So far it’s not looking good for Data Robotics and their new DroboPro product.  (see last post)

thumbFirst let me explain how we intended to use the new DroboPro….  In a nutshell, I don’t think that the DroboPro is nearly fast enough to use as a primary storage device for professional use.  Even when you can speak to a Data Robotics expert, they will admit that hands down transferring data via an internal bus (i.e. and internal RAID such as in our MacPro’s) is leaps and bounds faster than via an external bus such as the DroboPro.

Knowing this, we decided to upgrade all the internal Macintosh RAID’s from 1TB drives to 2TB drives.  This would effectively double the internal RAID capacity from about 1.8TB to somewhere in the 3.5TB range for each workstation.  With respect to our “EditOne” (the main video work station which has both the internal Macintosh RAID as well as a 3Ware Sidecar,) upgrading to all 2TB drives would effectively raise the internal RAID capacity from around 3.8TB to roughly 7.5 or 8TB of primary editing space.

To make this move however, we would need to first move the data off the existing RAIDs, upgrade the drives, and then transfer the data back to the new, larger arrays.  (getting confused yet?)droboPro
This is where the DroboPro comes into play.  The idea was to set up a 16TB array, temporarily park the data onto the array, and then move it back to the newly expanded internal RAIDS.  Once this was completed, we would hang the DroboPro in the rack with the XServe, and have it act as a TimeMachine back up of both “EditOne,” as well as “PhotoOne,” (my primary photo workstation.)  In effect, this would give us double redundancy.  All data would be protected on each workstation via a RAID 5 array, and then it would be further protected via a TimeMachine back up on the network.  For data storage above and beyond the local RAIDs, we would count on the rock solid reliablity of the Promse RAID connected to the server. If the DroboPro seemed to work out, a second unit would be fitted in the rack for even more storage space.

So to begin the experiment…. We purchased the DroboPro directly from Data Robotics on June 30th for $1390.80.  For some reason, the company charged sales tax, which was both a surprise as well as totally annoying. We also ordered 11 more 2tb drives from Newegg.com, 8 of which would be used for the DroboProNewegg has a volume discount policy, so when you are ordering more than 10 of any item, it is worth your while to contact them and request such a discount.  Unfortunately, Newegg informed us that their prices were already as low as possible, and we would have to pay their advertised price ($239.00.)  The big bummer was that just yesterday, I when I ordered 5 more, (just 15 days later) their price had dropped $10/drive.  To Newegg’s credit, when I called their customer service and inquired about the price drop, the service rep was happy to issue us a credit for the difference.  Kudos Newegg for great customer service!!!

Western Digital 2TB drive fom Newegg

Western Digital 2TB drive from Newegg

(back to the Drobo) Shortly after ordering the DroboPro, we were sent an eMail saying that the unit was back ordered and would not ship for at least a week.  (first delay) Ok fine…..

The unit shipped on July 8th, and finally this past Monday we were able to check the thing out in person.

Before I start complaining about Data Robotics, I do have to say that before I ordered the unit, I had called with lots of questions.  The customer service person quickly connected me with a systems architect who spent more than an adequate amount of time with me explaining all sorts of stuff (most of which just flew over my head…) that was amazingly honest and helpful.   In fact, it was the original call that I had made that had sold me on the unit.  I thought if this was the customer service that I was going to be expecting, than the unit was worth the chance.   That being said, that is where the fuzzy nice feelings about Data Robots stopped short.

Once we opened the box and started monkeying (this is an appropriate word because after a week of wasting my time, I feel like a monkey) with the Pro, I feel like I would have been better lighting the cash on fire rather than ordering the array.

My main complaint with the unit is its SLOW!!!  We set it up as a 16TB device, so when you turn it on, it takes an inordinate amount of time to boot up.  On the failed tech support call I had this AM (which I will get to in a moment) the tech woman even said it could take somewhere up to 12 min to boot!

Getting frustrated with Data Robotics

Frustrated with Data Robotics

Right out of the box the issues began…  First off, the operation is not seamless at all!  You need to do all these “special” procedures to get it to run.  Although they say the DroboPro is iSCSI, you can NOT start using iSCSI.  You also have to mount it, as well as unmount it using Firewire.  What sense does that make?  In order to move it from one machine to another, you have to launch their Dashboard software, then put the thing in standby, attach the Firewire cable, wake it up, and then dismount it.  (at least thats how it was explaind to me)  When I asked the tech woman on the phone about it, all I got was, … silence, “um, that’s just the way it is.”

We installed four 2TB drives and fired it up.   The plan was to test the data transfer rate by moving 1.6 TB from a 3Ware Sidecar RAID 5 array, but right away, the bullshit began.  Once the DroboPro came on line, the Drobo Dashboard program began to flash red saying it was unable to protect our data and needed to run some kind of operation.  Although the array icon came up on the desktop, I didn’t want to began transferring data until the Drobo stopped flashing so I let it do its thing.  A thing by the way that had to work over night.  It took 15 hours!  Joke!  One day wasted…

The second day, I came in the studio and did a software update on the machine.  To do this, I shut down the computer as well as the Drobo.  When I fired it back up (waiting and waiting for the Drobo to come online) one of the Drobo lights under a drive was now flashing Red.  I immediately called up Data Robotics and got a tech support guy who was fairly curt.  He seemed knowledgable and anserwed my questions, but really all he kept saying to me was that the drive was dead and it needed replacing.  When I suggested that it was working just fine before I restarted the unit, he sluffed it off and said again, that the drive was dead.  He further went on to explain to me (as if I was new to computers) that “even the drive manufacturers admit to having drive failures.” I thanked him, but annoyed, I got off the phone, restarted the DroboPro, and the red light went away and turned green.

Wasted calls to Data Robotics tech support

Wasted calls to Data Robotics tech support

At this point, my confidence with the DroboPro had become even more shaken, but I was determined to continue with the task.  I rebooted the Macintosh, and began to transfer the 1.6TB of data from the 3Ware Raid to the DroboPro.  SLOW!!!!!  This took just over 23hrs to complete!  23 hrs!!!!  I tried to figure out if this was normal or not, and to tell you the God’s honest truth, as a mathematical knucklehead, I was just flummoxed and couldn’t begin to attempt it.  But when I asked the tech support woman at Data Robotics about if that was normal or not and if she had some metrex to figure out if I was getting acceptable speeds, all I got was an ignorant silence…  Anyway… another day shot!

Now were are at day three.  I came into the studio to find that the data transfer was complete.  I shut down the computer in order to dismount the 3Ware Raid and reset the PRAM on the Mac.  When I rebooted the machine along with the DroboPro, I was greeted again by a red light on one of the drives.  (the same drive as before.)  In fairness to the Drobo unit, the drive could in fact truly be bad, but my confidence had been further compromised.

Out came the “bad” drive, and in went a brand new one.  To my annoyance, the Drobo needed even MORE time to “fix” itself!  18 hours to be exact!  So yet ANOTHER day wasted…

Back into the studio the fourth day to see all the lights on the DroboPro a steady green.  With the data supposedly “safe” on the array, I powered down the unit and moved it across the studio to the next workstation.  Using the Data Robotics annoying start up procedure, I connected the array first via Firewire and turned on the unit….. nothing!  The Drobo Dashboard software was active, but it could not see the array.  More wasted time….

I jumped on the phone again and dialed their tech support.  This time I was connected with a woman who was prickly, abrasive, and somewhat disrespectful.  (again, I have to say that when I am frustrated I may or may not have the rosiest of personalities,) but in general, I felt as if I was being spoken to as a child with his first computer.  Each time I asked a question, I had to listen to her typing the problem into her terminal and then had to painfully listen as she read the answer off of her screen.  When I mentioned that I had called the other week and was transferred to a systems architect and suggested that maybe he would be a better person to deal with, she curtly remarked that there was no such thing, and it was explained of just how much experience she had working on the Drobo account.  “I’ve been working on the Drobo account for over a year…” she said!  Really?!?

Regardless of her said “knowledge,” I kew the call was going no where.  I felt an even bigger wasted of time coming on, so before I blew my stack, I ended the call.

From Data Robotics web site...

From Data Robotics web site…

The unfortunate net net is that we have yet another piece of crap paperweight sitting on the studio bench.  To make matters worse, as soon as I hung up the phone with my wonderful customer service rep at Data Robotics, I got an email saying that they had now “closed my case.”  To add insult to injury, they emailed me a customer service survey.  Did they really want me to answer it?

In the end, I feel we have wasted several thousand dollars, and countless man hours screwing with this product trying to get to work.  Not only are we out the time and $$$, but trying to get the thing up and running has taken one of our editing suites off-line and has lost us revenue.

I suppose because I am a masochist, I will walk away from the Drobo for a day or so, and then give it one more try.  On paper, their concept seems to be promising,  but so far, all I have to report is frustration with their false claims, and a total disgust with how I have been treated by their customer service department.regrets

We’ll keep you posted as to if this thing gets tossed out the window or not, but so far, this is the report:  The Drobo experience has been a joke!  If you are serious about a rock solid external data storage device that will give you NO problems, and is backed up by a truly top notch customer service department, I suggest you check out the Sidecar by 3Ware.  This is a true hardware RAID and has been bombproof.

As far as the DroboPro is concerned… we’ll keep our fingers crossed and give it one more try.  There may still be hope.

Stay tuned.

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