As if that headline wasn’t enough of a lead in to grab your attention how about terms like “storage virtualization” and “ideals of cybernetics”. I know what storage virtualization is but I’ll admit I was a little unsure about cybernetics. An online search told me it had something to do the interaction between man and machine and control and communication … Whoa! We’re talking about a new storage product announced today by a company called Data Robotics, Inc. The aptly named appliance is called Drobo.
At first glance Drobo resembles any other NAS appliance like the Buffalo Terastation or Infrant’s Ready NAS. It’s a device that attaches to your computer via a USB 2.0 cable that can hold up to four SATA drives and can be used to back up your data or as additional storage like any other NAS device. But that’s were the similarities end.
Unlike other NAS appliances, Drobo offers RAID-like protection without the complexities of managing a RAID array. Drobo offers the user the ability to add or subtract drives on the fly as well as mix and match drives of different capacities. Unlike traditional RAID arrays you won’t lose capacity if all the drives aren’t identical. Need more storage? Just pop in a new drive without shutting anything down and Drobo automatically configures the new capacity. Running out of space on all four current drives? No problem - just swap out one of your existing drives for a newer higher capacity drive and Drobo handles the configuration for you. How do you know when you are about to run out of space or one of your drives may be failing? Drobo notifies you through the use of a series of LEDs on the front panel. One of the other cool features is that you don’t need to load the new drives into carriers before installing them. You literally just slide a bare drive into the slot. Their web site even includes an interactive capacity calculator called the Drobolator that lets you configure a system and see how much usable space any given mix of drives will give you.
While Data Robotics’ web site might tend towards hyperbole with its claims of ‘infinite storage’ and ‘unlimited capacity’, this is definitely a product you should check out. At a suggested price of $499 (sans drives) it’s priced competitively compared to other NAS devices and is currently available through DR’s online store and other online retailers. I’d like to see some performance numbers since it’s seen by your system as a mass USB storage device and lacks GBE or eSata connectivity options. And with a name like Data Robotics I was expecting some sort of automated device to insert the drives for me - oh well, you can’t have everything.
Data Robotics Press Release