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DroboElite Does vSphere

Last week I outlined how I go about provisioning my own lab for testing virtualization and supporting blogging efforts. One of the key points of my ability to have a functional lab is a shared storage device. I use the DroboPro iSCSI storage device. Since I purchased the unit, the Elite version has been released. While the DroboPro and DroboElite are candidates for home or test labs, Data Robotics (makers of the Drobo series) are positioning themselves well for the SMB virtualization market.

I had a chance to evaluate the DroboElite unit, and it has definitely added some refining points that are optimized for VMware virtualization installations. The DroboElite is certified on the VMware vSphere compatibility list for up to four hosts. The new features for the DroboElite over the DroboPro are:

Second iSCSI network interface -- The cornerstone feature is its ability to have two Ethernet connections for iSCSI traffic to a VMware ESX/ESXi host (see Fig. 1).

DroboElite Dashboard
Figure 1. You can provide two network interfaces from the DroboElite to be placed on two different switches for redundancy, right from the dashboard. (Click image to view larger version.)

This also allows the multipath driver for ESX and ESXi to show the second path to the disk. Whether or not you put it on multiple switches, depending on your connectivity on the host and on the physical network, you can design a much better connectivity arrangement compared to the DroboPro device, which only had one network interface. Fig. 2 shows the second path made available to the datastore:

DroboElite Takes Two Paths
Figure 2. The second network interface allows DroboElite to present two paths to the ESXi host. (Click image to view larger version.)

While the second network interface was a great touch, the DroboElite still has only one power supply. This is my main concern for using it as primary storage for a workplace virtualization installation. What complicates it further is that the single power supply is not removable or a standard part.

Increased Performance
Simply speaking in terms of user experience, the DroboElite is faster than the DroboPro. I asked Data Robotics for specific information on the controller, but they had none, than the DroboElite has 50 percent more memory and a 50 percent faster processor. Beyond simply having more resources on the controller, there are also some code-level changes with the DroboElite. This is most visibly seen in the volume creation task, where a volume is determined to be a VMware multi-host volume (see Fig. 3).

DroboElite Takes Two Paths
Figure 3. A volume is created with the specific option of being a VMware datastore. (Click image to view larger version.)

Like any storage system, if it gets busy, you feel it. The DroboElite is no exception. At one point, I installed two operating systems concurrently and the other virtual machines on the same datastore were affected. The DroboPro has produced this behavior as well, but it wasn't as pronounced on the DroboElite.

First Impression
Configuring the DroboElite is a very simple task. I think I had it up and running within 20 minutes, which included the time to remove the controller and five drives from packaging. For certain small environments, the DroboElite will be a great fit at the right price. List prices at the DroboStore have a DroboElite unit with a total of 8 drives at 2 TB each, making 12.4 TB of storage at $5,899USD. Comment here.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 03/09/2010 at 12:47 PM


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