Drobo S now comes with eSATA, DroboElite with two Gigabit ports

Drobo S Hero
Today Data Robotics presented a new device that power users always wanted from the Drobo: a really fast interface to connect the external storage to your workstation. I’m speaking about eSATA which makes the new Drobo S much faster. These higher speeds, that also apply to the Firewire 800 and to a negligible degree to the USB 2.0 interface, also come – according to Data Robotics’ Director of Product Marketing Jim Sherhart – as part of a new processing unit and upgraded memory. The company says the data rates should tick in at about 80 MByte/s for eSATA and 60 MByte/s for Firewire 800 respectively. The Drobo S now also has a 5th hard drive slot. How these speeds will apply to the real world is something only benchmarks will be able to tell.

Those who already have a Drobo can just put their existing hard drives into the new Drobo S and should be good to go. This was already the case for users upgrading from a Drobo to the DroboPro.

Drobo S Rear

A feature that was already known from the DroboPro has now been pushed down to the Drobo S: dual drive redundancy. This means you can now assign a second drive for safety to make your data even safer. This is especially interesting when you upgrade a drive, thus removing the old one and putting your data into a situation where the failure of another drive could potentially mean disaster for your files. You can turn this feature on and off as needed.

What about Drobo Share?

The networking device – called Drobo Share – will officially not be supported in combination with the Drobo S. That said, Jim made clear that the device would still work with the S. The reason for not supporting it is, that professional users – which are the target audience of the new device – want high transfer rates, a thing the USB 2.0 interface which connects the Drobo to the Drobo Share, can’t handle. The company will wait and see if users are asking for a new device that comes with a build-in Gigabit interface. This probably won’t be an external device like the Share, but a new Drobo that comes with this interface – along with maybe Firewire and eSATA.

I’ve been asking Data Robotics back during the presentation of the second generation Drobo as to why they didn’t want to go with eSATA. Part of their reasoning was the unavailability of eSATA as default on many devices, especially by Apple. Also USB 3.0 then appeared to be closer than it actually is right now. Allegedly Intel pushed back of the mass introduction of the new USB standard to 2011. That left only one interface: eSATA.

Jim stated that USB 3.0 was not gone for good. In fact they are looking for maybe a release of a new Drobo with USB 3.0 later next year.

The company currently recommends the Apiotek eSATA II 300 and Sonnet Tempo SATA cards for the Mac Pro/MacBook Pro to connect the new Drobo S via eSATA.

The Drobo S now gives you the possibility to manage up to 15 volumes whereas the Drobo didn’t expose this feature through the management interface; you usually ended up with a single volume with the regular Drobo. You only saw another volume if the size of your volume exceeded the maximum formatted size. Now you’ll be able to manage the volumes on your own.

The Drobo S will be available starting next week for 799 USD/569 Euros (excluding VAT). Data Robotics also offers a bundle that comes with 5x 2 TByte drives for 1.799 USD.

But there’s more: DroboElite

DroboElite Front Top

But the Drobo S wasn’t all. Data Robotics also launched the DroboElite, which feature- and price-wise even surpasses the DroboPro. It now comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports for iSCSI. This so called multi-host feature means that two separate servers or workstations can now access the volumes. More information about this should be available on the Data Robotics homepage soon. The number of possible volumes has been upped from 16 (DroboPro) to now 255.

DroboElite Rear

DroboElite is supposed to be 50 percent faster than the DroboPro thanks to a faster processing engine.

The DroboElite will be available for 3499 USD/2439 Euros (excluding VAT) starting next week.

Drobo comparison

More about Data Robotics

Data Robotics hopes for profitability in 2010 and potentially might file for IPO in 2010/2011. They shipped more than 85,000 units in two years, 5,000 of those were DroboPros shipped since April.

According to their data, they had 100 percent growth in 2009 over 2008. That being said, I asked Jim how the economy impacted the company. His reply was:
“We did see the effects of the down economy in Q1 2009 as revenue was flat to slightly down when compared to Q4 2008. This was primarily due to our channel partners running inventory as close to zero as possible and not ordering new product to support sales. This was a short-term impact and we have since experienced double digit revenue growth in Q2 and Q3 2009 despite a relatively flat economy that seems slow to recover. We attribute this primarily to the price/performance advantage that Drobo products offer when compared to the competition.”

Currently the company has “about 75 employees worldwide with plans to grow that number in 2010”.

Images used courtesy of Data Robotics.