I’m always on the search for new and cool storage devices, and Data Robotics’ recently released DroboPro appears to fit both categories. At first glance, the DroboPro seems like nothing more than another drive array, albeit an attractive and modern looking drive array that might even be at home in an entertainment center.

The DroboPro is aimed at both desktops and the small to medium business sector. With support for USB 2.0, FireWire 400 & 800, and iSCSI, the DroboPro features ample connectivity mechanisms for just about any requirement. If you need serious storage capacity on a workstation or server, connect with USB or FireWire. If you need a device on which to store your Exchange databases, connect the device’s iSCSI port to your network and save away.

With a maximum capacity of 16 TB, the DroboPro has plenty of capacity for even the most capacity-demanding workloads. With a maximum of eight spindles in the array, you won’t be supporting enterprise-class workloads, but that doesn’t mean the device isn’t well-suited to other workloads. With only a single iSCSI connector on the unit, the DroboPro won’t replace an existing SAN either, but that doesn’t appear to be the product’s intent.

Data Robotics’ Drobo and DroboPro storage devices feature what the company calls BeyondRAID. According to the company, BeyondRAID “leverages the benefits of traditional RAID systems, while leaving many of the limitations behind. This next-generation of redundant storage technology brings together safety, reliability, expandability, efficiency and ease-of-use.” Your everyday RAID methods can have limitations, including a lock-in of a particular RAID level for the life of the volume, as well as the requirement that your choice of RAID level result in a tradeoff between simplicity vs. safety and stability vs. expandability. DroboPro’s BeyondRAID is supposed to remove these limitations by automatically choosing the RAID algorithm based on current data protection needs. Adding additional capacity is as simple as adding another disk or replacing a small disk in the array with a larger disk. For added protection, the DroboPro allows you to choose between single- and dual-disk redundancy. DroboPro’s BeyondRAID does rely on traditional mirroring and striping.

Because of the unique way that BeyondRAID handles data protection, it can be difficult to determine how much usable capacity you’ll have with a unit. The company’s Web site includes a storage calculator to help you. 

(View more images of the DroboPro in the CNET News.com photo gallery.)

The DroboPro is a 3U device that works with any SATA I or SATA II drive; you don’t need to match drive, type, or speed. Simply slide the drive into the unit and carry on. NTFS, HFS+, FAT32, and EXT3 file systems are supported, and the unit supports Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1, OS X 10.4.11+, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008.

In addition, the unit supports thin provisioning and storage virtualization. It is also self-healing; when a bad disk is detected, you’re immediately alerted with LEDs on the front of the device, and the unit automatically tries to repair around the problem.

With all of this, the DroboPro is claimed to be an exercise in simplicity. From what I’ve been reading about the device, it looks extremely compelling and should be considered by anyone needing to add mass storage. I’m hoping to get my hands on one of these devices; once I do, I’ll report back.

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