Data Robotics has announced the latest model in its lineup of smart storage units: the DroboPro. The latest model increases storage capacity and connectivity options, while maintaining the trademark features of the original Drobo, such as hot swapping, smart volumes, and RAID-based protection against data loss.
Aimed at creative professionals and IT administrators, the DroboPro doubles the bay capacity of the original model, enabling users to insert up to eight bare hard drives for raw data storage of up to 16 TB. 3.5-inch SATA I and SATA II hard disk drives are supported, and you can mix and match disk brands, capacities, and speeds, something that's generally not possible with RAID boxes. The DroboPro also offers a triple interface, adding a gigabit Ethernet port that enables iSCSI transfers while retaining the USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 ports of the second-generation Drobo, which remains available. Despite the addition of the Ethernet port, the contents of a DroboPro cannot be shared across a network directly, as the company's DroboShare add-on makes possible, although the DroboPro's host computer can make its data available on the network.
Aside from these performance enhancements, the DroboPro continues to offer the flagship Drobo features. Drobo units intelligently handle tasks like swapping out disks during data transfers, and create and juggle a pool of virtual disk space. The company's BeyondRAID technology allows other features beyond hot-swapping disks, such as re-ordering volumes on the fly, mixing drive capacities, and storage virtualization, which reports the largest possible volume size to the computer so the Drobo's actual capacity can be increased or decreased without updating the computer's file system. BeyondRAID can also cope with hard drive failures automatically, alerting users to the presence of a failing disk and attempting to route around bad sectors if possible.
With its added storage capacity, dual disk redundancy is now available for the DroboPro. The original Drobo creates a RAID that protects you against the failure of a single disk by spreading your data across multiple disks. With dual disk redundancy, the DroboPro can protect data even if two of your disks fail simultaneously, allowing you to continue running without interruption (though popping new disks into the DroboPro in place of the failed disks would be a good idea). Using dual disk redundancy reduces your active storage space even more for data protection, so if you start running out of disk space and don't absolutely require dual disk redundancy, you can switch back to single disk redundancy in Drobo's software utility. Data Robotics tries to make all this as easy as possible, simplifying what can often be fairly complicated disk management.
All this self-managing RAID business protects against data loss, but it considerably reduces your storage space in comparison to bringing the same number of drives online individually. A calculator available on the Data Robotics Web site determines what actual storage volume a DroboPro would provide depending on the number and size of the drives you plan to install into it.
The DroboPro is available unpopulated or pre-populated with Data Robotics-installed disks (sold, unsurprisingly, at higher prices than at independent retailers). Without any drives installed, the eight-bay DroboPro costs $1,299. The second-generation Drobo, with bays for four drives, remains available for $499.