Data Robotics Makes Storage Simple

Data Robotics hopes to simplify storage with what it calls “the first fully automated storage robot.” The company, the brainchild of BlueArc founder Geoff Barrall, said its “Drobo” offering protects data while providing scalability and easy expansion. Drobo limits human interaction and is self-monitoring, self-healing and intuitive, the company said.

Aimed at consumers and small businesses, a four-bay appliance starts at $499, with disk drives extra. Using four 1 terabyte drives, the appliance could protect 2.7 TB of data, scaling as higher-capacity drives become available.

Does the company live up to the hype? Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, thinks so.

Data Robotics' Drobo storage appliance
Data Robotics’ Drobo storage appliance.

“Data Robotics is one of the storage vendors that I am the most excited about,” Asaro said. “The biggest problem with storage — whether it is at the high end or for individuals — is the complexity. In the immediate market that Data Robotics is going after — the small business and prosumers — the challenge of dealing with PC-based RAID systems is ridiculous. I’ve known individuals that spent hours trying to get a Dell or HP server with RAID up and running and the results were disastrous. These guys have made the entire process transparent.”

Data Robotics — formerly known as Trusted Data — said it helps small businesses and consumers focus on their work instead of their IT infrastructure. The company said Drobo “is designed to anticipate much of what can go wrong with digital storage and automatically monitors and repairs problems that put data at risk.”

“After inventing enterprise storage technologies and building entire data centers, I understand how to store and protect data better than most,” said Barrall, CEO and co-founder of Data Robotics. “But that didn’t save me from losing irreplaceable personal data from a system crash at home. When I investigated what solutions were available, the only options were managing a growing number of external hard drives or managing RAID. That’s when I realized there needed to be a better solution.”

Data Robotics says the storage technology inside of Drobo is based on storage virtualization principles “combined with the ideals of cybernetics.”

“For the first time, we have a storage solution in Drobo that lets people know when their hard drive capacity is running low, just like a printer would notify a user that it is running low on ink,” said Barrall. “When hard drive capacity is nearing its limit, Drobo alerts the user that they need to add or replace a hard drive with a larger new one. That’s all you need to do. Just insert a new drive and you instantly get more capacity.”

Drobo connects via any USB 2.0 port on a Mac or Windows PC, with higher-speed connections like Firewire planned for future versions. The four bays can accept any brand, size, speed

or capacity mix of standard 3.5-inch SATA internal hard drives, which slide in without the need for tools or carriers.

To set it up, users add drives, then connect Drobo’s USB 2.0 cable to a Windows or Macintosh-based PC or server, and plug it in. Drobo acts as one large drive, making it easier to find what’s been stored on it.

When lights are green, data is safe; when they’re yellow, Drobo is 85 percent full and requires a new drive. With red lights, a drive must be added immediately.

Drobo automatically configures itself for data protection, the company said. If a drive fails, Drobo moves unprotected data to any available protected space on remaining disks.

Drobo is available from and NewEgg, MacConnection, MacMall, MacZone, PC Connection, PC Mall, TigerDirect and Zones, as well as several resellers.

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