Drobo B1200i Update Combines SSDs with High-Capacity Drives

Paul Mah

Drobo last week announced a significant upgrade of its business-centric Drobo B1200i with support for SSD (solid-state drives). The Drobo B1200i SSD now incorporates automated data-aware tiering to combine the low-cost capacity of traditional SATA hard disk drives (HDD) with the low-latency, high-speed transfers inherent to SSDs. Drobo says the refresh offers up to 300 percent higher performance over previous versions of the product.

For those not familiar with the B1200i, Drobo launched the 12-bay storage device exactly a year ago. The B1200i was targeted towards larger mid-sized companies of up to 250 users and offers up to 36TB of raw storage with a dozen SAS or SATA 3TB hard disk drives. The design eliminates the need for trays and screws, and is sufficiently intuitive for a damaged HDD to be swapped out and replaced by a non-IT employee.

In a way, the B1200i represents a shift from the company’s initial focus on power users and small companies of less than 100 users to mid-sized businesses. Indeed, it is the first Drobo product with modular serviceable components in the form of its swappable redundant power supply.

To illustrate how the drastic performance that SSDs add to the picture, the company scheduled a webinar with me where the company performed a benchmark of baseline without SSDs. Another test was then done after a couple of SSDs were added. Suffice to say that a clear and dramatic improvement was observed with SSDs thrown into the mix.

What I found impressive is related to how the performance enhancement was achieved without the need for complicated configuration and tweaks. In the best tradition of the company’s design philosophy, everything simply worked. When I observed that many SSDs are available in 2.5-inch as opposed to 3.5-inch, I was told that standard adapters can be purchased from Drobo or third-party vendors to convert these SSDs for use with the B1200i.

Existing Drobo B1200i users can get the latest capabilities by downloading and installing the Drobo B1200i Firmware 1.1.1 here — at no additional charge. Of course, businesses use their storage subsystem in different ways, so some may see more gains than others. Regardless, the ability to automatically utilize SSDs should result in a noticeable performance gain for all.

Having previously reviewed the Drobo B800i iSCSI SAN Storage on ITBE’s sister site Small Business Computing, I asked and was told by company officials that the ability to utilize SSDs for performance enhancement will likely make its way into the B800i as well.



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