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Drobo supersizes product line with the new, faster Drobo S and DroboElite

This morning, Data Robotics doubled the size of their Drobo storage line with two new products equipped with the proprietary BeyondRAID technology -- the Drobo S and the Drobo Elite.

The Drobo S (at right) is a performance storage device designed to answer the question "Why isn't there a Drobo with an eSATA interface?" Not only does the Drobo S have the eSATA interface that many have requested, but the device is now equipped with an even faster ARM processor for enhanced FireWire 800 connectivity.

Like the DroboPro, the Drobo S can offer protection from two simultaneous drive failures. To do this and still offer a large amount of protected storage capacity, the Drobo S has five drive bays instead of the four on the original device, while still maintaining a small desktop footprint. The dual-drive redundancy option can be switched on or off at any time.

As with the DroboPro, the new member of the Drobo family has self-healing technology built-in. The device constantly examines the blocks and sectors of all drives, and flags questionable areas. By scrubbing the drives, data is only written to "healthy" areas on drives in the array.

Mark Fuccio of Data Robotics told TUAW that the eSATA interface provides data transfer up to 50% faster than what was available with FireWire 800, or about 90 MB per second.

Earlier in 2009, the DroboPro brought even more expandability to the Drobo line with eight available drive bays and an iSCSI (Gigabit Ethernet) interface. While the DroboPro had immediate success in locations with a single server, it couldn't multi-host -- in other words, it couldn't be used by multiple servers simultaneously.
The new DroboElite (back view seen below) is a true Storage Area Network device, with dual iSCSI interfaces. The dual interface allows not only better data transfer rates through gigabit switches, but provides redundancy in the case of one switch port failing. Connected to a gigabit Ethernet switch, businesses can share the capacity of the DroboElite amongst Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and VMWare servers. Fuccio noted that the data transfer rates with the dual iSCSI interfaces on the DroboElite can be up to 200 MB per second.
Businesses using the DroboElite can create up to 255 "Smart Volumes," allowing volumes to access storage from the combined capacity of the inserted drives rather than requiring a physical drive allocation. Smart Volumes are data aware, so deleted data blocks are returned to the pool of drives for future use.

The Drobo S has a suggested retail price of US$799, and can be purchased in a configuration with five 2 TB drives for US$1799. The base DroboElite sells for US$3,499, and can be fully loaded with ten 2 TB drives (10.89 TB of usable storage with dual-drive redundancy, 12.48 TB with single-drive redundancy) for $5,899.

Data Robotics, Inc. says that they've shipped almost 90,000 Drobo units since the introduction of the device in 2008, with over 5,000 of the higher-priced DroboPro units going out the doors since their introduction in April. With the addition of the Drobo S and DroboElite to the product line, things look very bright indeed for the little black data robots.

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