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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Playing with Drobo (updated !)



I did buy a Drobo for my server. 
Here a kind of review and my discoveries.

Of course the main purpose is to connect Drobo to my server, so I'm planning to use it only for Linux.
The goal is to end up with at least  a couple of Terabyte of space, possibly more in the future.



My Drobo


I did buy a USB 3.0 Drobo, 3rd generation.
Is little bit older but still a great machine and much less expensive if compared with the latest one.

First impression

Well, a nice black box, with an external power supply and a USB cable.
Not much to see.
The cover where the hard disks are placed, is magnetic, can be easily removed to access the hard disks bay.

The unit is clearly refurbished.
A couple of covers of the hard drive are broken, just an aesthetic problem.
When an hard disk is present the cover is not visible anyway and there is the main cover to hide 
everything.

Is not noisy, all considered not bad.

Turn it on !


When the unit arrived, I immediately connected it to my main Linux machine (a Dell with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS fully updated), NOT the server.
I wanted first experiment little bit and understand and solve problems (if any).

Also I didn't have yet some decent hard drive, so I just reused a couple of hard disk I had around.
A 320 Gbyte Maxtor and 500 Gbyte Seagate, both SATA of course.
Drobo uses only SATA hard disk.

So basically, I did connect Drobo to the PC via USB and powered up.
Lot of lights going on and after a while (5 minutes) everything was stabilized with a nice red light on the first slot.
Drobo wants hard disks !!!!

So I inserted the first hard disk and the second one (Drobo requires at least 2 hard disk in order to work)

Then I waited.
After a minute, Drobo become alive, and started to do ... Drobo things :)
Who knows what the heck was doing. Lights on, flashing, turning off, then on and then for quite some time, the two lights associated to the two slots where the hard disk were inserted, started to flash green/yellow.
According to the legend the meaning was ... don't touch anything, I'm working !

After a while, probably 10 minutes, the two hard disk were ready. Green light on both of them.
Ready to go !

See the partition


After the automatic initialization, the hard disk where erased and ready to be formatted.
So, following this article, I just launched gparted and ... here it is !!!

Under /dev/sdd a nice new driver to be formatted !
But wait ... first surprise !!
Drobo shows the maximum capacity, i.e. 64 Tbyte !!
Little bit confusing. I did assume it was showing some kind of half capacity of the smaller hard disk but actually what it does is to shield totally the kind of hard disks available.
Drobo present itself to the computer as a big single hard disk of 64 Tbyte even if currently is about 320 Gbyte max !

Well, anyway, gparted happily formatted the 64 Tbyte partition, called it Drobo.
After the formatting, the computer was seeing the new partition.

Both for gparted and the format, I did choose ext4.

Use the partition


However after the gparted operations, I was not able to actually access the partition.
From the File manager I then selected the Drobo drive and formatted it again.
When it did come back, was writable.

For test I did copy about 57 Gbyte from another hard disk on my machine and considering it is a USB, probably 2.0 on my machine, it has a decent speed.
The real speed test will be done when Drobo will be installed to the server (stay tuned !!)

Utilities

The article mentioned the existence of some Drobo utilities that are supposed to help to manage Drobo.
I was able to easily install them (sudo apt-get install drobo-utils python-qt4) but for some reasons they were unable to find any Drobo unit.
After some research I discovered that very easily the version of the drobo utils installed has the wrong name for the Drobo units.
Along the time Drobo changed the name of the units. If the utils are not set for that name version in the firmware, then they will not find the unit.

There are two ways to fix that.
First in any case, identity the name of Drobo unit with the command :

sudo drobom -v 16 status

Here the result in my case :

sudo  drobom -v 16 status
examining:  /dev/sda
id:  (1, 0, 0, 0, 'ATA     ')
rejected: vendor is ATA      (not from DRI)
examining:  /dev/sdb
id:  (1, 1, 0, 0, 'ATA     ')
rejected: vendor is ATA      (not from DRI)
examining:  /dev/sdc
id:  (7, 0, 0, 0, 'Seagate ')
rejected: vendor is Seagate  (not from DRI)
examining:  /dev/sdd
id:  (11, 0, 0, 0, 'Drobo\x00\x00\x00')
rejected: vendor is Drobo (not from DRI)
returning list:  []
No Drobos discovered

The name of the unit is Drobo.

Here the fix :

  1. Manual fix
    manually edit the file DroboIOctl.py  (locate it with find first).
    Then search of the line :
       if ( id[4].startswith("TRUSTED") or id[4].startswith("DROBO") )
    Change DROBO with the found name, in my case "Drobo"

    Done
  2. Instead to install the drobo utils via apt-get (like I did) install them via git.
    It is likely the git version has the last version in sync with the latest firmware.
After the fix drobo utils works fine, even the graphic interface, (sudo dropom view) that shows info on the Drobo status and capacity.

Next steps


So, it seems the Drobo is up and running happily, handling automatically the hard disk and presenting itself to the system as a single disk of 64 Tbyte.
In the next days I'll learn more about the Drobo lingo since I already started to see there are better ways to configure it, defining also the maximum capacity we want to handle, typically LESS than 64 Gbyte.
I will also consider what is the best format to adopt for the unit.
Leaving that in ext4 or choose something different ?

Then the next month will buy a couple of 2 Tbyte hard drive, connect them in the Drobo and then connect it to the server on the final location.
After that I'll design an automatic backup system based on Drobo and start to store all my material in there.

So far I'm more than satisfied with the unit !
Stay tuned for more articles on my Drobo !

Update - March 2018


Bought two hard disk, 2 Tbyte each, to fill up the Drobo unit.
I did start with a 320 Gbyte and 500 Gbyte, then added 1 Tbyte (all old hard disk I had around) and now adding the 2 2 Tbyte, changing the 320 Gbyte, bring the unit to be fully operational.
The Drobo unit is in the server area, powered by the UPS, and is already connected to the server.
I did start to build the backup policy and tools to save my stuff safely.
New articles on the way



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