Basically, it lets you mix hard drives of any capacity together into a volume that's well-balanced between the largest possible amount of storage and maximum data redundancy. While the Drobo's performance didn't meet our expectations, its technology offers a lot of potential.
Data Robotics on Tuesday expanded that potential into an all new product for the business environment, the DroboPro.
This is the company's first foray into the business sector, and it calls the DroboPro the "business class storage array that manages itself."
Much like the Drobo, the DroboPro also allows for mixing hard drives of different capacities, and you can hot-swap any of them without having to restart or interrupt the data access. This translates into no-downtime expansion of the storage volume. Moreover, unlike the Drobo, the DroboPro now includes protection against multiple concurrent drive failures.
While the Drobo is a pure external direct attach storage (DAS) device with USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 connections, the DroboPro also includes the iSCSI interface (via a Gigabit Ethernet connection). This makes the DroboPro one of a few hybrid devices that support both network attached storage and DAS. As you need to buy the DroboShare to make the Drobo work with a network, personally, I think the addition of the network port is the most welcome feature of the DroboPro.
Other than that, the device is said to perform more quietly than the Drobo, with two smart fans that automatically manage their speeds to optimize both cooling and operating noise.
You also have the option to purchase a rack-mount configuration for the DroboPro.
All and all, this seems a great product. My main concern, however, remains the performance of the device. While the BeyondRAID technology worked really well in our tests as a data protection solution with great ease of use, it seemed very taxing on the performance of the hard drives. This is probably because the proprietary RAID needs be be built in real time as you add more data. In the Drobo's case, the device's data transfer rate was so much lower than that of any external storage devices we had tested up until that time.
Nonetheless, this is exciting news and I hope Data Robotics has figured out a way to overcome the performance issue with the debut of the DroboPro. Let's wait and see.