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    drobo_s_right_small.jpgI have been reviewing a Drobo in some form or fashion since December 2010. Some reviews have been here and some over at my blog.

     

    In November 2010, Microsoft announced that it would remove Drive Extender (DE) from the WHS product.  This as already been covered completely here at the Home Server Show site.  Since then, 3 software developers have stepped up to produce software that fills in where DE left off.  The challenge has been just how to test those builds in beta and do it in an efficient manner.

     

    The testing requirements for DE are a box that preferably has 3 or hard drives attached to it.  When the Window Home Server 2011 platform first became available a few months ago, I was short on testing hardware (esp boxes with multiple drives) and had to get creative on how to set it up.  This post is a summary of that testing.

     

    While the configuration is unique for these requirements, it could be changed to fit an assorted situations.  Certainly, one could just use the Drobo as one large drive or another attached storage device could be substituted in its place.

     

    For this review, I am using a home built system that contains a Gigabyte GA-H55M-USB3 board, a Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 1TB System Drive running Windows 7 SP 1.

     

    For Virtualization I am using Oracle’s VirtualBox version 4.0.12

     

    External Storage is on a Drobo S 5 Bay enclosure running the Drobo Dashboard 2.0.3 software and Drobo firmware 2.1.1 [5.29.38828].  The Drobo has 2 – 3TB, 2 -  1.5TB and 1 – 1TB drives and is partitioned into 4 – 2TB volumes.  More on this later in the post.

     

     

     

    VirtualBox Install

     

     

     

    logo-oracle-virtualbox.pngInstalling Oracle’s Virtual Box is as easy as installing any other application like iTunes or Microsoft Office.  One exception is that it does install an additional network adapter that it uses for the VMs.  If you try to install the software using RDP or Microsoft Live Mesh, you will lose connectivity during the install.  The install also works best when your user account is the administrator of the machine.

     

    There is a rather large community that supports VirtualBox.  More information and installation instructions can be found at http://blogs.oracle.com/virtualization/

     

     

    The next step is to install the WHS 2011 Software.  I will include a few basic Oracle VirtualBox screen shots and steps that might be outside the norm of a standard OS install.

     

    The first task is to create a virtual machine and install WHS 2011.  After opening VirtualBox, select New.

     

    OVB_Drobo001

     

    Then Select next to start the wizard.  For this installation, I am choosing to name the VM ‘WHS2011, the OS is Microsoft Windows and the Version is Windows 2008 (64 bit).

    OVB_Drobo002 OVB_Drobo003

    Allocated 2048 MB to the system memory,create a new virtual hard disk, choose dynamic expanding storage and allocate 160GB to the OS drive.  Finish twice.

    OVB_Drobo004 OVB_Drobo005
    OVB_Drobo006 OVB_Drobo007

    Now there a few changes that I make to the settings.  With the VM selected, choose Settings.

     

    In the System – Processor tab, I move CPU from one to two

     

    OVB_Drobo008

     

    In Display – Video Tab, I move the Video Memory from 16 to 128 MB

     

    OVB_Drobo009

     

    Under Network – Adapter 1, I change the Attached to from NAT to Bridged Adapter.  It automatically finds the name of my network controller.

     

    OVB_Drobo010

     

    Click OK to Save.

     

    Now select Start

     

    OVB_Drobo001

     

    In most cases, the DVD drive on the local PC will be shown as default.

     

    OVB_Drobo011

     

    Next and Finish.

     

    From this point on, the setup will be performed like any other WHS 2011 install.

     

    Installing WHS 2011

     

    Dave McCabe has a great how to article on this process.  http://www.informationweek.com/byte/howto/personal-tech/desktop-os/231000924?queryText=windows+home+server+2011

     

    During the setup, system resources looked some thing like this on the local PC.

    OVB_Drobo013 OVB_Drobo014
    OVB_Drobo015 OVB_Drobo016

    After the setup was completed, I applied all the necessary updates to bring the OS to the latest patch set.

     

    Attaching the Drobo (or any other external storage device)

     

    We set up the Drobo in an earlier post in preparation for this review.  In that setup, we created 4 – 2TB volumes.

     

    In order for the VM to see the Drobo, the drives need to configured in VirtualBox.

     

    Select Settings – USB from the Menu.  By default, the USB Controller is enabled.  Select Add a new USB filter and choose the external drive of choice (in this case the Drobo) and click OK.

     

    OVB_Drobo017

     

    Select Settings – Storage – SATA Controller and select Add A Hard Disk.

     

    OVB_Drobo018

     

    Select Create new disk.

     

    OVB_Drobo020

     

    Welcome to the Create New Virtual Disk Wizard!  You have seen this before when fist setting up the VM OS Drive.  Select Next and Dynamically expanding storage.

     

    In this case, I have 2TB volumes but am going to share those volumes with the PC as well.  For the purposes of this review, I will create 1.5TB partitions on each 2 TB volume.  Next and Finish.

     

    OVB_Drobo021

     

    That process is completed 2 more times on 2 Drobo Volumes.

     

    OVB_Drobo022

     

    OVB_Drobo023

     

    Restart the VM of WHS 2011

     

    OVB_Drobo001

     

    Login to the Server Desktop and open the Dashboard.

     

    Open the Server Manager and navigate to the Storage – Disk Management Tab

     

    The Server will as to initialize the disks.  Make sure MBR is selected and OK.

     

    OVB_Drobo024

     

    Right Click and choose New Simple Volume for each of the new drives.

     

    OVB_Drobo025

     

    Next, next, Assign a drive letter, next, next and finish.

     

    OVB_Drobo026

     

    Each Drive is formatted exactly the same way.  The drives will now appear as New Volumes in the Hard Drives Tab in the WHS Dashboard.

     

    OVB_Drobo027

     

    From this point on, the VM is ready to use as a base for testing.  While a Drobo is not necessarily required to make this work, it does make it very easy to set up.

     

    Over the next couple weeks, I will use this base to test all 3 of the major Drive Extender software offerings.

     

    Datacore’s DriveHarmony

     

    Covecube’s Stablebit Drivepool

     

    Division – M’s DriveBender

     

     

     

    About Jim

     

    Jim Collison is a blogger and podcaster for HomeServerShow.com and TheAverageGuy.tv.and a Microsoft Home Server MVP

     

    Full Disclosure – Drobo provided an evaluation unit with drives for this review.

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    Nice write up Jim. If you have time, some speed tests on the base drobo, so it can be compared to the DE replacements to see if they have addressed the speed concerns.
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    Dave has a Drobo now and plans to do some serious benchmarking with it. I think we all know that the Drobo is not really built for speed, but for redundency at a good speed. Expect good numbers, but don't think it will be faster than RAID.
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