable / writable storage based on those stats. Please comment if you figure out before I update. I suspect it to be around 610GB – 650GB’s total?
  • Oh….the 2 x 1 TB drives produced a completely different result….920GB usable, so here we only have about 8% overhead. This does mean, that even though the Drobo is marketed as a device that accepts drives of multiple sizes, there is an additional overhead with putting drives of multiple sizes in there.Here is the test result…Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 11.47.10 AM
  • Another test revealed with 4 x 2TB drives in the system, the end user was able to obtain about 5.5TB of usable storage, that is about 68% usable space or 32% overhead.
  • One rule of thumb I get out of this exercise, what ever you do, try to keep the drive sizes common between all the drives you use within the Drobo for maximum usable storage or less overhead.
  • Edited 11/24.2009 at 6:00 PM.
  • Some additional test results with the Drobo
  • If you plug in 4 x 1TB drive you get 2.7TB of usable space that is 32.5% Overhead (protection and reserved space).
  • If you plug in 2 x 1TB drive you get 920 GB, that is 54% overhead (protection and reserved space). And again, I am not recommending you use this scenario, using less than 4 drives or different drive sizes causes added penalties.
  • If you were replacing one drive out of the set of 4 x 1TB drive with a 2TB drive, so 1 x 2TB and 3 x 1 TB, no additional storage space is available.
  • If you had 4 x 2TB drives and just replaced two of those 2TB drives with 2 x 500GB drives, your usable storage falls from 5.5TB to 2.7TB 46% overhead.

May be I am looking at this the completely wrong way, but the marketing buzz word around use the drives you have, mix and match drive types and sizes, may not give you an optimal solution. Though if you plan to really keep the drive sizes similar across the Drobo, it may be for you….

  • Comments always welcome, please feel free to correct if you see this differently….