Drobo goes NAS with Drobo FS

After Drobo launched the Drobo S a few months ago there was a forseeable hole in the company’s line up. Officially the Drobo Share, the device that connects the Drobo to a network, was not working with the new unit (unofficially it did work), but there was no immediate replacement. This just changed.

Today Drobo launched the Drobo FS which essentially is a Drobo S that instead of an eSATA port now has an Gigabit ethernet jack on the back to connect to computers using AFP or CIFS/SMB. On the inside various things have been swapped too. These changes should again make the device faster than before. Reports say speeds should be around 30-40 MByte/sec. It’ll be interesting to see the real world results. According to Jim Sherhart, Sr Director of Product Marketing at Data Robotics, read speeds are at about 37-50 MBytes/sec while write speeds are at 28-44 MBytes/sec. This speed increase comes thanks to a dual core CPU that is used in the Drobo FS (the Drobo S uses a single core). Still, if you’re looking for more serious transferrates, e.g. for video editing, etc. you’ll be better off getting the Drobo S, because of the much faster eSATA interface.

The main thing about the Drobo FS is that you can plug it into your existing network and it’ll just show up. The volume is created automatically and you’re good to go. Currently you can create up to 16 shares on the Drobo FS, each of which can have different security settings. The users and permissions are set via the Drobo Dashboard and are currently only per share. However, Drobo is thinking about making permissions available to a more granular level, such as different folders on a given share. Internally Drobo FS uses the known ext3 filesystem.

Of course, the device has all the nice things known from previous Drobos, such as the ability to change and upgrade drives during use. Additionally, the already known DroboApps will work with the new device. Currently they have the most prominent apps ported to the new Drobo FS, but more apps should follow. Usually they only need to recompile an app without having to make big changes to the inner workings of it.

This opens up possibilities like making the data available via the internet. To realise this Data Robotics teamed up with Oxygen Cloud which allows you to create your own “cloud storage”. This way you’ll be able to access your Drobo at home from everywhere in the world (as long as your internet access is fast enough). Think about it like Dropbox just with your own storage.

The current timeframe for the release, according to Jim, is early May. They are nearing completion for the iPad app and will then continue work on the iPhone app. It’s currently unknown if it’ll be an universal app or if these apps will be sold seperate. For home users Oxygen Cloud will be free. Prices for professional/business users are not set yet, but estimated at 5-10 USD per month and per user. But this is still subject to change. I’ll get back to Oxygen Cloud in a later update to this post.

In Europe the Drobo FS without drives is available for 519 Euros (+ taxes). Like previous Drobos there also are several packages. A 10 TByte version (5 x 2 TByte drives) costs 1.079 Euros (+ taxes). Drobo FS is available immediately.

I also asked about future products and while there wasn’t anything concrete (no surprise there) we should have a close eye on Q4 2010 for something new. It’ll probably be an USB 3.0 based product, but maybe we’ll see something using Light Peak because that’s what Intel seems to be pushing quite a bit. Other manufacturers like Dell, HP and even Apple are more interested in USB 3.0 though.

For more information check out Raoup Pop’s blog or Drobo.com.