Emerging Tech

Drobo B800i SAN storage device teardown: Proprietary motherboard with Marvell processor

The Data Robotics Drobo B800i iSCSI SAN storage device is easy to work on, but the manufacturer will likely be your only source for the proprietary hardware.

The Data Robotics Drobo B800i is an 8-bay, iSCSI SAN storage device that's designed for small and medium business environments. TechRepublic's Mark Kaelin reviewed the B800i back in June, and I couldn't wait to crack it open.

As of this writing, the B800i costs $3,500 (US) without drives. The unit weighs just over 16 lbs. (without drives) and measures 12.17" (W) x 5.46" (H) x 14.10" (D).

The B800i has eight bays, which support 3.5" SATA I / SATA II drives. It can handle up to 24TB of raw storage, and Drobo's BeyondRAID technology lets you combine drives of different capacities. It has two 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port for management.

The B800i was a snap to crack open, and working on it was similar to working on a standard desktop or tower computer. But the proprietary internal hardware, such as the motherboard and drive interface board, make Data Robotics the primary source for replacement parts. Provided you can get the hardware, IT pros with previous hardware repair experience should be able to work on this box.

Cracking Open observations

  • Easy-to-open case: After cracking open tablets for the past few weeks, I was glad to dissect something a bit bigger. After removing the external case screws, the B800i's outer cover slid right off.
  • Standard screws: Data Robotics used standard Phillips screws both inside and outside the B800i. You won't need special tools to work on this box.
  • Parts are easy to replace (if you can get them): As previously noted, the many of the components inside the B800i are proprietary, specifically the motherboard and driver interface card. Although repairing the unit shouldn't be a challenge for IT pros with basic hardware repair skills, you'll need to get replacement parts directly from Data Robotics.

Internal hardware

Our Drobo B800i test unit had the following hardware components:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

11 comments
birumut
birumut

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albayaaabc
albayaaabc

they must be prepare huge storage device with less execute time fetching by operation server beispiel" DAS MOBILE WEB" window server2008 R2 or more requirement with more than one interface language-bar ,also be less price to be every body can owner.

mackelcd
mackelcd

I love being able to use different size drives and then get an automated rebuild, but you pay a premium. Thanks, Colin. http://www.mackellar.net

binaryspiral
binaryspiral

I had very high hopes for Drobo devices, even the VMware certified units couldn't hold a match to basic direct attached storage. I have tested DroboS, DroboPro, and DroboElite units and found that when you really beat on them, especially with a Vmware esx host running a few load testing VMs, they fall over and lock up - requiring a manual poke in the eye to come back online. While I look at the 800 and 1200 units optimistically, I'm not sure I would recommend them for any VMware use as I've found the vmware certification to be useless in this case. It doesn't appear they've invested any more into their controller's processor or storage subsystems.

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

Proprietary? What isn't in PCs these days? Is there such a thing as a non-proprietary circuit board for a NAS? The only thing not proprietary about PC motherboards is the mounting hole placement. Even the I/O panel is unique to each motherboard. That is why the cases have a standard rectangle opening and the mobo maker supplies the insert. No reason to ding a product because you need to get the circuit board from them.

TasMot
TasMot

I'm just not getting it. I could self-build using Freenas for about $500 before hard drives (it's what I plan to do). I truly don't get what the other $3000 is going to buy me. Can anyone help? Especially since i will use "off the shelf" parts and can easily replace them myself with other non-proprietary parts whenever needed.

David A. Pimentel
David A. Pimentel

When someone says that "the manufacturer will likely be your only source for the proprietary hardware," then you should be very wary if my experience a couple years ago with an NAS drive is any indication. There may not be any fixing the thing when it craps-out in a couple years.

tbrown
tbrown

In your last sentence before the observations, I think you meant to say "shouldn't"

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Very true. I don't think the proprietary mobo and driver interface card is a strike against the Drobo B800i, just something that I noticed during the teardown.

sergio.cury
sergio.cury

I understand your concern, but the truth is Drobo works in RAID 6 and a good RAID 6 controller for 8 drives alone costs way more than US$ 500.00.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Thanks for the note. It should indeed be "shouldn't".