Drobo Expands Storage for SMBs

Since 2007, storage vendor Drobo has been shipping consumer-level storage solutions that aim to make it easy for people to set up and manage. Now the company’s upping its game and targeting small and medium sized business with a series of new storage appliances.

This week Drobo announced new eight-bay and 12-bay small business storage devices that expand the available storage and features of the platform. At the heart of the appliances is Drobo’s BeyondRAID technology that aims to deliver an easier and more flexible approach to storage than traditional RAID.

The BeyondRAID approach lets you mix and match different types of drives within a Drobo enclosure. BeyondRaid abstracts the actual hardware.

“We virtualize the underlying physical storage,” Kevin Epstein vice president of marketing told InternetNews.com. “That said, users are presented with volumes and a choice of formatting options.”

The actual Drobo itself leverages Linux as part of the underlying operating system.

“The underlying OS combines an existing a commercial real-time OS environment (VXworks) for BeyondRAID and a hardened, optimized Linux kernel for network services,” Epstein said.

With the new eight- and 12-bay devices, Epstein noted that Drobo will be delivering its highest performing devices yet. The company’s not just adding more bays to the consumer device, it’s also adding new features as well.

Epstein noted that the SMB devices have redundant power supplies that are field swappable. They also support Solid State Drives (SSD), which offer faster performance than traditional spinning disks.

Not all data needs to be on the fastest drives, which is why Drobo now includes a tiered-storage feature. Epstein explained that tiered storage capability lets the Drobo appliance observe disk read and writes in real time, and it adjusts to put more active data in the more responsive area of storage.

Tiered storage isn’t just about applications; it works at an even deeper level. As an example, Epstein explained that if an SMB had email storage on the Drobo, the device could put the email boxes of the people that check their email the most frequently on the faster storage.

Drobo does not plan to offer SMBs a clustering solution — where you could combine multiple 12-bay units together to create a larger storage array. Epstein noted that it’s not an area they’re likely to go into either.

“We’re very content serving this missed area of sophisticated storage for the initial SMB user,” Epstein said. “Once you hit a point where you’re looking at 128 Terabytes or more of storage, that’s likely Small and Medium Enterprise versus SMB.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Internetnews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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