The short version:
This had to happen and thank god it did!
The long version:
When I (and several other people) had the chance to review the first gen Drobo we all came to the conclusion that USB on a device like the Drobo was just a bad idea since USB is too slow for this. The people at Drobo just said that they are listening to the customers (and reviewers). Today they kept their promise and released the second gen Drobo with Firewire 800.
But lets take a step back and look what the Drobo actually is. It’s basically an enclosure for four regular Serial-ATA drives. So far nothing special when compared to other solutions on the market. But Drobo can grow. For example if you start with three 250 GByte drives (which adds to a combined capacity of about 500 GByte) and they start to fill up you can easily add fourth drive. It doesn’t matter what capacity you push in. You can calculate the size using Drobo’s Drobolator.
Also, Drobo will arrange the files across the drives so that if one drive will fail, the data won’t be lost. It will simply blink a red warning light next to the failed drive, asking you to replace that drive. During this operation the data is still accessible. You could compare it to RAID but it’s slightly different since the way Drobo handles the data has some advantages over RAID.
If you aren’t planning on directly hooking up the Drobo to a computer you can buy the DroboShare which makes Drobo network-aware, so you can use up to two Drobos per DroboShare as a Network Attached Storage.
Engadget has a quick review which shows, that the new Drobo can deliver the promised speed increases.
Prices are the same as the old unit: 500 US-Dollars for the enclosure without any drives.
At the moment I can only assume that the German prices will also stay the same which means it’ll still retail at about 400 Euros. As soon as I get any details on pricing and availability in Germany I’ll update this post. This was rather quick: according to the german press release the second generation Drobo is available from today for 379 Euros.