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Does This Exist? - Drobo-Like External Storage With DrivePool-Like Intelligence


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While looking over the 100's of external storage boxes and their 100 variations on raid, jbod, port-multiplier, etc implementations, it dawned on me that I'm working way too hard to accomplish what should be a simple task: Have an array of drives, that may or may not be similar in size or manufacturer, live in harmony while providing a decent level of control over spreading data I consider important across 2 or more of the drives AND accessing the data on any drive, even if they are removed from the box / pool.  Essentially, I want a drobo that uses something like DrivePool instead of BeyondRAID.  Before going deep into the night, poking around the internet, I thought I'd leverage this awesome community's collective knowledge!


so? does this exist? StableBit- can you make this for me please? :)


(more background info below, mainly in case someone is willing to think out of the box on my behalf to point me toward a solution I hadn't considered)




I want an archival / offline storage solution for my work and personal files that I want to keep around, but have no use for on a daily basis.  I'm a media producer and that alone means I'm archiving around 200GB every week.  I currently use various RAID setups but this goes against my personal hatred of RAID (especially for this use case) and I want to set myself up, long-term for something that can handle the expansion and randomness of my digital life.  My approach was to go get yet another PC, install a windows-based OS on it, install drive pool, connect an external box to it (eg. a mediasonic probox) that will allow the OS to recognize and have full access to each drive independently, then have drivepool pool the data to manage various levels of redundancy depending on where I dropped the data. It would be fine to have this be offline storage, just plugging in every once in a while to one of my computers via whatever means the external box provided to archive the data.


Is this not insane?!  Also, nearly every external storage box I looked at had horrible reviews, most of which were all over the place in terms of even getting the thing to function properly and many told tales of serious data loss.

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I have two CineRAID CR-H458 Boxes. They are on sale at NewEgg for the next two days. Here's the link http://www.neweggflash.com/Product/N82E16816856039?nm_mc=KNC-GoogleAdwordsNFPLA-PC&cm_mmc=KNC-GoogleAdwordsNFPLA-PC-_-Server+-+RAID+Sub-Systems-_-CineRAID+SYSTEMS-_-16856039&gclid=CJGgiKm2h78CFc9j7AodT38A0Q I use a Mediasonic HP1-SU3 PCI Express USB 3.0 ProBox Card to connect the boxes. I'm running StableBit DrivePool and have had no problems with this setup. This always depends on how stable your system is running. This is a clean install of Windows 8.1 Pro with Hyper-V enabled. I have had problems in the past running StableBit Scanner on this configuration. I don't think it likes the CineRAID CR-H458 Boxes.

Edited by Technogod
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This absolutely exists.... HP MicroServer Gen8. :) 

You need to provide the OS, but Windows 8 would work (though there are 180 day trials of Server 2012R2 Essentials and Datacenter). ANd then you could use StableBit DrivePool (and StableBit Scanner).


There is a nice section here on all the things you can do with the Gen8 boxes. And even some hardware mods.




As for those CineRAID boxes.... yeah, I can see StableBit Scanner having issues with those boxes. Especially if you're using the RAID options. StableBit Scanner would not be able to get the SMART data from the enclosure. 

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Thanks for the input guys.


I think i mayhave done a bad job explaining a critical issue for me: I don't want to run an entire other machine, not only for the higher price and hardware overhead required for a machine running a full-blown os, but the cost of the license, the time taken on administration over the machine, etc.  This would be for archival and I don't want to fire up an entire windows OS, then fire up another windows computer to RDC into the storage computer, and then be forced to transfer everything over the network instead of USB3 or eSATA, just to archive some files.


The drobo, for example, wan't popular because it let you do anything under the sun; it does one thing and it does it very well, with one or two caveats that, for me, make it a non-starter.  However, the success of the drobo, even with its caveats, leads me to believe that there are other people out there for whom such a device that I'm imagining would make a perfect addition to their storage plan, not to mention the box would easily handle all storage needs for many people.


I'm probably horribly oversimplifying things, but what I imagine is a card inside an external storage box that runs "DrivePool" (i'm using it simply as an example since it does what i want), similar to how RAID cards are installed in external boxes to do the math on the card itself.  Everything is managed through a desktop app (similar to how drobo and some RAID maufactuers offer easy-to-use GUI's) and if the user were presented with a halfway-decent looking wizard on first-run that would walk them through their options w/o scaring them, I don't see why that wouldn't be a popular device. Though there are technical arguments for disliking either, most people are afraid of RAIDs or hate on drobo because of price-based nerd spite. Here you could give them (and us) everything a RAID has to offer (and more), everything the drobo has to offer (and more), with no added downsides.


It started to feel so clear to me that I assumed something like this already existed, which queue'd the original post. There are a few Linux-Based NAS OS's which come kind-of / sort-of close, but aren't quite this. Is drobo really as close as it comes to what i'm imagining? Its certainly closer than a Gen8, but I've got like 2 or 3 options that would have to blow up in my face before i'd consider a drobo.

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If you want to make this even easier, just buy a pre-built computer from Dell or HP or whoever, one that has lots of USB ports (especially USB3) and the OS already installed, and then attach external enclosures to it (such as the Lian-Li EX-503).

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I'm a bit mystified by the way people think a NAS is so different from a Windows computer. A Drobo is a computer, no question about it.


I think you're overthinking the Windows aspect of this. Sure, Windows can do a ton of stuff - but it doesn't have to. You can just use it for the things you want it to do.


For example, once it's set up and running, you wouldn't need to update a Windows box at all. What for? You're not using it to surf, or do email, or anything else that would make it vulnerable. You use the WinTernals utilities to disable/shut down any unneeded services/apps and just have it serve/store files. That's it; it doesn't do anything else.


It runs DrivePool beautifully, and Scanner as well. You can set it up to do iSCSI if you want. Of course, it does USB and eSATA no problem. You can even add new USB and eSATA ports with very little effort.


I think people get hung up on the idea that it's "Windows", so it's big and bloated and 'too much' - they don't consider that it can be a very versatile NAS box with just a little imagination and configuration.

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Ikon is right.


And you know what Drobo runs as it's OS? Linux (well, BSD I think). Which is why you can all the stuff on it that you can.


So why not run Windows? Ikon is fully correct here. And you absolutely could do the same with Windows 8 Pro.

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This suggestion is the exact solution I layed out in my original post as the most obvious option I am aware of and one I would like to avoid. Again, price, hardware overhead, not portable, need to use or LAN or sneaker-net to transfer data to and from... Maybe the best way to explain what I'm looking for is "RAID, Now With Brains!"


Yes, what you are suggesting would work, but it does not have all the same features, nor solve all the same problems as the solution i'm proposing. For me, specifically, its not really practical either. I already have a server, I already have a boatload of laptops and desktops, and I'd rather have the unit be independent of all of that- independent of my network, my specfiic setup, my house...  If I said, "I want a 8-bay external RAID box" would you also suggest I build a lean windows machine? No, because the external RAID box is a specific set of software and hardware created to address a specific set of needs and though a lean windows box can technically do a lot of that, its not a sensible solution for someone looking for a portable, self-sufficient external storage box.


Buying an external box that will give me individual access to each drive and play fair with drivepool is currently my top solution. But again, I am dumbfounded by the lack of quality options at a decent price. CineRAID was mentioned which only offers up to 4-bays unless you want to shell out serious $$ for features I have no interest in (they all seem to have their fun ways of not fitting my current needs).  I just think it would be awesome and offer up so much more flexibility, price savings, and portability and address a lot of people's storage needs simply and effectively if logic similar to drivepool lived on an external box and the benefits of that logic were presented to the user in a friendly manner.


And yes, a drobo is a computer, a computer running an operating sytem. It also does a bunch of stuff I couldn't care less about.  Even what i'm imagining is also technically an OS, a very very very limited OS that lives within a compact enclosure, has very minimal hardware designed to do essentially 1 type of task, and when plugged into a computer is recognized as storage.  Such a thing might not exist in the form that I am imgining and that's fine. Starting this thread was to answer that question or at least see what the closest thing to it was and I still feel the conversation is very far off from that.


I should also mention there appear to be awesome advances in filesystems and in a few years using a modern filesystem might solve all of this on its own, but until then...

Edited by santacruzskim
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Have you looked into ZFS?


But in most cases, any sort of "embedded" NAS devices like the Drobo, LaCie's NAS boxes, or other devices.... they are all going to use RAID or some variety of it. All block based, and largely proprietary. 



But if you want a large number of drives.... it is going to cost. Or it's going to require USB or eSATA....

Aside from that, get a 4U case like the Norco RPC 4224 and a low powered board in it. Install Windows or Linux.

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I have a question. You say you want an external box, but you don't want sneakernet, and you don't want to use a LAN. How then do you plan to get data on and off the box? If the box is portable, and you move it around from computer to computer to save and recover data, that's sneakernet: i.e. you're carrying the device around. I guess I'm confused as to what the end game is.


Are you saying you want an external HDD enclosure that runs drive pooling (e.g. DrivePool)? If so, I think you're out of luck, at least as far as getting an off-the-shelf solution is concerned. I know I've never heard of such a device. I suspect that it might be somewhat cost prohibitive to create a device that can hold 8 drives and do drive pooling. By that I mean it would be too costly to make compared to what it could be sold for.


All that said, I am struck by one statement: "Buying an external box that will give me individual access to each drive and play fair with drivepool is currently my top solution." My question about this is, "Do you want it to be able to connect to many computers, or just one?"


If it's many computers, I'm not sure what to suggest. Drashna will have to comment on this, but I don't think you can have DrivePool (installed on multiple computers) access the same drive pool on a portable external drive enclosure. IOW, I suspect it would be problematic to share a drive pool amongst multiple computers. Maybe I'm wrong on this - I've never tried it. OTOH, it would be cool if you indeed could have DrivePool installed on, say, 5 computers and have them each be able to read and write to a drive pool on a single external USB enclosure. Drashna?


If it's one computer, I may have an idea. I have 2 Lian-Li EX-503 external USB3/eSATA II enclosures. They use a JMicron chipset that can support several types of RAID, plus their definition of JBOD (which I call Spanned Disk). It also supports what JMicron calls Clear Mode (I call it true JBOD), which basically means each drive is presented to the computer individually. I use DrivePool to pool the drives in the EX-503s into a single volume. This is what I use for my data backups from my server.


BTW, I think there are quite a few external enclosures which provide this feature - that is, presenting drives to the computer as single drives. You could probably use DrivePool on most, if not all, of them.


With such a setup, you could copy files to the enclosure and then store it on a shelf somewhere or even take it off site.

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