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Need Virtualization Test Storage? Consider a Drobo

Another stop at Gestalt IT Field Day was to Data Robotics, Inc., makers of the Drobo storage devices. The Drobo currently has two models, the Drobo and the DroboPro. During our visit, we had a demo of the popular storage devices and it was clear that I walked away with Drobo-envy. I want one for my home lab instead of using a device like an OpenFiler for my test shared storage configuration, and I can format it with my beloved VMFS file sytem.

While I don’t have a device (nor did I get a freebie), we were shown how Data Robotics takes a different approach to storage, effectively eliminating all of the pain points we have with RAID on current storage systems. The DroboPro is targeted to very small installations, but it has some on-board smarts that make it attractive.

The DroboPro has a few built-in features that make it attractive to administrators in general, including VMware administrators:

  • The device is supported for VMware Infrastructure 3 as an iSCSI device on the VMware HCL for up to two hosts.
  • The blue lights on the right (see Fig. 1) go vertical indicating the amount of space consumed on the disks.
  • The green lights on the horizontal axis indicate drive health.
  • A dual parity can be configured, which can accommodate dual drive failures.
  • The drives in the array can be of different geometry (mix and match), and the array is grown automatically by adding new drives.
  • The DroboPro holds up to 8 disks at 2 TB each.
Drobo Pro
Figure 1. DroboPro's outer case, showing the lights that indicate disk usage.

There is a short list of downsides to the DroboPro, however. The first is that the device needs to be attached to a Windows system to run the driver software, but you can configure the iSCSI target to run separately for connecting to ESX hosts. The other main downside is that the DroboPro has a single Ethernet interface and power supply. But, keep in mind this is a good device for test and development storage.

Data Robotics informed me that many small customers have moved this device into production roles, however. As for vSphere support, I left with the impression that this will happen soon for the device.

The DroboPro device starts at $1,499 and is a low-cost device for shared storage in selected configurations.

Have you used a Drobo for virtualization? Share your comments below.

Disclosure: I attended this event and have been provided airfare, meals and accommodations by the event organizer. The opinions mentioned above are a result of an in-person demonstration of the technologies discussed.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 11/17/2009 at 12:47 PM


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