Real World Experience
Benchmarks are all fine, but the bottom line should always be, “can I do what I need to do with this hardware?” Sure, a Ferrari can go a lot faster than a Honda, but if all you need to do is head down to street to the grocery store, you really don’t need the Ferrari.
My real-world test was to use the Drobo 5D on a four-camera HD multi-cam edit with Adobe Premiere, where four full HD camera video files are being read simultaneously from the unit with each frame from all four streams is being scaled and displayed in Premiere’s multi-cam edit window.
Most of the time, the Drobo was able to keep up with the data read demands with no problem. Once in a while, I’d see a performance lag, but if I stopped playback, paused for a moment, and restarted playback, it was able to keep up just fine again. And it was able to do this without the SSD installed – I didn’t find the SSD made any difference in video editing performance. And as far as the occasional lag goes—I’ve seen this happen with my eSATA RAID0 drives as well.
To test the data recovery aspects of the 5D, I copied about 200 GB of data to the system, and then simulated a drive failure by simply ejecting one of the hard drives. The 5D turned all the other disk lights to blinking yellow and green, indicating data protection operation was in process. The Drobo dashboard initially indicated that it would take four hours to complete the data protection operation, but in fact it took 10 hours. The data was indeed intact, and it should be noted that you can still access all data on the drive while the data protection operation is in progress.
The Bottom Line
If you need even faster data access, a RAID0 external disk system will indeed perform better. In running the same benchmarks against one of the RAID0 systems I use with a eSATA 3Gb/s interface, it does blow the Drobo 5D out of the water in most cases, even with the SSD card installed. However, RAID0 also comes with no data protection, and given that the Drobo 5D can keep up with the data demands of video editing, provide protection against a one disk failure, and enable you to easily increase the storage capacity of the system, I’m sold. I do wish that the issues with USB 3 weren’t present, and also which it was clearer whether the issues were with the USB adapter in the computer or the USB implementation in the Drobo—it could be either. Hopefully the next round of firmware upgrades will address any part of this that’s caused on the Drobo side of things. But these issues did not affect my ability to use the Drobo—it was just an annoyance and sometimes requires me to disconnect the Drobo from my computer before turning it on.
Drobo has a number of other disk system configurations as well that provide gigabit Ethernet-based BeyondRAID data protection, including some rack-mount options that have 12 drive bays.