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Drobo's proprietary RAID software protects data after a drive fails (as indicated by a red LED); the ailing drive can simply be yanked and replaced, and our tests bore out this claim. If two drives fail or are removed at once, all hell breaks loose unless dual disk redundancy is selected during setup (disabled by default). Drobo does warn about it in its documentation and demonstration videos, and the software recovered from this scenario anyway, even though we left the default setting for tests.
Drobo's administrative tool is called Drobo Dashboard, and is by far the best iSCSI software we've seen as far as ease of setup. Included for Mac OS X (Intel only) and Windows, this tool is only really needed for initially configuring network settings, creating and modifying volumes and for taking basic snapshots. Drive formatting choices include NTFS, multi-host and none; NTFS, HFS+ and FAT32 file systems are supported (EXT3 is in beta). Capacity is selected with a slider in 2TB increments, which explanations of the impact of each choice (for example, selecting 16TB might cause Windows to take a long time to start up). Thin provisioning is hard wired, and permits volumes to be created in excess of physical capacity.
The only remaining step before making the volume available to the network was to launch a iSCSI Initiator, which on our test laptop saw the drive on the network and mounted the volume for storage and performance testing. From a dual-core Dell Latitude E5510 running 64-bit Windows 7 Professional, maximum transaction performance with 32K byte reads over one of its two Gbit Ethernet channels was 1014 IOPS, while throughput topped out at 31.7 MB/s at the default frame size of 1500 bytes.
In terms of ease of use, iSCSI SAN setup doesn't get much simpler than with the Drobo B800i. And its LED-based monitoring and automatic administration make the device an ideal solution for resellers looking for a set-and-forget storage appliance for servers and individuals that can be checked from afar and maintained minimally on site as needed with no specialized expertise. The CRN Test Center recommends Drobo B800i.
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