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Drobo Linux Survival Guide

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First off when it comes to my own data I am a bit of a “rebel” in that I have adopted the practice of storing not easily replaceable personal “bulk” data (mainly live music recordings) solely on spindle drives instead of burning to optical media. Five years into the process after many copies and “failures” of all sorts, my luck has held. So know that as you read the following.

I have a love/hate relationship with the devices that are made by Drobo. On one hand, especially for the time at which they were released and the Apple-like marketing and packaging, these little devices were all the rage and I bought in. I own two of the 4 bay models personally and have purchased 2 more 8 bay models (one Elite and one Pro) at work and all still work. In fact with the exception of a hosed partition table due to a dirty shutdown (no power button, really?) that I was able to recover I have never been without my data and considering the abuse I unleash on these things IMHO that is an accomplishment. Having been through several cycles with these things I do feel confident in recommending them for archive storage. While slow and quirky these devices do a great job of sucking and spitting data.

Drobo does not “officially” support linux. You can read a whole bunch of articles but this is what you need to know in a nutshell:

  1. DO NOT EVER FILL UP THE DEVICE! If you do you must copy off the data and start over if you want any confidence of redundancy.
  2. Only use ext3. While I have had no real “problems” using these devices with LVM and ext4 after talking to some of the engineers and after a couple of near misses I decided to leave the configuration as vanilla as possible to avoid any potential issues. 
  3. Ignore the lights on the device! Especially if you frequently add and delete data (such as in normal backup operations. Because the device is “data aware” ie it keeps up with things on the block level and has no way to mark a previously used block as now free, in the backup use case things get wonky with respect to the lights very quickly. You must know how much data you have available (through the drobolator) and then use df to determine how close you are. Luckily once you figure this out you are usually good for awhile. :)
  4. Use drobo-utils to manage and check your device. There is a command line tool drobom that has many useful features including checking status, reformatting, updatefirmware, etc.


Hopefully this will help someone! If you have any questions I would be happy to try and answer them.

Written by tmwsiy

March 20th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Posted in technology

Tagged with , ,