If you are not familiar with the Drobo you must know that the basic design is brilliant. You fill the box up with 4 hard drives. The box just takes care of everything and stores the data across the drives. Each drive has a green light to tell you its status. Should the drive start to fill up you can eject one of the drives and just insert a new larger one. The drive will automatically rearrange the data to take advantage of the new space.
So we’ve established that it is a brilliant product but a bit too rich for my blood. Aside from price, what could we do to improve this product? For my part the reason that I need such a big hard drive can be directly traced back to my iTunes and AppleTV library. I have tried several approaches but in the end everything requires that I have a Mac running iTunes. What you really need is a dedicated media server. Several companies have tried this. Due to the way FairPlay is designed the only company that is going to be able to serve of iTunes is of course Apple.
So now we have this box and it is serving up my iTunes library. Since we are serving up iTunes, I’d want it to serve up iPhoto too. Now you have all your pictures and other media in a nice safe package. Basic file sharing should be easy to add. And if you have file sharing then you can easily add support for Leopard’s Time Machine and let it serve a workgroup’s backup needs.
Aside from the price the other thing that worries me about Drobo is the file system. They are using a proprietary file system that resembles ZFS. I know that several companies have played with ZFS and perhaps it is not ready to be put into a box on the shelf at Best Buy. It would take Apple to make that a reality.
So what would the right price point be? Apple is already selling their Time Capsule for $300 for half a gigabyte and $500 for a full gigabyte. The folks at MyBook are selling a 2 terabyte drive with two drives that can be configure into a 1 terabyte mirror raid for $500. So it is clear that Drobo’s pricing is actually really good. You can get a 4 terabyte Drobo for about $1300. In order to make this a consumer product it would have to be positioned right where the Time Capsule is today.
So the bottom line would be if Apple took their current Time Capsule line and improved it with multiple drives in ZFS and added iLife serving all in a box for less than $500. Once you have that then everyone in the house can buy Mac Book Airs and not worry about diskspace.