Ever since launch of the PC, and increasingly more now, organizations have been dealing with users who bring technology into the company that they had started out using personally. One of those is the Drobo storage device, which gives users the ability to set up a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) system by mixing and matching a variety of disk drives. Faced with the fact that as many as a quarter of its sales were to small to midsize businesses rather than to consumers, the company is announcing three models of its device--two eight bays and a 12 bay--that are actually intended for business use.
Jeffrey Cochran, senior enterprise network engineer for the Nebraska Book Co., says his company, which sells textbooks and operates college bookstores, uses Drobo devices for more flexible storage needs, such as Websites, compared with the EMC SANs the Lincoln company also uses.
"It sounds a little funny, because we have these itty-bitty Drobos in a rack next to the EMCs," he says.Cochran says he can "go out and buy a couple of terabytes for a couple of hundred bucks," while buying 4TBytes for the EMC SAN could cost him up to $30,000. While the Drobo will never replace EMC because of the space and speed the SAN can provide, "for lower-level administrative tasks or storage, Drobo certainly fits the bill perfectly," Cochran says.
New features in the Drobo devices include thin provisioning to help SMBs deal with capacity and utilization planning, says Kevin Epstein, VP of marketing and product management for the Santa Clara, Calif., company. Users can tell an application such as Microsoft Exchange that the device has 20TBytes, but put in just 8Bytes, and the device will let the user know when it's getting full, he says.
With the new products specifically targeting the SMB space, Drobo is looking to move into a growing market that has historically made do with either stripped-down enterprise offerings or higher-end personal storage products -- neither of which really satisfied the SMB storage demand: higher-end features and capacity with an ease of use and price point similar to consumer products, says Liz Conner, senior research analyst for storage systems and personal storage at IDC, a Framingham, Mass., consultancy. She was particularly interested in the 12-bay model because that is a "sweet spot" for SMBs. Though she noted that other vendors already have 12-bay versions on the market, features such as management tools, data tiering and 24/7 support really tailor it to small businesses, which typically have small or minimal IT staff and may not have someone with storage-specific knowledge, she says.
The new models of the devices start at $2,199 and consist of an eight-bay file-sharing Drobo with remote backup and an eight-bay iSCSI-attached storage area network Drobo, each of which are available now. A 12-bay iSCSI SAN version with expanded redundancy, support for thin provisioning and deprovisioning, and data-aware tiering is expected to be available in the second quarter.