Drobo aims storage arrays at SMBs

Company grows up, also adding thin provisioning, data tiering tools

Drobo, a storage company that made its mark selling easy-to-use arrays to consumers, today announced a new line of products aimed at small- and medium-size businesses.

The new products offer up to 36TB of capacity in a single unit.

Unlike its past products, Drobo has added additional capacity with an eight-bay and 12-bay storage box and has also increased the sophistication of its software with tools such as thin provisioning, automated tiering and data deduplication.

The products, however, continue to have hot-swappable drives, LED lights indicating how full disk drives are and simple dashboard interfaces indicating performance levels.

The Drobo eight-bay box
Drobo's eight-bay file storage array (front shown.)

Kevin Epstein, vice president of product marketing, said after the company dipped its toe in the water last spring with an eight-bay product last spring, customer response was overwhelming.

"We kept hearing customers say, 'We're not just using for home use but for our small office and home offices and small to medium businesses," Epstein said. "Over 10,000 of our 150,000 customers are SMB users, as it turned out."

There are three versions of the new arrays: an eight-bay NAS file sharing Drobo (model B800fs) with remote backup; an eight-bay iSCSI SAN Drobo (model B800i); and a 12-bay iSCSI SAN (B1200i) Drobo with expanded redundancy features, support for thin provisioning and deprovisioning and new automated data tiering technology.

The 12-bay Drobo SAN, which is the only product generally available in the second quarter (the other two are currently shipping), offers bays for solid state (SSD), serial-attached SCSI (SAS) or Serial ATA (SATA) drives.

The automated tiering feature moves data from high-end disk to lower end disk depending its business importance. The latter box also has redundant power supplies.

"Drobo is what it has always been - surprisingly advanced and scalable storage, packaged and priced for people who don't need to have doctorates or second mortgages to have easy, functional, sophisticated capabilities at their fingertips," said Mark Peters, an analyst with research firm Enterprise Strategy Group.

An eight-bay Drobo filer server sells with a starting retail price of just above $2,000, and a fully populated 12-bay Drobo with 12 1TB SATA drives, such as Western Digital 7200RPM RE-4 drives, sells for around $10,000, Epstein said.

The back of the iSCSI SAN
Drobo's eight-bay iSCSI SAN (back.)

"We've priced these things honoring our commitment to affordable capacity," Epstein said.

All the new models continue to be based on Drobo's BeyondRAID technology, which allows users to swap out disk drives during failures or for upgrades without losing access to data.

Drobo also changed the look of its new products, giving them a more business-like appearance and offering the ability for them to be rack-mountable as opposed to its previous desktop models.

"Drobos are very pretty, but our previous models have had a shiny consumer look to them," Epstein said. "Along with the new arrays, Drobo announced its new DroboCare service, which offers 24/7 business support for SMB products, including same-day replacement shipping."

Drobo business systems are designed to be used as both primary and secondary storage for Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and similar business applications, departmental file-sharing or offsite backup, and server virtualization deployments including those using VMware. ( (

"VMware recognizes the importance of affordable storage alternatives for firms implementing virtualization as they continue on the path toward IT as a service," Parag Patel, vice president of VMware's global strategic alliances, said in a statement. "Like larger organizations, SMBs are looking for ways to improve productivity and lower IT costs."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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