I’d recently written about my first impressions of the Drobo FW800 and was less than impressed with it’s performance. A comment from Tom at Drobo mentioned that a software update was pending that would resolve the issues. Tonight that update arrived. It’s method of announcing itself was a bit problematic though. I was playing a podcast from the Drobo and copying some files to it when all of a sudden everything froze and the Drobo rebooted itself. After the reboot the message that a new firmware update was available appeared. The reboot might have been coincidence but I don’t believe in them. Before applying the update I checked the release notes (ftp link to pdf) and sure enough, the first fix is listed as:
Fixed issue where performance is impacted when aggressively copying large amounts of data
So I went ahead and updated the firmware. As luck would have it I had just verified my recent backups since I applied OS patches so I knew if the firmware update blew away my data it would be annoying but not catastrophic. I’m not saying Drobo is any more susceptible to bad firmware upgrade, but the Drobo (and devices like it) only protect against HDD failure, not corrupt data or failure of the device itself.
After applying the firmware update and another Drobo reboot (this one expected) I was prompted that there was a new Drobo dashboard available so I installed that too.
I re-did the file copies that had been running when the Drobo did it’s first unexpected reboot and saw an immediate 50% increase in throughput. From about 20 MB/sec to about 30MB/sec. [Update: I’ve since experienced a drastic drop in performance, especially reads, for no obvious reason. I’ll post an update when I have more info]
I also ran my ChronoSync script that backs up my iPhoto library to my Windows Home Server. The analyze phase would typically bring the Drobo to it’s knees, causing other file copy streams to slow to a trickle and total disk throughput to drop. In this case the other copies in progress kept right on running and throughput didn’t drop.
I haven’t done any other testing or timings but it is encouraging.
All is not perfect though. When I restarted iTunes and it sat there with the pinwheel of death. While the iTunes database itself doesn’t reside on the Drobo, the video file I was playing during the reboot does. I was able to shut iTunes down normally when the Drobo rebooted iself out from under it so it is probably unrelated. Further complicating things is that I upgraded to iTunes 8 earlier tonight and iTunes was still on it’s first startup since the upgrade. Doing a force quit on iTunes and restarting it seems to be fine.
I also went in and turned of the automatic check for firmware updates as I suspect it was related to the unexpected Drobo reboot.