Drobo, a few years ago, created a name with Direct Attached Storage (DAS) solutions that have multiple drives that are organized into a RAID but are not equipped with the limitations that such a system would require. Corresponding solutions, it is basically no matter which hard drives were installed with which capacity. The Drobo system organizes itself and requires little effort from the user. We looked at the Drobo 5C with five hard drives and USB TYPE C connector.
Drobo offers a variety of systems, from the Drobo Mini with 4x 2.5-inch slots to the rack system for twelve hard drives. Drobo also offers a wide range of connections – whether it is NAS via Gigabit Ethernet or DAS with Thunderbolt 2 or USB 3.0. In the case of USB 3.0, it is also possible to switch directly to the new type C connection.
First of all, let’s lose a few words about the self-management of the Drobo 5C. Drobo promises that any hard drives can be used in the five drive bays. It does not matter which manufacturer the hard drives are, what capacity they have, how fast the disks rotate and how big the cache is. All these other important technical data should be mixed. Of course, Drobo also has some recommendations for using the right hard drive in the system.
Now the Drobo 5C does not meet some requirements, which are known from classic RAID systems, by the self-managed approach. Two 2-TB hard disks in RAID0 give a total capacity of 4 TB. Two 2TB hard disks in RAID1 provide 2TB total capacity. For larger RAID systems in RAID5 or RAID6 again, different prerequisites apply. But what happens when you combine hard disks of different capacities?
For this purpose, Drobo offers a computer on its own homepage, which allows such a system to be equipped with different hard disks and from this the available capacity is calculated. Dual-disc redundancy can also be added here, which should ensure additional data security. If we add a Drobo 5C with a 1.5TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB and 6TB hard disk, the total available capacity is 15TB, but only 9.53TB is available. 3.65 TB is used as a redundant memory and 1.81 TB is reserved to be able to exchange one of the hard disks in case of a hard disk defect.
But what happens if one of the hard drives fails? As long as this is limited to a hard drive, the Drobo system sorts the data accordingly, so that the defective hard disk can be easily replaced. The user does not have to replace it with an identical hard disk, but can choose another manufacturer and a larger capacity. Drobo calls its own RAID technology BeyondRAID. Adding a larger hard disk also increases the total capacity of the system. This is also the easiest way to expand the system. The smallest hard disk is exchanged for a larger model. After giving the Drobo system some time to reorganize the data, this can be done directly with another hard drive. Such an upgrade should always be possible – just as a failure of a hard disk can be intercepted. Those who do not want to rely on simple security can also switch to dual-disc redundancy, which provides additional security. Further security is to offer an internal battery, which in the event of a power failure at least for a certain time the correct downshift of the hard disks.
Regarding compatibility, Drobo is targeted at Windows and MacOS users. HFS + or NTFS is selected as a file system. The support for Time Machine is also available for macOS.
The Drobo 5C sits in a plain black plastic case. The dimensions are 150.3 x 185.4 x 262.3 mm. The weight without hard disks is already 3.9 kg, and thus it is also clear that under the plastic cover a stable metal frame must sit. With hard drives, the Drobo 5C quickly reaches a weight of 5 kg. On four rubber feet, the high weight also ensures that the volume is limited by the vibrations of the hard disks.
The power supply is via an external power supply. This provides a maximum power of 120 W. The supplied power cable and power supply has a length of 2.8 m. If the Drobo 5C is placed directly on the desk next to the computer, this cable length should be sufficient for the next outlet. The included USB Type-A to Type-C cable comes at a length of 1 m and is therefore probably the limiting factor.
A 120mm fan is used for cooling, which rotates faster or even slower depending on the temperature inside. Without access to the hard disks, the fan runs at the lowest speeds and is hard to hear against the hard disks. If the hard disks switch off in idle mode, the fan does the same.
The rear of the Drobo 5C is actually only fan grilles behind the 120mm fan sits. Below are some connections. The Kensington lock can be seen on the left. To the right is the large on / off switch. It is a switch rocker that has a green LED that indicates when the Drobo 5C is turned on.
The front cover is held magnetically and can be easily removed. Underneath this, the view of the hard drive shafts becomes visible. Drobo does not use any mounting frame, but the hard disks are simply pushed into the appropriate slot. A lock ensures that the hard disks have the right contact to the SATA port and power connection. The Drobo 5C provides information about the system status of the entire system and the individual hard disks via different colored LEDs.
There are ten blue LEDs below the drive bays, showing how much of the total capacity is already occupied. Each LED represents 10% of the capacity. The left LED gives information about the state of the Drobo 5C – whether this works without problems or just a firmware update is carried out. An LED indicates current accesses to the system at the bottom right.
To the right of the drives, there is a respective LED, which should provide information about the state of the respective hard disk. If it is green, everything is OK. A yellow LED indicates that a replacement of the hard drive should take place soon, since there is a problem with the respective hard disk. If the LED alternately turns green and yellow, it should not be exchanged at this time because a reorganization of the data takes place. A red LED is not a good sign. The corresponding hard disk should be replaced immediately.
A special feature of the Drobo 5C is, as the name suggests, the support of USB Type-C. Typ-C of course only describes the connector type. The Drobo 5C works with USB 3.0 and thus achieves a theoretical transfer rate of 5 Gbit / s. In practice, however, this does not play a major role in the use of hard disks, since they limit the data transmission rate and not the connection itself.
Though Drobo supplies a Type A USB cable to Type C, we have used the Drobo 5C but with the current MacBook, which offers the same type C connector. This allowed us to transfer from 1: 1 from Type-C to Type-C, which does not make any difference in performance. Nevertheless, this shows where the way goes, because the type C connection will accompany us for USB and also Thunderbolt 3 in the future.
In addition to the Hardware, the Software also plays a role. Drobo has developed a Dashboard, which works under macOS and Windows. Via the Drobo Dashboard, the Drobo can be monitored 5C and controlled. In addition to updating the Firmware, the Monitoring of the Hardware is probably the most important function of the Dashboard. Here is all the information about the Hardware queries, but also the brightness of the LEDs. In a picture gallery we have captured the main features of the Software in the image.
The setup of the Drobo 5C is, admittedly, easy. There is at least one hard disk must be installed on a PC or Mac is to install the Software is “Drobo Dashboard”, which can be on the manufacturer’s website. Then the Drobo 5C only needs to be turned on, and after some time, the Dashboard Software will find the device.
As mentioned in the introduction, is the beyond RAID Drobo systems in a different way than the classical RAID systems. In the case of a RAID5, for example, data blocks (user data and parity) are distributed and divided evenly to all of the drives in the RAID. All are so involved in always works in a RAID on the storage of a “data set”.
Beyond RAID, however, is flexible and knows several modes, the data and parity info to store distributed. The drives are divided in smaller zones and beyond RAID then tries to the data as well as possible distributed over the zones on different drives. The place different sized drives can be used more effectively than with traditional RAID.
In the case of five equal-sized hard drives (and easier to redundancy) to the Drobo as a RAID5, i.e. one of the five plates is used for the parity, in the case of two-fold redundancy for three of the five disks are available, analogous to RAID 6 for data storage. The rule of thumb for the Drobo, however, is that in the case of simple redundancy, and the largest plate is due to the storage of the parity data is “lost”.
Compared to traditional RAID modes beyond RAID has, of course, a great advantage in terms of the “degree of use” of the installed hard disk space, if different drive capacities are used. Synology sets up his “RAID mode,” SHR/n RAID(s) is still a level of administration (LVM) and thus achieve a high degree of flexibility. Both, for example Synology than Drobo provide on their websites Calculators for any HDD configurations, and after playing Through various constellations, one can only say that both are related to the usable capacity on a par. BeyondRAID offers the Option of running a hard drive with a larger model to be replaced. It automatically finds an internal Rebuild and the total capacity will be adjusted accordingly.
Beyond RAID is always anxious to save the data optimally distributed, for a total of seven modes. Only one hard disk in the System, is beyond RAID sets on this a copy, which protects against data corruption. More modes to Store copies of up to three drives, a RAID 5/6-like storage (the distribution of the data Stripe and parity data across multiple drives), as well as the cloned Store of Stripes. The data (incl. Redundancy), do not lie like RAID on all drives, but usually only on a part of it. If a Setup with multiple hard drives, a drive fails, under certain circumstances, only part of the data without redundancy.
In the case of the failure of a drive, a complete Rebuild with a new drive is in RAID systems is necessary. Through the use of an otherwise unused Hot-Spare drive can only be the time until the Start of the Rebuild to minimize. With beyond RAID, most of the previously unused space in the remaining drive composite can take on the task of the replacement drive, what is referred to Spare Drobo as a “Virtual Hot”. The existing data plus the new parity info are distributed on the existing drives as well as possible. In the Test, the at – admit dimensions is still quite empty Volume works well: After Removing a HDD, the internal Rebuild started, after a good two hours, the full redundancy was restored. A replacement of the failed drive can then also leads to a Rebuild, which produces an optimal distribution. Only a short exited the drive is used again, the Drobo 5N is no Rebuild, and plants can be used immediately with all ready.
Even beyond RAID, of course, has limits. A second disk fails during the Rebuild actions, without sufficient notice the double redundancy has been enabled, then most of the data are in Nirvana, and must be played back from a, hopefully, externally applied Backup.
Drobo trims its products on two points: simple operation and yet high security. These are two points that are the most common in most DAS and NAS systems, as there must be a certain basic knowledge of how the system works, so that no data is lost. The Drobo 5C is as easy to use as it is later, even though the settings are lower than in other systems.
The simplicity begins with the setup. With five available drive bays, only one has to be populated and it starts. If you decide to use a 5-Bay DAS, you should try to use the same number of hard drives as the Drobo 5C can only fully exploit its advantages. If the total memory is scarce, simply the smallest hard disk has to be exchanged for a larger one. If a hard disk fails due to a defect, it can be exchanged quickly and easily. We have already mentioned the flexibility with changes, but data checks and repairs in the background also ensure a comparatively high data security. Only the fact that BeyondRAID is a proprietary system and, in the case of the case, the data can not be read out by Linux system, may disturb one or the other.
The Drobo 5C focuses on the actual function: as much data as possible to record as quickly as possible. This is done in the case of the Drobo 5C via a USB connection with type C connector. Depending on the installed hard disks and their speed, different data transmission rates are achieved accordingly. With our hard drives, we reached here for the reading of data up to 220 MB / s, which is a neat value, with other HDD models should go however still significantly more. The backup function via Time Machine or manually as well as the use as a data grab for video and photo data should be the main application area of the Drobo 5C. The BeyondRAID also ensures the necessary security of the data, which is not available on a simple external hard disk.
The BeyondRAID is therefore an advantage of the Drobo 5C because of its ease of use in connection with the data security, since it is a proprietary system, but it also has its disadvantages.
The Drobo 5C is not yet available in the German market. The price can certainly be compared with the NAS version as well as the DAS version with Thunderbolt. These two are priced at 500 or 680 euros above the Type C version. The Drobo 5C is to cost according to the manufacturer about 400 euros and would be much cheaper.