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Drobo 5D - not cheap, still awesome?

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Alex Gerulaitis
Drobo 5D - not cheap, still awesome?
on Aug 13, 2013 at 8:13:53 pm

300MB/s read/writes put in line with other 5-bay RAID5 boxes - so that's nothing special, except perhaps that we can't call all Drobos dog-slow any more. For a five-bay external box in RAID5 mode, this is pretty fast.

There are a few things that make it quite special:

1. Dual parity mode. Can't think of any other 5-bay portable storage box that supports dual redundancy - which is miles above single redundancy in reliability. I don't know how fast it is in that mode though - probably slower than 300MB/s.

2. Zero-bay SSD caching. Do you know of any other portable and relatively affordable storage box with SSD caching? I don't. While it won't do much for those video workflows that only do large (sequential) I/Os, it should do wonders on small random I/Os, including some Pr and AE workflows.

3. The Thunderbolt I/O does work on Windows even though Drobo doesn't support it: at least one editor made it work on a Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4 TH motherboard in Windows.

4. USB 3.0 is also there although I don't know how fast it is. Personally, I've never seen USB 3.0 faster than 250MB/s unless it's in UAS mode.

5D is not cheap at $800 diskless, yet some of its seemingly unique features like zero-bay SSD caching, dual redundancy and Thunderbolt I/O, make it a great little box for some editing workflows.

What do you think? Good box for its price and size? Bad box? Is there anything comparable or better?

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Engineer
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA

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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Drobo 5D - not cheap, still awesome?
on Aug 14, 2013 at 12:47:01 am

"Curb your enthusiasm, Alex!", the voice in my head said.

5D suffers serious performance deterioration on random I/Os and in "performance maintenance" mode (while the brain is doing some internal data organization shuffling - which can take hours and sometimes days.

The Dual Parity mode sees write performance dropping 50% in one case, although I've seen no reliable tests yet.

SSD caching is great on paper but in some cases seems to be eating through SSDs like french fries - in some cases bringing an SSD to "10% life remaining" within a few months. Yet in some cases the SSDs remain healthy after using the box heavily for several months.

Bottom line: 5D should not be used as media storage for editing, as its performance is unpredictable and spiky. Archiving, backup, replication - sure. If you're looking for a fairly small yet consistently performing direct-attached storage box, the "usual suspects" are ProAvio EB400CR, Promise Pegasus RAID (Thunderbolt), CineRAID CR-H458.

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