DroboPro at SNW

by Robin Harris on Thursday, 9 April, 2009

A few weeks after NetApp shut down their low-end StoreVault product, Data Robotics introduces a low-end box that will be very popular with small and some medium sized businesses: the DroboPro. Hey, it’s even got a rack mount kit.

Supporting USB, FireWire and now GigE iSCSI, the almost management-free DroboPro is a product that direct enterprise sales forces can’t sell: it doesn’t cost enough. And neither, evidently, did the StoreVault.

Here’s a one minute video of the product showing a 3 drive configuration handling a 2 drive failure:

The StorageMojo take
That sucking sound you hear is the under $25k array market draining into Drobo’s coffers. They won’t be missed.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Ewan April 10, 2009 at 12:56 am

I believe the DroboPro only allows one host to connect via iSCSI, if that’s true then it’s an unfortunate ommission as it makes the Drobo much less useful in a small VMware or clustering environment.


Andrew Miller April 10, 2009 at 4:03 am

Minor additional points from a former NetApp customer/current NetApp partner engineer (who keeps your blog in his RSS feeds).

SnapVault is still alive and kicking (it’s software embedded in Data ONTap focused on disk-to-disk backup) — it was the StoreVault line that was discontinued (also recently known as the S Family).


And I can confirm having seen the FAS2020 replacement bundles referred to and that they’re in the same price ballpark.

Blake Irvin April 10, 2009 at 7:08 am

I have two concerns about the DroboPro.

1 – It’s closed. I can’t do anything with it that Drobo doesn’t allow (eSATA, for example).

2 – Vendor lock-in. It’s true the box is cheap, but since the chassis is proprietary, I need to buy two of these for my small business if I care about downtime. That’s a lot more money than a spare sata card.

If I don’t buy the 2nd chassis, where do I go with my disks if the unit fails? At least with OpenSolaris and ZFS, I can plug disks into any machine with ZFS on FUSE or a BSD box or a Mac and start recovery.

It’s true that Drobo has less admin overhead than OpenSolaris/ZFS, but that can easily change when we get our first ZFS GUI. And there is already work underway to build free ZFS appliance package: http://eonstorage.blogspot.com/

Nathan April 10, 2009 at 7:39 am

I’m not convinced that the market segment this is addressed to isn’t better and more cheaply served by a roll-your-own solution with OpenSolaris and ZFS (or Linux and LVM and XFS/btrfs, or Windows Server and NTFS (ew), or whatever floats your boat). I suppose if you want a fire-and-forget solution than this might be better; I’d have to see what sort of premium you’d be paying over the dirt-cheap DIY solution.

hmurchison April 10, 2009 at 9:33 am

Data Robotics should co-market with the Dummy Books series.

“Disks for Dummies”


Look at their pathetic two switch diagram. Where’s their NAS functionality? I heard one guy claiming that they do 80MBps reads. Sorry that’s not cutting it when a QNAP TS-809 8-bay iSCSI NAS is pushing 120MBps due to the Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz processor. Data Robotic won’t even tell you what hardware they’re running which is worrisome to me

I want to like Drobo but I’ll likely end up building a ZFS NAS and I figure the DIY market for nice cases will be expanding quickly.

Nate April 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Different Nathan here, BTW.

Andrew, I’d like to touch on your comment: “And I can confirm having seen the FAS2020 replacement bundles referred to and that they’re in the same price ballpark.”

I’ve been offered the FAS2020 bundle this week to replace a quote I had on an S550. When you’re looking for a good low-cost, turn-key NAS, the “ballpark” shouldn’t be 50% of the price you’re comparing against.
Sure they threw in SnapRestore, but . . . eh.

Joerg Hallbauer April 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm


I think you might be comparing apples and oranges here. This device is a DAS device and based on what I have read can only be connected to a single host at a time. Sure, I could then turn that host into a storage server, but why do that when I can buy an actual NAS device for about the same money?

They do have some cool high end features in their software like dual parity and thin provisioning, so I wouldn’t count them out completely for home use. But I really can’t imagine any kind of business using this kind of storage once they understand the limitations on connectivity.


Ed F April 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I’m sure they will sell quite a few but to really serve the SMB space it needs snapshots, block level replication to a 2nd unit and multi-host iSCSI connectivity.

We support many very small clients that could use this now if it had all of the above and was as affordable as the StoreVault/S lines. Otherwise it’s hard to backup & can’t be used w/ vm’s.

Still waiting for a ZFS based appliance with a simple front end. Nexenta will be the next demo.

Tom (Data Robotics) April 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Hey folks,
This is Tom from Data Robotics. I run our Product Marketing. Thanks for the feedback. We build all of our products based on your feedback and this is helpful.

In terms of multi-host-iSCSI, snapshots, block level replication, off-site replication, etc etc I really like all of those ideas! What else can I say! Think of Drobo and DroboPro kind of like the iPhone 1.0 or iPhone 2.0 software…all of those things I mentioned are all “features” that are easy to layer on to our platform. Building the original iPhone was HARD. Sure it was missing Copy and Paste but that was easy to add later. I think of our software platform like that. We’ve done the hard part–doing the difficult block and tackling of virtualizing RAID data protection algorithms.

Check out this blog entry by John Gruber on the interplay of innovation versus complexity and I think you will understand our design philosophy. http://daringfireball.net/2009/04/complex

In terms of NAS functionality, as Joerg commented, this is a DAS box so we didn’t build it in, that’s why it’s not there. I do understand that there are a lot of folks who want NAS thought so thank you for the input.

Please keep in mind who this product is serving…the underserved. If you feel well-served paying $15,000 for a typical storage device out there today, DroboPro is not for you. DroboPro is designed for small and medium businesses with large, quickly growing data sets that don’t have a ton of time to spend administering storage and can’t pay a ton of money for someone to experiment with the latest nightly build of ZFS. This is reliable, self managing storage without the unnecessary complexity.

In terms of hmurchison’s comment about not disclosing our processors, it’s a philosophical question. Most storage vendors in the SMB all sell the same RAID levels and only differentiate on hardware specs and speeds and feeds. Our “benefits” checklist is totally different. I want our potential customers to focus on features like instant expandability and dual disk redundancy with a click rather than the GHz of the processor or MHz of the RAM. Plus, I am not sure disclosing much about our hardware is useful for customers’ buying decisions. We are an ARM-based system running a customized virtualized storage platform so if we tell you our processor and you’re used to x86 chipsets you’d be comparing apples and oranges. Plus, our software is far lighter weight than Linux (i.e. VXWorks core plus virtualization layer) so comparing us to other ARM-based storage isn’t necessarily even helpful.


Anonymous May 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Like the IBM Laptop 😀

Aaron Gilbert October 28, 2009 at 8:45 pm

The DroboPro now supports multiple iSCSI connections. According to the recently released DroboPro VMware best practices guide by Data Robotics, the DroboPro supports up to 4 ESX hosts. I currently use a DroboPro with three ESX hosts for offloading some of our test environment VMs from our Equallogic.

Although, I am not too impressed with the iSCSI performance between ESX and the DroboPro. I feel as though the recent VMware certification should warrant better speeds – closer to what one might see using the Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator. As a side thought, Drobo may not be to blame as I have seen performance slower than my fiber Internet between various systems when using misconfigured or incompatible iSCSI targets and iSCSI initiators <3MB/sec – including ESX.

If your goal is simple storage without enterprise quality high availability, the DroboPro is priced okay. If you want more functionality and performance at the storage layer, then you better buy something with more horsepower. If money is a significant factor, make your own iSCSI target with OpenSolaris, ZFS and COMSTAR.

Ilos March 8, 2011 at 3:31 am

Tom ( from datarobotics)

Please don’t be offended but your datarobotics isn’t Apple. I am afraid to say that your viral idea wasn’t successful.

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