Drobo Rolls out New Storage Arrays for SMBs

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Storage company Drobo earlier this month rolled out a trio of new storage arrays targeted squarely at SMBs. The new arrays are the 8-bay B800fs for up to 16TB of raw capacity, the 8-bay B800i SAN for up to 24TB of raw capacity and the 12-bay B1200i SAN with advanced capabilities and up to 36TB of raw capacity. The B800fs and B800i are currently shipping, though the B1200i will only be generally available in the second quarter.


The lower-end B800fs is positioned as network-attached storage (NAS) for file sharing, and supports the Common Internet File System (CIFS) and Apple Filing Protocol (AFP). The B800i and B1200i are positioned as SAN models, on the other hand, and come with iSCSI with support for up to 255 LUNs; the latter comes with dual redundant, hot-swappable power supplies and works with both standard SATA/SATA II as well as enterprise-centric SAS (3.0Gbps) drives. In addition, a new data-aware tiering technology found only in the B1200i will move data from a high-end disk to another physical disk depending on its assigned importance. In addition, the above-mentioned models sport at least dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with failover and jumbo frames support (the B1200i has 3x Gigabit Ethernet ports). The B1200i and B800i are also certified for VMware and Citrix virtualized environments, as well as Symantec Backup Exec 2010.


All three arrays incorporate Drobo's BeyondRAID technology, which among other capabilities lets users easily and arbitrarily upgrade the array by swapping in a new hard disk at any time, and works with hard disk drives (HDD) of varying capacities. As part of Drobo's design philosophy of providing easy-to-use, sophisticated capabilities within a functional package, all three models come with the company's trademark capacity gauge and status lights on the front panel for a visual indication when it's time to add in more capacity or swap out bad drives.


Drobo says the new products were created in reaction to the overwhelming response to an eight bay product that was released last spring. Interestingly, the company apparently modified the new products to sport a more "business-like appearance" as well as make them rack-mountable. A new DroboCare service was also announced in conjunction with the new hardware, which Vice President of Product Marketing Kevin Epstein described as offering "24/7 business support for SMB products, including same-day replacement shipping."


I admit that I've never used a Drobo before, though my preliminary research into its unique BeyondRAID technology left me impressed. Now, I have no "real-world" experience of BeyondRAID to speak of, but its technical capabilities appear to be an excellent answer to the deficiencies of traditional RAID, which does not support "ease-of-use" features such as instant expansion of capacity or changing of RAID levels-both of which require that a storage volume be taken down and disks re-initialized from scratch.


Do you use the Drobo? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences. In the meantime, you can access the Tech Specs page for the B800fs here and B800i and B1200i here.