Monday, August 02, 2010

drobo fs install, review

If all computer technology was like the Drobo, there would be less people complaining that their tech is difficult to use or doesn't work. I've had my Drobo FS for three days, but man, I love the thing. It is such a pleasure to not have to worry about RAID arcana just to have your systems safely backed up.

Got It!
I bought the Drobo FS from Amazon (about $694 with free shipping) and set it up between yesterday and today. I installed the Drobo Dashboard, the utility program for the Drobo, on my MacBook Pro, rebooted the Mac, popped a combination of five 250GB and 500GB drives in, hooked up the power and the ethernet cables and fired it up. Drobo Dashboard saw the unit as it sat attached to my router.

The Basics
Dashboard asked me if I wanted to upgrade the I did. There was a small hiccup with Dashboard not seeing the Drobo after doing the firmware, so I had to hard power it down. But second time around, the firmware update worked. Dashboard then asked me if I wanted to upgrade the Dashboard software, which I did. I restarted the Mac. I then went into Advanced Settings -> Tools and configured email alerts to send me an email if Drobo becomes too full or has problems.

Create Shares
Back in Dashboard, I created a couple of shares, one as backup for my main Linux video editing workstation and the other for my MacBook and TimeMachine. I setup my MacBook to use 500GB of storage as a TimeMachine backup. The TimeMachine hook up worked like a charm and started backing up.

Stress Test Drobo!
I decided to test it hard out of the box and ran that TimeMachine backup from the mac (connected wirelessly) coincident with a big copy from my Linux video editing box. On my Linux box, I mounted the Drobo via SMB/CIFS and copied over my 460GB archive. The backup of the Linux archive took about 3.5 hours at about 25MiB/s over wired ethernet. Not bad for over gigE and with contention from the Time Machine backup.

The next morning, I got tired of waiting for the wireless TM backup of 130GB to finish, so I stopped the TM backup and then hooked up the Mac to a hard wired ethernet connection. Still took about five hours to copy over the remaining 80GB.

I recently created a 760GB archive of my video workstation using fsarchiver. Copying the one file from my workstation to the Drobo took about 10 hours (8pm to 6am). That was with contention from a 40GB Time Machine backup that was running at the same time.
***end update***

Drobo Apps
Today I installed a few Drobo Apps (apache/droboutils/dropbear). DroboUtils is an easier way to manage Drobo Apps and as a prerequisite, it requires Apache to be installed. I used Apache for another function, setup of my personal website. I haven't cutover to using the apache web server as my main webserver yet because I need to tweak the apache config to hide some of the directory structures.

There is no telnet client for DroboApps, but DropBear is the SSH server for the Drobo. After installing, it was pretty cool to be able to logon to the device.

syslog entries
Sep 13 17:40:23 MAC sudo[57338]: root : TTY=unknown ; PWD=/ ; USER=newuser ; COMMAND=/sbin/mount_afp afp://user:pass@ /Volumes/DroboFS/0db102670141/1/DroboApps
Sep 13 17:40:24 MAC kernel[0]: AFP_VFS afpfs_mount: /Volumes/DroboFS/0db112312341/1/DroboApps, pid 57338
Sep 13 17:44:09 MAC /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[57359]: Backup requested by user
Sep 13 17:44:09 MAC /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[57359]: Starting standard backup
Sep 13 17:44:24 MAC kernel[0]: AFP_VFS afpfs_mount: /Volumes/MacTimeMachine, pid 57360
Sep 13 17:44:24 MAC /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[57359]: Mounted network destination using URL: afp://user@Drobo.local/MacTimeMachine
Sep 13 17:44:24 MAC /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[57359]: Backup destination mounted at path: /Volumes/MacTimeMachine
Sep 13 17:44:30 MAC /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[57359]: Disk image /Volumes/MacTimeMachine/MAC_0017f2ca5f8b.sparsebundle mounted at: /Volumes/Backup of MAC
Sep 13 17:44:30 MAC /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[57359]: Backing up to: /Volumes/Backup of MAC/Backups.backupdb

All-in-all, the process was super smooth and the device is everything I hoped for. With the ability to expand drive space at will, I shouldn't outgrow the FS very soon. I'm also looking forward to using more Drobo Apps and letting that be my server, instead of my XP VM on my Mac!

Long live Drobo!

Some Pics of the Process
drobo formatting my stack of drives

updating the firmware on the drobo

drobo temporarily loses its mind during firmware update

don't touch drobo while firmware is being updated!

drobo starting up after successful firmware update

drobo successfully updates its firmware

drobo dashboard download for update

time machine backup using drobo!

25MiBps (Mebibytes per second) network copy speed (with two backups to Drobo running..Time Machine and a backup of a 438GB archive)

Update 2010/08/14
Drobo shell commands

Found some good links on cross-compiling packages for the Drobo:

Ethtool specific links

Drobo Forums


Jon Disnard said...

Hopefully you mean 25MB/s and NOT 25Mbps which means mega-bits-per-second.

Semantics are a bit deal when working with the Mb's and MB's.

I have a Drobo FS and I'm able to get about 27 MB/s or MBps, which is about 200 Mbps. Got it?

In other words it's about twice the theoretical speed of 100/Base-t or 1/5th the speed of Gig-E.

Not bad actually.


Cacasodo said...

Good eye. I am using Gnome's System Monitor program to determine the transfer rate from my workstation to the Drobo. Inadvertently, I fat fingered and dropped the capital B off my transfer rate. But then I got to looking at System Monitor graphic a little more closely ( and found that the network monitor measures the utilization in Mebibytes (MiB/s). A Mebibyte is 8,388,608 bits per second. This is slightly higher than a Megabyte per second, which is 8,000,000 bits per second.

thanks for the notice!

Jon Disnard said...

It's good to see similar results from you sodo, we have about the same setup: drobo-fs, gig-e, and use linux.

IT would be interesting to findout how to make Drobo-FS perform even faster. ;)

I did try to increase the ethernet frame size to 3k but my unfortunately my switch doesn't have support, so did not realize any gains.

I'm very interested to get linux ARM cross compiler setup to get some more server apps working on Drobo. Your links were very helpful to me in getting started.

Thanks for the good write up!

Cacasodo said...

No problem. I'm actually going through those cross-compile instructions again at the moment, as I am setting up an ARM compile environment for some work on my Canon 5D's firmware. I don't do this often either, so I have to relearn.

Good luck on your cross-compiling,

Feel free to drop me a line or ask me a question.