Data Robotics wants to be the Apple of the SOHO storage world

Two-thirds of its home storage sales are to Mac users

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Thin provisioning software runs in the background on Drobo systems, allocating only as much storage as is needed by an application. Once the capacity of the array reaches a pre-set threshold, the system warns the user with a yellow or red LED light indicating that more storage capacity should be added. That's done by either filling an empty drive tray or by pulling a drive out and replacing it with one that has more capacity.

Currently, Drobo boxes have up to five drive trays, allowing up to 10TB of capacity through the use of 2TB SATA drives.

The Drobo is a self-monitoring device that uses data-aware software to track where data is written on drives for retrieval and capacity reclamation purposes. If data is deleted, the data blocks are automatically returned to the pool of storage. Drobo's BeyondRAID algorithm automatically redistributes data if a hard drive fails. A user can insert any SATA hard drive, regardless of the capacity or manufacturer, into a Drobo and it automatically is discovered and becomes one pool of capacity.

"I think people thought when it first came out that the Drobo was an interesting product. It looks kind of cool. It looks futuristic. It's simple. You can start with two drives or go up to five and have 10TB of capacity. It doesn't take up that much shelf space. It's a neat product," Connor says. "You can access both Macs or PCs. And being a Mac person, [I think] that's wonderful. I have competitive products that are still in the box because they're PC-only."

Over the past year, the company has expanded its lineup from two products to five, ranging from entry-level direct-attached storage for home users to entry-level iSCSI SANs for small businesses. Other products are due to be announced soon.

For example, Drobo plans to launch the beta version of a private cloud storage application, called Oxygen Cloud, that would allow home users to remotely connect to a Drobo FS NAS array to share data with mobile devices or home wireless devices like game consoles or an AppleTV. That way, files, games, music and movies can be streamed directly from the NAS array to remote devices.

Although Data Robotics has moved upstream over the past year -- it added an iSCSI SAN and a NAS array for workstations -- Buiocchi said the company knows what's important. "We're not going to go head-to-head with EMC, NetApp, and those guys. They focus on the enterprise, but there's no real large and compelling company in the [small and midsize business] space that has reinvented storage like Apple has reinvented PCs," Buiocchi said. "That's what we're trying to do."

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 © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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