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Personal Computing: Drobo Jitters

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As regular readers will know, I’ve had a Drobo storage system for some time now.  I’ve not had a bad word to say about the product – it just works and does what I expect it to do.  However, there’s one function I think could do with some improvement and it’s the one thing that scares me most – removing drives.

DroboRemoveI’ve been reviewing 2TB drives recently and now they’re destined to be used in the Drobo to expand my storage footprint.  This means I’ve been swapping drives in and out of the Drobo as I test them on another PC.  The process for drive removal is quite simple – just pull it out.  That’s where the problem lies. 

I’m never keen about just removing a drive and letting the system reconfigure itself.  I see that as a “hard” failure which could have been avoided.  Before drive removal, surely it’s best to logically “evacuate” a drive and move the contents in a controlled fashion?  Physical removal must be causing the Drobo to perform rebuilds on data, which means if the other drives have faulty copies, then my data’s lost.

Have a look at the picture; you can see I’ve removed a drive and the Drobo is in a state of rebuild.  Fortunately the removed drive only had a 500GB capacity and hadn’t been in the device long.  Reconstruction of RAID only took about 7 minutes and I was protected again.  However I have swapped drives before and experienced a 13 hour rebuild, during which time data was unprotected. 

Maybe I’m being paranoid, but Drobo guys, please give us a controlled way to remove a drive without forcing a rebuild.  It will help me sleep better at night!

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
  • http://blog.fosketts.net Stephen Foskett

    I’ve been meaning to post exactly the same thing! It’s nuts that the official/approved method of removing a drive is “pop it out”. This from the same folks who have a suspend button on the array…

    I’ll be talking to their VP of Marketing tomorrow and will make this suggestion!

  • Ron Major

    Drives are cheap. Perhaps a three way mirror or RAID5 2+1+spare or RAID6 2+2. This is not just a Drobo issue. With the increasing size of harddrives, rebuild times are becoming too long and the danger of another failure – physical or data corruption – is too great. I recently read an article about how HDDs fail and I’m amazed the things work as well as they do. If it was not for their long track record, I would not sleep well.

  • Chris Evans

    True, drives are cheap. Perhaps though we need a new way to access data on the drives in parallel – or some other way of removing the need for serial access – I know how about SSDs…. 🙂

  • http://blog.fosketts.net Stephen Foskett

    The DroboPro does support 2-drive parity (something like RAID-6), which is a must for an 8-drive device like it. 2-drive parity on a 4-drive device probably would not be used by many folks.

    As for the eject issue, the product marketing manager has taken the suggestion and will put it to the engineers. Watch for this feature in the future!

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