The new device is designed to serve as Network Attached Storage with all of the advantages of the Data Robotics BeyondRAID technology, with the added bonus of drop-dead simple setup. In a pre-release interview with Mark Fuccio of Data Robotics last week, he noted that setup on the device is as easy as installing the Drobo Dashboard software on a computer on the network, and then letting it handle all of the setup decisions for you.
The device features a dual core processor, with one core running the embedded proprietary OS and the other core running Linux. The processor brings a lot of speed to the Drobo FS -- in testing, the device had about four times the speed of the former Drobo NAS solution, which was a Drobo plus the DroboShare device. Data Robotics noted that using Jumbo Frames, read speeds of up to 50-55MB/sec are possible.
The Drobo FS has five storage bays, each of which can hold one standard 3.5" SATA hard drive. At the present time, the largest capacity of these drives is 2 TB, for a total of 9.1 TB of capacity or 5.44 TB with dual-disk redundancy (two drives can fail and the array can still operate flawlessly). As drive capacities grow in the future, the 2 TB drives can be replaced with larger drives, increasing the capacity of the array even more. The FS has a single Gigabit Ethernet port on the back for its connection to the world.
Data Robotics sees the sharing capabilities of the Drobo FS as three-fold; shared file storage, network backup, and a private cloud. Once the device is set up and running, there is a public share that appears, and you can create shares for individual users and groups. The Drobo FS can also run DroboApps, which are applications which run on the device and provide functionality that previously required a full server.
The Drobo FS is Time Machine compatible, so Macs on your network can choose to back up to the shared RAID device. Another of the Drobo Apps available for free is the Firefly iTunes media server, so the Drobo FS could be set up as an iTunes media server for an entire houseful of Macs.
One of the more notable DroboApps that will make its debut with the DroboFS is Oxygen Cloud. Oxygen Cloud turns your Drobo FS into a private, secure cloud server. Fuccio referred to it as "Dropbox with IT control," comparing it to Dropbox but noting that in this case there is only one copy of the data -- in the cloud. IT departments can set up the Oxygen Cloud Drobo App to integrate with directory services like Active Directory or Open Directory. Oxygen Cloud will be available as a "freemium" service, with access by a single user for free and at an unspecified cost for multiple users. Most likely, the cloud service will be used for backing up a Drobo FS device.
The price of the Drobo FS is impressively low. The device, loaded with five 2 TB drives, costs US$1449. For individuals or companies wanting to provide their own drives, the base device is priced at $699. Other configurations are available in between the two extremes.
TUAW is currently testing an early production model of the Drobo FS and we will have a full review available for your reading pleasure soon.