Saturday, February 8, 2020

Drobo Ragnarok

Innocence is a catalyst for magic. - Mary and the Witches Flower
I bought a Drobo way back in 2011 to move my content off my internal drive and move it onto beautiful attached storage. For the longest time my Drobo 2G was connected to my AirPort Extreme as an "AirDisk", a cool feature where the AirPort turned any drive into a NAS. Of course, Apple retired the AirPort Extreme so when I switched to Eero the Drobo moved to be attached storage to my server (a MacBook Air 2011). Then two things happened at the end of 2019. The first was I realized that my Drobo was connected via USB 1.1 (12 Mbps) and that it was the slowest link in the chain of streaming content off my Drobo to the various devices around the house (and over the internet!). The second was a red light of death! One of my 1TB drives failed, but truth be told, going 8 years before my first drive failure was pretty good. So I replaced the failed drive with a new Seagate, and after a 200 hour rebuild, everything was groovy.
But I knew the 2G Drobo was probably approaching Drobo Ragnarok. I started saving and this January the great Drobo Migration of 2020 began. You see, due to compatibility, I couldn't just move the Disk Pack from my Drobo 2G to my new, lovely, Drobo 5D3, instead I had to do a very very slow migration of content of moving the four drives out of the old Drobo (2TB, 2TB, 1TB, 1TB) into the new Drobo one drive at a time. It was like the riddle of how you get five people across the river that on the boat that only held two. The best way I've found to visual Drobo storage of BeyondRaid, is whatever your largest drive is will just be for the parity bit and gives you no storage.
Put a brand new drive in Drobo 5D3, then pop a drive out of Drobo 2G and copy 2GBs of data across. Once Drobo 5D3 was nearly full and Drobo 2G has rebalanced all the data... pop the next disk out of 2G into 5D3 and repeat. The transfer took place of the course of a week. I hadn't actually done a cloud backup of all this data for a while (though the photos are all uploaded to iCloud Photos).
Because of the lack of recent cloud backup, the constant drive failure during transfer was harrowing. With the new 5D3 I bought a SSD accelerator card which failed on Day #2. Okay, no biggie, return and get a replacement. All the data did transfer, though I hit a limit once where I had to toss a spare 500GB drive in the new Drobo temporarily. But then after all the data was copied to the 5D3 and it had all five drives in it, the red light of death!
I was somewhat nervous as I was a little delayed on having a real backup of everything. Drobo rebalanced to the remaining four drives, phew. This was a cool feature, I guess I should have expected, which is if there is enough space then Drobo will get all the data back into protected mode on the remaining drives. The drive I had bought back in November to replace that dead drive had died. Thanks to's extended holiday return period, I was able to replace that drive. So as I was waiting for that replacement from Amazon, ANOTHER RED LIGHT OF DEATH! Thankfully, because Drobo had rebalanced across the four good drives, I didn't loose any data.
Amazingly, Drobo rebalanced again to the remaining three drives I had. So in theory I could have lost one more drive and still been okay. Another drive from 2011 had failed. So I had to buy a new one from For the record here were my drive failures over the course of three months:
  • November 2019 - a Western Digital Drive from 2011 failed, replaced with a Seagate
  • January 2020 - my Kingston SSD card failed 2 days after purchased, replaced with the same thing.
  • January 2020 - The Seagate Drive I bought in November 2019 failed. Replaced with a different Seagate.
  • January 2020 - Another Western Digital Drive from 2011 failed, replaced with a new Seagate.
So overall, I had two drives make it for 8 years and I had another two drives fail writhing a week to a few months. That is pretty standard. Drives either fail fast or fail at the end of their useful lifetime. Bless the Drobo. I had four drive failures over the course of 3 months (two of the in the same week!) and I didn't lose a byte of data. Now everything is on the great new beast!