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Setting up and maintaining an iSCSI storage array can be a challenge, even for an experienced IT administrator. Reducing the job to child's play is Drobo, which recently expanded its line of compact, high-density SAN devices for small business with the Drobo B800i iSCSI Storage SAN for Business, an eight-bay iSCSI SAN that might just be the easiest RAID array that the CRN Test Center has ever set up.
While it might not be the cheapest SAN appliance at $3,999 list unpopulated, the Drobo B800i more than makes up for its price tag by eliminating completely the need for an experienced administrator. Thanks to its so-called BeyondRAID embedded system, the administrator's qualifications are reduced to the ability to recognize blue, green, yellow and red LEDs.
Gone are the decisions of which RAID level to select, how many drives to put in and of what size, spin speed and SATA version they need to be. Out of the box, simply insert one or more 3.5-inch SATA drives (free of rails or carriers) of any capacity up to 3TB and boot the Drobo. Its clever firmware does the rest, figuring out the best way to protect the data using with the drives it was given.
A line of 10 blue LEDs indicate capacity in use; a new one lights up whenever another 10 percent of the array is occupied. Need more storage space? Just pop another drive into an available slot and Drobo absorbs its capacity and expands available space. No available slots? No problem. Just rip out your smallest drive and pop in a larger one. Data is automatically redistributed. While it's reconfiguring itself, LEDs on the effected drives alternate between green and yellow to warn against removing them.
The company says that such actions will have to effect on users. To test this claim, we ran the IOmeter benchmark utility and monitored I/O traffic and throughput while adding a drive to the array. The 1TB drive we added blended with the six existing 2TB drives in about five seconds, after which performance dipped about 10 percent, from 930 IOPS to 840 IOPS.