DroboFS: Gigabit Ethernet, Serverless and Cloudy

Drobo is announcing a new product today called the DroboFS that finally puts the Ethernet interface into the box storage subsystem. Although Ethernet connectivity has been possible via the DroboShare, the throughput performance hasn’t been good enough for many business so this represents a major step forward.

This product is targeted directly at the SME / SOHO / Branch Office market. It offers a lot of storage for cheap money and can be dynamically expanded by swapping drives using their BeyondRAID technology. Since there is no integration with Microsoft’s Active Directory (it supports workgroup style authentication for CIFS shares), it won’t appeal to big companies except for niche applications.


Note that the DroboFS doesn’t support iSCSI (and that the DroboShare does). I suspect that iSCSI connectivity will be released in a future version, they just want to put the unit into the market.

And while the unit probably can support VMware volumes, there are no plans to have it certified which is apparently important to some virtualisation people ( Rant:why pay the protection money for something that really should work ? Standards are meant to be standards.)

Caption Text.

Caption Text.(Click for a full size image)

Best Features

The Drobo disk system makes having a lot of storage easy to manage. If you don’t have the time or the knowledge on managing a RAID array, and you have some extra money, then this unit has some great features. The best feature is the ability to use HDD’s that are of different size. The Drobo BeyondRAID software will automatically adapt itself to provide redundancy of drives and build a single drive.

I have a Drobo (( disclosure: I received a small discount to purchase the unit as part of Tech Field Day )) that look like a single 16TB drive. However, I only have three 1.5TB drives installed. I can insert or swap drives as need to get to 16TB in the future. Since I often have spare drives around the place, I am often removing small drives and adding larger drives. When I do this, the system automatically adapts itself. I don’t have to have three / four / five identical drives. I don’t have to move the data somewhere else while I am upgrading the array.

In my lab, this means I can grow my storage from the current 2.5TB up to 16TB without much hassle. That works for me, I don’t have a lot of time to muck around with the Open Source NAS software and hand built computers.

Jumbo Frames

The system supports 9000 byte ‘jumbo’ frames. It’s not vital for a networking lab, but it’s a good to have feature for higher performance when cloning drives in VMware.

Cloudy – it’s always cloudy

Drobo have partnered with someone called “Oxygen Cloud” (no, I’ve never heard of them either) to deliver internet storage backup of the DroboFS. This means that your DroboFS can automatically replicate it’s data over the Internet to an external storage company.

Caption Text.

Caption Text.(Click for a full size image)

This has been provided using an API. Drobo will be releasing details and support for developers who can create their own plugins using this API for the Drobo. For corporates, this offers some intriguing possibilities. You could easily create a content distribution network for remote sites. Imagine a DroboFS at your remote sites, with say, four 1TB SATA drives acting as a CIFS share for the site. All data is replicated according to a schedule via the Internet or via the internal WAN . The drive capacity can be easily increased to 16TB by buying cheap SATA drives without requiring site visits. This type of private pseudo-cloud technology is seeing a lot of deployment activity as corporates adapt available technologies to suit their actual needs.

The EtherealMind Position

This version of the Drobo has the possibility of being a good home storage system for lab environments for VMware ESX / vSphere (which is important for many networking people these days). It does support CIFS and NFS, but without iSCSI I can’t go the extra mile to buy it for my lab compared to my existing Drobo unit.

If you haven’t got one yet, then wait for the iSCSI to be released would be my advice.

About the author

Greg Ferro

Greg Ferro is the co-host of Packet Pushers. After surviving 25 years in Enterprise IT with only minor damage, he uses his networking expertise for good in the service of others by deep diving on technology and industry. His unique role as an inspirational cynicist brings a sense of fun, practicality and sheer talent to world of data networking and its place in a world of clouds.

He blogs regularly at and the podcasts are at

Leave a Comment