Drobo is previewing two new storage arrays that are designed to accelerate workflows for creative professionals and small businesses as well as dramatically expand the storage capabilities of home media enthusiasts.

The Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini storage arrays integrate several innovative features such as automated solid-state drive (SSD) acceleration, two Thunderbird ports and USB 3.0 connectivity.

"The SMB and prosumer market is clamoring for a plug-and-play storage product because it lacks the technical expertise and resources to manage complex storage systems," said Enderle Group principal analyst Rob Enderle. "With the new Drobo products, there is no question that this enigma is solved."

With respect to designing the new Drobo 5D, the San Jose, Calif.-based company said its engineering team had decided to build an entirely new Drobo platform from the ground up. "Though the outside shell looks very similar [to prior Drobo products], the inside is completely new," said Erick Pounds, director of product management at Drobo.

Industry-First SSD Acceleration

Both the Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini integrate industry-first SSD acceleration that enables device users to benefit from the instant storage and retrieval characteristics of SSDs as well as the capacity benefits of traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Moreover, the new storage arrays are based on entirely new hardware and software architectures that Drobo claims can boost baseline performance by at least five times -- even prior to the addition of SSDs.

For example, an accelerator bay is built into the bottom side of the Drobo 5D that accommodates "a new type of solid-state device called an mSATA SSD," Pound said in a video interview posted online.

When we asked Drobo to explain more about this new type of SSD, the company noted that the big advantage of the mSATA form-factor is size. "The dimensions are 29.9 x 50.8 x 3.75 mm -- about the size of a car Relevant Products/Services key," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail Thursday.

The smaller size enables Drobo to add between 60 and 120 GB of flash memory without increasing the size of the Drobo array or reducing overall capacity. As a result frequently accessed data can be stored on the SSD and with the HDDs storing the rest. "The end result is you get both high capacity and high performance," Drobo said.

The Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini also integrate two Thunderbolt ports. This allows users "to not only have direct connectivity to the Drobo but also allow you to daisy-chain additional Thunderbolt devices based on how you have your workstation environment set up," Pounds said.

Both devices also are equipped with USB 3.0 ports to enable a wider range of computing-device users to adopt the new devices. According to the company, USB 3.0 connectivity is an industry first for storage arrays that will provide Windows as well as Mac users with unprecedented storage flexibility.

Storage on the Go

The Drobo 5D is primarily intended for media creators -- people who not only require high capacity storage but also high performance storage. "We have a battery inside the Drobo that actually protects everything that's in memory," Pounds said.

The Drobo 5D can accommodate up to five drives plus the additional SSD bay on the bottom of the unit. The desktop storage array also offers support for up to 16 terabytes of protected, SSD-accelerated data.

By contrast, the Drobo Mini is a ruggedized portable array with a miniaturized power supply and optional carrying case that is aimed at media creators and other professionals who need to have high-capacity storage available wherever they go. According to the company, up to four 2.5-inch drives can be inserted into a Drobo Mini without the need for any additional drive carriers or screws.

Drobo said the pricing and availability for both new products will be announced later this summer.