Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

The single 120mm fan is a reasonable solution to balance the need to cool down five SATA hard drives while also maintaining an acceptable noise profile. We noticed many reviews online indicating fan noise to be an issue in the Drobo 5D. However, we had no such issues with our review unit.

One of the advantages of the Drobo 5D / BeyondRAID is that users can start off with just a single drive in the unit, and add more drives down the line. The RAID expansion / migration process is seamless and without data loss. The progress of this process can be monitored with the Drobo Dashboard. Similar to our NAS reviews, we first started off with one 2TB drive in the unit, and added a second one after some time. Since the unit was configured in single-disk redundancy mode, the unit took some time to ensure that the second disk could act as a protection disk. However, due to the nature of BeyondRAID, the addition of new disks (3 through 5) resulted in immediate expansion of usable capacity. We also tested out moving to a dual-disk redundancy configuration once the five disks were in the unit. This took some time similar to the shift from one disk to two disks inside the unit. The power consumption of the unit was also tracked in the course of this evaluation routine. The numbers are summarized in the table below. These numbers are without a mSATA drive in the cache acceleration bay.

Drobo 5D - BeyondRAID Migration and Expansion
Operation Time (hh:mm:ss) Power Consumption
BeyondRAID SDR (1D) - 22.97 W
BeyondRAID SDR (1D to 2D) 01:08:52 30.96 W
BeyondRAID SDR (2D to 3D) - 38.15 W
BeyondRAID SDR (3D to 4D) - 44.37 W
BeyondRAID SDR (4D to 5D) - 51.48 W
BeyondRAID SDR (5D) to DDR (5D) 00:38:32 50.79 W

Coming to the business end of the review, we must first give credit to Drobo for creating a really simple and easy-to-use product for the average consumer. The whole operation (from installing drives, to actually mounting the volumes on a computer) is very easy, and can be managed even by folks who are not particularly adept with computers. The mSATA SSD acceleration is very helpful for multimedia editing directly off the Drobo 5D, particularly for read operations. The effectiveness was brought out by using real-world storage benchmark traces from Photoshop and similar programs. The dual-disk redundancy configuration benefits more from the SSD acceleration compared to the single-disk redundancy configuration.

There are a few points that could help Drobo expand the reach of units such as the Drobo 5D:

  • Thunderbolt support in Windows (if not for the 5D, at least for future products which integrate Thunderbolt support)
  • Support for data recovery by the end-user

To expand upon our second suggestion, it is well known that disks making up RAID volumes in commercial off-the-shelf NAS units can be mounted on a PC to access the data. We would like Drobo to provide a software program that can mount Drobo volumes if the disks used in a Drobo device were to be connected directly to a PC. This would go a long way in clearing the air of distrust that many tech-savvy consumers have when considering proprietary data protection schemes like BeyondRAID.

The Drobo 5D is currently available on Amazon for $615. The price is not a surprise, given that the product's features (Thunderbolt support) and operation make it attractive to people in the Apple ecosystem. As a Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 device with a novel and easy-to-use data protection scheme, the pricing is reasonable. However, from the viewpoint of a PC user, it is just a USB 3.0 device. There are many hardware RAID solutions with a USB 3.0 port that provide much better performance. But, there is definitely a segment of the market that doesn't mind paying a premium for Drobo's simplicity and 'it just works' aspects.

Direct-Attached Storage Performance
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  • CalaverasGrande - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    that is true of anything. There are a lot of devices with lower bandwidth connections that are cheaper.
    Conversely, Thunderbolt stuff is generally cheap for 10Gb/20Gb throughput. Too bad Drobo doesn't take advantage of that at all.
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Did you test performance with its drives nearly empty or with them somewhat full? A more alarming problem with older units than the proprietary data format you mentioned was that its performance went to hell as the drives filled up.
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I wish I had tested with lots of files in the DAS (something we actually do in our NAS reviews). But, all these tests were done with the drives freshly initialized.

    I can see how having a large number of files could cause Drobo's data protection scheme to become really slow. Will check this aspect out if I get a chance to review a Drobo NAS in the future.
  • milkod2001 - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    What is an advantage of this $615 empty box over regular NAS or just 4-5 HDDs raided to users liking in existing PC?
  • rrinker - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    This is what I always ask myself. I currently run WHS 2011 with StableBits Drive Pool and if I take out the cost of the drives, I didn't spend any more than that on a case, motherboard, CPU, and power supply, and it does a lot more. The simple fact that it replicates my folders across multiple physical disks without regard to individual disk sizes, AND those files are readable on any computer that can connect a SATA drive and read NTFS, makes it far superior to any of these proprietary solutions or RAID options. Add in that it does deduplicated backups of all my workstations so I can do anything from single file recovery to bare metal restore of a machine, and it only gets better. It's plenty fast enough to stream HD video to multiple media players. It runs headless and unattended. What is bad is that Microsoft dropped it and has no equivalent replacement - Server 2012 Essentials is NOT it.
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Are you currently hoping that despite WHS 2011 itself being EoL as of this month that the underlying Windows Server OS will still get patched next month meaning you won't have to replace your box asap? (Unpatched Windows: Just DON'T)

    I've seen that belief a lot on home server forums - and while personally dubious - have ended up suffering enough attacks of Real Life the first part of this year that I haven't gotten a replacement of my own up and running yet. At this point I've more or less decided - by default - wait and see what happens on the next Patch Tuesday; and if the OS gets patched just swap in the new HDDs (the only part of the new box I did buy) in for the old ones to get a few more years out of my current hardware.
  • noeldillabough - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I've got WHS2011 with RAID-6 and I've been putting off/ignoring the fact that its EOL time for the system. Its just a backup device nowadays so I guess as long as its behind the firewall it will be ok, but to be sure I will make sure it doesn't ever access the outside world lol
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Any problem elsewhere on your lan could pass the infection on. If I don't get OS patches next month; I'll definitely be rushing up a replacement. Dunno if I'll do a QNAP/Synology appliance, or just W10 + StableBit Drivepool + 3rd party backup software. At this point, even aside from the price, I'd be reluctant to buy Server 2012 Essentials as MS"s theoretical replacement due to it's end of life clock being about a third used up.
  • rrinker - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Server 2008/WHS 2011 will continue to get security patches until 2020. So we're all still good, no rush to Server 2012.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - link

    Is this just wishful/optimistic thinking on your part or has MS actually said they'll continue providing patches to the underlying OS of WHS 2011?

    I tried pinning MS down on MSDN forums a few months ago; but all I got was links to the official life cycle page which shows April as the last month WHS2011 is to get any patches.


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