Drobo Mini, 5D Storage Arrays Debut With Thunderbolt

Designed for Mac enthusiasts and creative professionals, the two drives offer USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt technology, as well as hot-swap drive capability.

Data storage specialist Drobo announced the Nov. 2 release of the Mini and 5D storage arrays, which include high-speed Thunderbolt connectivity, USB 3.0, automated tiering that supports solid-state drives (SSDs), enhanced reliability features and storage-array portability.

The products, aimed at creative professionals and Mac enthusiasts, are designed to use high-performance SSDs with hard-disk drives (HDDs). Pricing for the Mini starts at $649 and the Drobo 5D at $849.

Thunderbolt input/output (I/O) technology provides performance that is up to five times faster than the previous-generation Drobo drives. The Mini and 5D are equipped with dual Thunderbolt ports for daisy-chaining, allowing users to connect up to six Thunderbolt devices and a non-Thunderbolt monitor at the end of the chain. The bi-directional 10G-bps performance of Thunderbolt allows all devices in the chain to achieve maximum throughput, according to a company release.

In addition, the Mini and 5D provide a plug-and-play accelerated storage option to more smoothly run rich-media libraries like iTunes and iPhoto, as well as to safely store and back up personal data. Both products are compatible with a range of local and cloud backup solutions to deliver remote access and off-premises data protection.

The Mini and 5D also help protect users from a drive failure by enabling them to add or hot-swap drives for storage expansion with no downtime. When a drive is running low on space, lights on the front of the device tell the user to add a drive in an empty bay or remove a smaller drive and replace it with a larger one.

“With the Drobo Mini and 5D, we're adding speed to Drobo's well-known ease-of-use. They are the industry's first storage arrays that automatically and affordably mix and match high-speed SSDs, HDDs and Thunderbolt support,” Drobo CEO Tom Buiocchi said in a statement. “We created these products with the needs of creative professionals and Mac enthusiasts in mind. They're faster and more reliable than ever before.”

The drives have also been upgraded to include a larger battery and intelligent software that automatically protects a user's data in memory or cache in the event of a spontaneous or unexpected power loss. The battery, designed to last for the life of the product, keeps the Drobo alive long enough for the data to be written to nonvolatile storage, so information is kept safe, and then recharges itself.

Both products include Drobo's Data-Aware Tiering technology, which embraces SSD storage in combination with traditional HDDs to deliver accelerated performance. For under $100, customers can add SSD technology to the Drobo. The Mini accommodates four 2.5-inch drives, an SSD Accelerator Bay, two Thunderbolt ports and a USB 3.0 port in casing small enough to fit in a travel bag. The Mini, which weighs in at about 3 pounds fully loaded with drives installed, can hold up to 3 terabytes of usable data.