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For the city in Ghana, see Drobo, Ghana.
Drobo, Inc.
Industry Computer hardware
Computer data storage
Founded San Jose, California, U.S. (May 2005 (2005-05))
Founder Geoff Barrall
Julian Terry
Headquarters San Jose, California, U.S.
Area served
Key people
Mihir H. Shah, CEO
Products Drobo
Website drobo.com

Drobo is a family of external storage devices for computers. They are made in a variety of types including DAS, SAN, and NAS appliances made by Connected Data, Inc. Drobo devices can house up to four, five, eight, or twelve 3.5" or 2.5" Serial ATA or Serial Attached SCSI hard disk drives and connect with a computer or network via USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire 800, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet or Thunderbolt. Drobo devices are primarily designed to allow installation and removal of hard disk drives without requiring manual data migration, and also for increasing storage capacity of the unit without downtime. The company Drobo, Inc. changed its name from Data Robotics in 2011 since the familiarity with the Drobo name (which until then had only been the name of their product line) far exceeded the Data Robotics name.[1] Drobo, Inc. merged with Connected Data, Inc. in June 2013, with the new company taking the Connected Data name.



Consumer models[edit]

Drobo (1st) Drobo (2nd) Drobo (3rd) Drobo S Drobo S (2nd) Drobo 5D Drobo FS Drobo 5N Drobo Mini
Model Number DR04DD10 DR04DD14 DDR3A21 DRDR3A21 DRDR4A21 DRDR5A21 DRDS2A21 DRDS4A21 DR-Mini-1P11
Release Date 5 June 2007 8 July 2008 28 May 2014 23 November 2009 16 November 2010 2 November 2012 6 April 2010 13 December 2012 26 October 2012
Status Discontinued Discontinued Available Discontinued Discontinued Available Discontinued Available Available
Drive Bays 4 4 4 5 5 5+1* 5 5+1* 4+1*
Redundancy Single drive Single drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive
Hosts Single Single Single Single Single Single Up to 10 users Single
Data-Aware Tiering No No No No No Yes No Yes Yes
USB 2.0 2.0 3.0 2.0 3.0 3.0 No No 3.0
FireWire 800 No Yes No Yes Yes No No No No
Gigabit Ethernet No No No No No No 1x (AFP and CIFS/SMB) 1x (AFP and CIFS/SMB) No
eSATA No No No Yes Yes No No No No
Thunderbolt No No No No No Yes No No Yes

*Plus one mSATA SSD slot for Data-Aware Tiering[2]

Business models[edit]

DroboPro DroboPro FS B800fs DroboElite B800i B1200i
Model Number DRPR1A21 DRDS3A21 DR-B800FS-4A21 DREL1A21 DR-B800I-2A21 DRB1200I1A21
Release Date 7 April 2009 5 October 2010 8 February 2011 23 November 2009 8 February 2011 8 February 2011
Status Discontinued Discontinued Available Discontinued Available Available
Drive Bays 8 8 8 8 8 12
Redundancy Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive Single or dual drive
Hosts Single Up to 25 users Up to 100 users Up to 16 Up to 8 Up to 24
Data-Aware Tiering No No No No No Yes
USB 2.0 No No 2.0, Admin only 2.0, Admin only No
FireWire 800 Yes No No No No No
Gigabit Ethernet 1x (iSCSI) 2x (AFP and CIFS/SMB) 2x (AFP and CIFS/SMB) 2x (iSCSI) 2x (iSCSI) 3x (iSCSI) and 1x (Management)
eSATA No No No No No No
Thunderbolt No No No No No No

2nd generation[edit]

In July 2008, Drobo announced a 2nd generation model, [3][4] which offered a faster core processor, optimized firmware, better USB 2.0 performance and a pair of FireWire 800 ports, which are compatible with FireWire 400-to-800 cables and adapters.

Firmware is available to support drives in excess of 3TB (firmware v1.4.0.).[5]

Technical specifications[edit]

  • Marvell 500 MHz System-on-a-chip (SOC) processor (Marvell 88F5281-D0)
    • Includes support for PCI-X, PCI Express, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, DDR2 32bit 200mhz
    • Based on Marvell Feroceon RISC core (ARMv5TE)
    • Same processor used in the Apple Time Capsule and in several other NAS devices
  • Marvell PCI-X 4-Port SATA-II Controller (Marvell 88SX6042-BCZ1)
  • 1 GB RAM (2x Hynix H5PS5162FFR 512Mb DDR2 SDRAM 2-5-5-5)
  • 128 Mb NOR flash memory (Spansion GL128P90FFIR2 90 nm, 25ns page access, 90ns random access)
  • 64 Macrocell PLD (Programmable Logic Device - XILINX XC2C64A
  • 3 Port Firewire 800 (1394b) controller (TI XIO2213AZAY - PCI Express)
  • 45 mAh Manganese rechargeable lithium NVRAM battery (ML2020 - 3V)
  • DC cooling fan (2-wire brushless)


In early 2009, Drobo announced a new model called the DroboPro which is physically larger than the Drobo and offers the option of being mounted in a 19-inch rack. The DroboPro has the increased capacity of 8 drive bays rather than 4 in the original model, giving a 32 TB theoretical maximum with the current 4 TB drives. It also adds "Dual Disk Redundancy" akin to RAID 6. iSCSI via Gigabit Ethernet has been added alongside existing USB and FireWire 800/400 interfaces. However, the iSCSI implementation currently only supports connection to a single server[6] and unlike the Drobo FS, the Ethernet interface cannot be used for other networking protocols such as NFS, FTP, or SMB.


On 23 November 2009, Drobo added a new model to its product line, called DroboElite. Its main difference versus the DroboPro is that it allows simultaneous access for up to 16 hosts, via two iSCSI ports. The Elite version also supports up to 255 volumes (vs. 16 in the Pro version).[7]

Drobo FS[edit]

Drobo FS launched at Tech Field Day in May 2010.[8] The key difference with the 'S' models as well as the 'first' and 'second' generation models is the LAN port i.e. Ethernet RJ45 (without the requirement of a Drobo network interface).
5 HDD slots available.

It provides up to 10.89TB of storage when using 5 HDDs of 3TB. This is less than the sum of the drives because of fault tolerance.

Dual disk redundancy will reduce the possible storage capacity to 8.17TB.

Larger capacity drives greater than 2TB are automatically supported as they become available.[5]


Processor : ARM926EJ-S rev 0 (v5l) MemTotal  : 189028 kB

Drobo 800fs, 800i, 1200i[edit]

On February 8, 2011, Drobo updated its business hardware suite, discontinuing older models for three new ones: 800fs, 800i, and 1200i. The latter two are storage-area networks, with 8 bays for the 800i and 12 bays for the 1200i, respectively. The lower-case i stands for iSCSI.[9]

Drobo Mini[edit]

Shortly after updating their business hardware suite, Drobo also updated their professional hardware suite. Designed for mobile photographers, Drobo Mini was made available on October 12, 2012.[10] The Mini retained many features of earlier Drobo models, including single and dual-drive redundancy, while introducing several new features, such as Thunderbolt ports.[4]

Drobo 5D[edit]

Released shortly after the Drobo Mini, the Drobo 5D continued Drobo's attempted capture of the professional photographer market.[11]


Kernel  :Linux Drobo-FS

BusyBox v1.14.2 (2009-07-29 17:47:47 PDT) multi-call binary

Current DroboApps on the official website:

Application Version
DroboAdmin 1.3
Apache HTTP Server 1.3.41_1
CTorrent dnh3.3.2_1
Dropbear 0.52_1 but D/L file is _2
Firefly Media Server
Fuppes r578_1
lighttpd 1.4.26_1
Pure-FTPd 1.0.28_1
rsync 3.0.7_1
Unfsd 0.9.22_1
Wake-On-LAN 1.09_1
Perl v5.10.0

Perl is the underlying programming language for the DroboApps.

All apps are specific for each type of Drobo.


  • Data protection for all drives, as Drobo controls any access to the data.
  • Recognizes and utilizes newly added storage devices on the fly.
  • Hard drives do not need to be matched in terms of capacity, speed, or manufacturer.
  • The drives appear as one unified drive to the host operating system without requiring the installation of the management software on the host.
  • Supported file systems: HFS Plus, NTFS, ext3 and FAT32 (DDR3A31 only supports HFS+ and NTFS, according to data sheet.)
  • File system redundancy is managed by a virtualization layer which lays data out in a proprietary Drobo format.
  • Second FireWire port allows a user to daisy-chain multiple Drobos up to a computer. Each Drobo mounts as a separate system on the computer.
  • With the addition of the Drobo FS network-attached storage (NAS) add-on, functionality can be added via open-source software. Examples are iTunes music server functionality, UPnP/DLNA support, and FTP access.


Drobo, Inc. implements a storage technology that they call BeyondRAID in their Drobo storage devices. While not a true RAID ISO spec extension, it does provide for using up to 12 SATA hard drives in the devices and consolidating them into one big pool of storage. It has the advantage of being able to use multiple disk sizes at once, much like a spanned volume/volume set or the Synology Hybrid RAID, while providing redundancy for all disks and allowing a hot-swap upgrade at any time. Internally it uses a mix of techniques similar to RAID 1 and RAID 5. Depending on the amount of data stored on the unit in relation to the installed capacity, it may be able to survive up to 3 drive failures, if the "array" can be restored onto the remaining good disks before another drive fails.[citation needed] The amount of usable storage in a Drobo unit can be approximated by adding up the capacities of all the disks and subtracting the capacity of the largest disk. For example, if a 5, 4, 2, and 1 TB drive were installed, the approximate usable capacity would be 5+4+2+1-(5)=7 TB of usable space. Internally the data would be distributed in two RAID 5-like arrays and one RAID 1-like set:

 |  1 TB  |  2 TB  |  4 TB  |  5 TB  |

                            |   x    | unusable space (1 TB)
                   |   A1   |   A1   | RAID 1 set (2× 1 TB)
                   |   B1   |   B1   | RAID 1 set (2× 1 TB)
          |   C1   |   C2   |   Cp   | RAID 5 array (3× 1 TB)
 |   D1   |   D2   |   D3   |   Dp   | RAID 5 array (4× 1 TB)

With the introduction of the DroboPro, a RAID6 like feature was also introduced. BeyondRAID also has the ability to perform hash-based compression using 160-bit SHA1 hashes to maximize storage efficiency.

Detailed technical information about BeyondRAID, including how it handles adding and removing drives, can be found in the patent application at the US Patent Office, US Patent Application No. 20070266037 .

Criticism, customer support issues with Drobo[edit]

The Drobo was initially criticized for lacking an Ethernet port,[12] preventing it from being used as a self-contained NAS appliance. These complaints have been addressed with the release of the DroboShare physical add-on, and the release of the Drobo FS and DroboPro FS, Drobo 5N dedicated NAS versions.

Some reviewers complained about speed and reliability issues of the 2nd generation Drobo when connected to a Windows PC using FireWire 800.[13]

One criticism stands even with the latest generation of Drobos. The "Drobo death spiral" shows that the Drobo itself is the single point of failure for customers owning only a single unit. Its disks use the proprietary Drobo format and hence cannot be mounted or read on any other system.[14] In contrast, other vendors might use data on disk via mdadm and the ext2 / ext3 / ext4 file system formats,[15] which might be accessed on any other Linux system.

Drobo has also been criticized for poor customer support by leading Photoshop evangelist Scott Kelby.[14] In addition Drobo will not provide any support or repair for units that the company has discontinued.[16] As Drobo repair is not readily available from anyone other than Drobo, users of older units who wish to retain data saved on an older Drobo must purchase a new unit if a problem arises.

Like all hardware RAID systems, Drobo units format disks in a proprietary way that cannot be mounted or read on any other system,[17] though data recovery is possible from a professional data recovery service.[citation needed] Users with failed Drobo units who wish to retain saved data must purchase a new unit from Drobo, as Drobo maintains backwards compatibility with different versions of their proprietary format.[18]

Competitors and alternatives[edit]

Other companies, for example QNAP, Netgear, Seagate, and Synology, offer similar virtualised redundancy features under different brand names.[19] Microsoft Windows 8 and Server 2012 includes similar functionality built-in with Storage Spaces.

Netgear's X-RAID,[20][21] Lacie's SimplyRAID[22] and Synology's Hybrid RAID[23] allow the user to expand their storage using hard drives of different capacities and without reformatting the whole array in the process.

There are also software RAID systems available for most operating systems. These can be used to pool storage from many disks while providing fault tolerance and redundancy. Because low-level disk access happens on the computer, software RAID has some CPU overhead. However, software RAID makes data recovery much easier and does not need an extra device.


  1. ^ Owens, Jeremy (2011-07-21). "Data Robotics officially changes name, moves to San Jose". Mercurynews.com. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  2. ^ "Drobo Mini". drobo.com. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  3. ^ Smith, Tony (2008-07-08). "Drobo 'data robot' revamped with Firewire | Register Hardware". Reghardware.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  4. ^ a b "Next-Generation Drobos Once Again Redefine Personal and Professional Data Storage". Data Robotics, Inc. Archived from the original on 2013-08-13. 
  5. ^ a b "Does Drobo support drives larger than 2TB?". drobo.com. 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  6. ^ "Can I connect one or more DroboPros directly to an Ethernet switch?". drobo.com. 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  7. ^ Malventano, Allyn (2009-11-23). "Drobo 'Model S' and 'Elite' models hit the streets". PC Perspective. Archived from the original on 2010-01-02. 
  8. ^ Raayman, Bas (2010-04-06). "Drobo announces their new Drobo FS". Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  9. ^ "Drobo | Using Drobo iSCSI with VMWare". Drobobusiness.com. 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  10. ^ Buiocchi, Tom (2012-10-26). "New Drobo Mini began shipping today". drobo.com. Archived from the original on 2013-06-02. 
  11. ^ Buiocchi, Tom (2012-11-02). "The Drobo 5D – It’s here, it’s fast, it’s better than ever …". drobo.com. Archived from the original on 2013-08-06. 
  12. ^ Hruska, Joel (2008-01-14). "Drobo Share upgrades Drobo, adds NAS functionality". Arstechnica. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  13. ^ Ngo, Dong (2008-08-21). "Drobo second generation review: Drobo second generation". cnet.com. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  14. ^ a b "I'm Done with Drobo". scottkelby.com. 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  15. ^ "File System choice on QNAP NAs'". smallnetbuilder.com. 2010-01-16. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  16. ^ "Drobo End of Life Announcement". drobo.com. 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  17. ^ Crump, George (2013-05-13). "Demystifying RAID". Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  18. ^ "Drobo Migration". drobo.com. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  19. ^ "RAID Made Easy - PC World Magazine New Zealand". Pcworld.co.nz. 2010-04-17. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  20. ^ "What is X-RAID and how does it work with my ReadyNAS OS 6 storage system?". netgear.com. 2013-03-27. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  21. ^ legacy_jedi (2008-04-18). "X-RAID — RAID for the rest of us". Readynas.com. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  22. ^ Ngo, Dong (2013-04-21). "LaCie 5big NAS Pro review". CNET. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  23. ^ "What is Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR)". Synology. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 

External links[edit]