Friday, July 13, 2007

The Next Step in Media Storage?

I'm fascinated with the new Drobo, a data-storage solution from Data Robotics, Inc. This $500 box is an enclosure which can hold up to four SATA hard drives (SATA I or II, half- or full-height).

Drobo connects to your Mac or Windows computer via USB 2.0 connection, and produces common USB 2.0 drive performance - up to around 20MB/second read/write. The fancy part is that if you put more than two drives in the Drobo, it automatically configures them to behave like a RAID type 5 array, but the action is nearly transparent. It's functionality is best expressed in examples:
  • If the Drobo starts to fill up, you just add a drive of any size to increase capacity.
  • If one of the drives fails, replace it with a drive of similar or greater capacity (even while the system is in use and moving data!), and Drobo will reconstruct the original contents automatically (from so-called "parity data" on the other drive[s]).
  • If the Drobo is fully populated with drives and starts to fill up, simply remove the smallest drive (again, drives can be hot-swapped with data in-use) and replace it with a new larger drive. Drobo automatically adds the increased capacity.
Watch Drobo's video demo.

I'm excited about this product. Depending upon how well Apple's Time Machine is executed when it debuts as part of OS X "Leopard" this coming October, a Drobo may become part of our home office, replacing a mirrored RAID on our server as a short-term data cache, as well as potentially hosting all our amassed data at once. I've heard a rumor than Ethernet and eSATA connection options are in the future - an Ethernet variant would make a fine NAS (Network Attached Storage) solution for anyone in this increasingly data-heavy world.