Data Robotics introduces 5-bay Drobo S, enterprise-ready DroboElite

Data Robotics has been quietly raking in the dough (and trying to match up supply with demand) ever since it launched its 8-bay DroboPro back in April, and now the company is making yet another bold move: doubling its product line. Starting today, the traditional 4-bay Drobo will be joined by the quicker Drobo S, and the DroboElite will be added at the high end for those in the enterprise. The Model S ups the ante by adding a fifth drive bay in order to allow for two drives to fail without any data being lost -- a feature that was previously reserved for the aforesaid Pro. It's also boasting an ARM chip with a 50 percent faster clock (compared to the Drobo), enabling the FireWire 800 performance to see a 20 to 25 percent boost; moreover, an eSATA socket has been added alongside the tried-and-true USB 2.0 port. Users will also be able to switch between single- and dual-drive redundancy via the software control panel, though you should be warned that the DroboShare NAS adapter will not work on the Drobo S. We spoke with Mark Fuccio, the firm's senior director of products and marketing, who told us that the functionality was left off due to the possibility of a "bad customer experience." In essence, the network throughput would crawl compared to a direct connection, so the company simply opted to avoid the headaches rather than cater to those of you who demand NAS functionality on every external HDD to hit the market.

Moving on, the DroboElite is carving a new path for the company, one that caters to high-maintenance enterprise users looking to serve up to 16 hosts while providing up to 255 smart volumes. The Elite is basically a Pro on steroids, with room for 8 hard drives, single- or dual-drive redundancy and an all-new connection method. If you'll recall, the Pro provided a single gigabit Ethernet port (iSCSI), FireWire 800 and USB 2.0; the Elite ships with two gigabit Ethernet sockets and nothing more (aside from a USB port used only for device management), so it's pretty clear that this one isn't looking to satisfy the home consumer market.

Both devices are shipping out today, with the Drobo S starting at $799 (with no HDDs) and being sold at the same outlets as the Drobo (which isn't vanishing, by the way). The DroboElite gets going at $3,499, though it'll only be sold through outlets such as CDW and the like who specialize in medium-to-large business sales. Oh, and just in case you're curious, the existing Drobo will continue on at its $399 price point (MSRP), though we're told that smart shoppers should find it for less near Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.