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Adding Drobo to WHS? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Has anyone added the Drobo unit from Data Robotics (former product name Digital Asylum from  - Formerly Trusted Data) to your WHS computer? If so were there any problems? Were you able to install the DAA software?

    Mike
    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 2:30 AM

Answers

  • I don't know a lot about Drobo, but it looks like a really expensive external drive cage, with some additional driver and management software. I would be afraid that the management software would conflict (possibly fatally) with Drive Extender, as DE wants an unusual amount of control over your drives.

    In addition (reading the marketing info on the Drobo site) it sounds like Drobo is intended to be (for a single PC) some of what WHS is for your entire network: easily expandable storage. It doesn't offer the backup features, or the remote access features, because it's connected to a single PC. If Drobo meets someone's needs, that's great. I don't think WHS is targeted at that market segment, though.
    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 12:12 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • I don't know a lot about Drobo, but it looks like a really expensive external drive cage, with some additional driver and management software. I would be afraid that the management software would conflict (possibly fatally) with Drive Extender, as DE wants an unusual amount of control over your drives.

    In addition (reading the marketing info on the Drobo site) it sounds like Drobo is intended to be (for a single PC) some of what WHS is for your entire network: easily expandable storage. It doesn't offer the backup features, or the remote access features, because it's connected to a single PC. If Drobo meets someone's needs, that's great. I don't think WHS is targeted at that market segment, though.
    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 12:12 PM
    Moderator
  • Morning Mike

     

    I'm using a Drobo as the main storage pool for my WHS.  I built the basic server using the smallest system drive recommended - 80G (I have two WD800JD SATA drives in a RAID1 configuration).  As you can see I'm using a lot of "non" supported configurations simply because the server has to be able to survive a catastrophic hardware failure without loosing too much data.  I swap one of the RAID drives every week to insure I have a recent drive available in case something goes down hard.  Not sure why Microsoft is so set against RAID as Server 2003 was originally written to support RAID.

     

    I used the smaller system drive simply to force WHS to use the Drobo as the main storage pool.  Drobo manages any number of drives, duplicates files (apparently without the data corruption resident within WHS) over all drives present in the unit, monitors the health of the installed drives and it's simple to use - just slip drives in and out, no complicated adding or removing drives or waiting for the WHS DE to do its work, you simply add/remove the drive Drobo does the rest.

     

    Drobo manages the storage pool, expands it as you add drives, when it needs more space it tells you and recommends which drive to remove (smallest) so I buy drives from Tiger Direct or Newegg when they send me deals I can' t refuse (just added a 250GB Seagate SATA II drive from Newegg - $59 with free shipping) it took about 2 seconds to install it, Drobo added it to the pool automatically.  Drobo reports to WHS that is is a 2T drive and WHS seems happy with that configuration.  WHS shows that the total storage pool is 2T and the Drobo Dashboard installed in WHS shows the actual amount of storage available.

     

    As I work with WHS and read the forums, it appears that there are several real issues with WHS that have to be resolved, but every issue I have had has been self inflicted.  Either I haven't read my guide book carefully enough (I'm using Windows Home Server Unleashed) or I have tried to do something on a client system that simply doesn't work.  So far my Dell 4700 server and the Drobo are working perfectly. 

     

    Only thing I wish Drobo had was an SATA connection.  Right now Drobo uses a USB 2 connecton with a 50 Mb/s transfer rate (at best) when my PCIe RAID controller is capable of 300 Mb/s, Drobo supports any number of drive brands and transfer rates so I hope future versions of the unit will support an SATA II external connection.

     

    Good luck....

     

    LJ

     

    Sunday, April 27, 2008 7:52 AM
  •  ButteM wrote:
    Not sure why Microsoft is so set against RAID as Server 2003 was originally written to support RAID.
    Because Windows Home Server is designed to be easy for a non-technical user to set up (you go to the store, buy an HP MediaSmart Server, plug it in and you're good to go) and extend (you connect a drive then run the console to add it to your storage pool). It's also designed to have relatively low hardware costs, so manufacturers don't have to charge $1000 for an entry level server. RAID offers none of those advantages.

    If you're an enthusiast, then certainly it's possible to use RAID (though not the software RAID that you can set up in Disk Management) with Windows Home Server. There's exactly the same level of support in the operating system as any other Windows Server 2003 installation, it's just not "supported". Not that WHS itself is "supported" in the sense that you can call Microsoft for free if you have a problem. You could make a paid support call, but it will cost you.
    Sunday, April 27, 2008 1:40 PM
    Moderator
  •  I bet he doesn't have any more room for drives in his present case. This can be a problem ith SATA mother boards as most only allow 4 drives to be attached, some allow only two, a few allow 6. Your DVD drive requires one of those ports! SATA is nice... and cheap and non-expandable!  The DROBO unit is well made... have looked at one but you'd have to get one and try it to see if it'll work with WHS. I have a Dell Powervault 200 with 8 SCSI drives in it and if I snake an extra SCSI connector cable inside the server to another adaptec SCSI controller board and hook it up as a regular box of drives it also works with WHS as long as the internal SCSI is not connected. I'm not presently using the Powervault as the 5-146gb drives in my 2450 are plenty sufficient for my needs.

     

    Mark

     

    Sunday, April 27, 2008 5:22 PM
  • Ken;

     

    Direct quote from Joel Burt is that MS does not support RAID for WHS issues, if I'm mistaken I appologize - but one of my first posts concerned RAID and Joel promptly replied that RAID would work, but was not supported by MS.

     

    I'm all for easy and you are right about the non-technical intent of WHS, but as you read the forum posts is isn't there yet.  I'm sure MS is working the bugs and will eventually kill them, but if the system drive fails and the OS has to be reloaded it simply isn't easy - or that's how I read the posts.  It appears to be a whole weekends worth of work to load the OS, re-configure the clients and then wait for WHS to re-index files.

     

    The PCIe RAID controller I installed was a $19 PNY card, not expensive, not difficult to install and works like a charm.  I have hot swapped these drives and WHS keeps on truckin' and either re-builds a new mirror in about 30 minutes or re-synchronizes a former drive partner in about 20 minutes - no technical expertise required just follow the screen prompts and read the controller documentation.

     

    In total I have spent more than buying an HP 475, but I also have the Drobo which manages the storage pool much easier than using the DE in WHS, not sure what would happen if I simply pulled the USB cable and pluged the Drobo into a client system - could I read the files?  Might be worth trying.  Would really like the ability to tell WHS to save files to target folders that are not part of the DE pool, but then we're back to that non-technical issue again.

     

    A Dell 840 server with two drives, RAID capable with no OS is equlivant to the HP 475 and probably has a better "server" hardware design and more MS Server 2003 drivers available that some of the older systems folks are trying to use.

     

    I totally believe in the concept of WHS, it has some nice features you don't get with simple backup software and an external HD, more and more folks are counting on their computers to keep (and safeguard) photos, music, personal files and much more and they will be devistated when something unfortunate happens and it all goes bye, bye.  I have had no big issues with WHS, it seems to be working like a charm - but - I'm not yet trusting it with the farm.

     

    LJ

    Sunday, April 27, 2008 9:38 PM
  • What Joel probably told you is that you can install WHS in a box with a RAID card, but if you do you're on your own; Microsoft doesn't even want bug reports from servers with RAID arrays. I built a server with a RAID array and it worked very well. You can get better performance out of a single large RAID array, with equal reliability and less waste of space, as long as you can live with a maximum of 2 TB in your server.

    RAID won't break your server, but Microsoft really doesn't want OEMs trying to sell WHS solutions that include RAID, due to cost and complexity factors. Thus "RAID isn't supported." System builders are free to do as they please, but they're building (semi) custom servers, and they're the only line of support for their clients, so they'll be supporting any RAID related issues. I would strongly advise anyone for whom price is a serious consideration that they should not build a server with a RAID array, as the less expensive RAID controllers tend to have less, umm, fully baked drivers and firmware...

    As for trusting the farm to WHS, I've been doing so for some time. (Almost a year now.) WHS hasn't let me down so far. But I'm relatively cautious: I don't install lots of stuff, I don't tweak everything under the sun, I don't try to test the limits on my production server. I've got virtual machines and test boxes for that sort of stuff. The more tweaking you do, the less stable your server is. That's equally true of other Microsoft operating systems, BTW; your desktop OS gets unstable because of all the tweaking, not because it's inherently unstable.
    Monday, April 28, 2008 1:36 AM
    Moderator
  • Morning Ken;

     

    I'm still adding services to my WHS, as I get one up and running I add another and so far all seems to be working fine, usually if there has been an issue it's been my fault - having said that, I did encounter an issue after I spent the larger portion of 4 days re-loading all my music files.  I started two of my client systems working to add files to their libraries and went to the movies.  When I got back, both systems had stalled at the same song and while it did not cause 

    WHS to lock up, it did cause both systems to loose touch with the Shared Music folder, in fact none of my systems could stream music until I had re-booted the server.  Thoughts?

     

    Back to Drobo for a moment.  Drobo reports to WHS that it is a 2T drive, doesn't matter how much storage you have actuallly installed in the unit, WHS shows 2T.  The Drobo Dashboard on the WHS desktop shows the actual storage installed and how much of that is available, Drobo duplicates files across all the included drives so there is less chance of loosing data.  The unit will hold 4 drives for a total of 4T, but that exceeds the 2T limit you mentioned above so the Drobo simply reports a second 2T drive.  This thing is just too easy!!  Health status of the drives, storage available, storage used, which drive should be replaced is all done with colored lights.  Non-technical folks can quickly id what has to be done to keep thier Drobo up and running.

     

    WHS adds the interfaces required to have a "Full Spectrum" solution for managing home IT. For me, the Drobo is an essential part of that solution, I just wish they had an internal unit that had faster read/write capability.  I only have a 10/100 network so it still won't move files as quickly as I might like, but an internal Drobo would be a vast improvement over WHS DE.  With Drobo I can install and remove drives in seconds - truly it is a "Plug and Play" storage solution.

     

    LJ

    Monday, April 28, 2008 8:59 AM
  • My thought regarding the services you've added to your home server is that if you've added more than a couple, you've probably added things better left on the desktop. I can't tell you why your client systems froze like that, though. If it happens regularly, post a question.

    Drobo, configured as network attached storage (i.e. Drobo + DroboShare) with a single 500 GB drive, will cost approximately $900. That's significantly more than an HP MediaSmart Server similarly equipped, and it will have less functionality. Using it as an external drive cage cuts that to "only" $700. I just don't see the appeal if you're planning to use Windows Home Server in the first place. The HP MediaSmart Server supports a port multiplier for the eSATA port on the back, so you can connect any eSATA external cage, then just use the functionality built in to Windows Home Server (which you're going to have to do in your scenario anyway) to manage multiple volumes. I can buy a decent port multiplier equipped external enclosure for a couple of hundred dollars. I don't get the cool Drobo management tools, but I already have the Windows Home Server console so I don't feel that I need them.

    In any case, this is rather far afield of the intended use of this forum, which is helping people solve problems and answer questions about Windows Home Server. I suggest we get back to that...
    Monday, April 28, 2008 12:13 PM
    Moderator