I got into it today on ZDnet with one of the other bloggers, George Ou, who published Why dumb-downed no-RAID storage is bad for consumers. As I believe that RAID is an idea whose time is coming to a close, I responded with Why home RAID won’t fly.

So far, ZDnet readers seem more persuaded by George
I’m in my trailer, sulking. How could they?

The exchange has sharpened my thinking, as George and some other folks came back with some good comments, and a couple of the more perceptive – obviously – folks came to my defense.

While I like the Drobo storage robot concept and Geoff Barrall personally, I’ll be very interested to see what kind of market they develop. Which is marketing-speak for “I’m dubious.”

The secular trend in computers is that technologies scale up from consumers – not scale down from the enterprise. But so what? The real question is why.

Because consumer stuff is cheap and enterprise stuff is expensive. Because one is high volume and the other low volume. Because volume enables low-cost experimentation and improvement. Because building cheap stuff usually forces people to focus on what really works for customers who won’t open a manual.

Home RAID? I don’t think so
Why not? Let me count the ways:

  1. Complexity: RAID fails ugly. Pick the wrong drive to pull or copy and your protected data is no more. And due to the redundancy, RAID systems have failures much more often than a single disk does.
  2. Completeness: while RAID solves some problems, it isn’t a substitute for a backup. Getting customers to understand that is hard. Not all the ZDnet readers get it.
  3. Cost: HW RAID means a controller, a chassis. A lot of money before you buy the first disk. SW RAID is cheaper – with Intel’s ICH8 chip almost free – and consumers still need to understand why they are buying a second drive and not getting more capacity.

The vast fetid swamp of consumer ignorance
In my small town I often help people with computer problems. Often these are small business people who’ve been using computers for years. What I’ve found is that these people don’t have the faintest idea how their computer works or how the components work together. To most people computers are magick.

Case in point: a professional photographer lives across the street. Two Macs, scanner, several photo quality printers, a couple of fancy digital SLRs. One Mac does color correction. The other is her main machine. Photoshop and a bunch of other image processing software that she knows how to use. Pretty sharp lady.

And she doesn’t know the difference between disk and RAM. It is all “memory” to her. She never added RAM to the skimpy amount Apple provided, so her disks are thrashed all day. She’d let the disks fill up, not realizing that she needs at least 10% free space just for the OS to use. A few hundred megabytes sounds like a lot to her.

This is the person you are going to sell RAID to? She’s your target market, with hundreds of gigabytes of valuable digital assets to protect. How would you start the conversation?

She does understand the value and process of making copies, which she would still need to do even if she bought your RAID gizmo. So how do you explain your value-add?

The StorageMojo take
Home RAID for the masses is an uphill battle. Backup is the battle the industry can win. What kind is the issue. Across the net to Mozy, Carbonite or some more fully featured option? Local backup to a DAS hard drive or to a simple USB-attached NAS drive? Those “one-touch” Maxtor drives?

Comments welcome, of course. Leaving for Boston today. If you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, send me an email and we’ll do coffee. I’ll be staying at Copley Square. Moderation may be a little slower than usual, but moderate I will.