I’m just a glutton for punishment. Last week, I struggled with getting a USB-attached Drobo to allow a server to boot properly. Yesterday, I unpacked a new Drobo FS. I’d like to tell you about it.
The Drobo packing is not in the Apple league for style and elegance, but it’s darn good. They printed the insides of the main cardboard box black, for no reason other than aesthetics. The Drobo itself comes cradled in the kind of packaging that you saw in disk drives ten years ago, and it’s wrapped in a black cloth bag — seems a shame to throw it out.
There are three sets of start-up instructions: one on a piece of cardboard that you have to remove to get to the Drobo, one in the beginning of the skinny manual, and one further along in the manual. The first two say the same thing: load the Drobo Dashboard on your computer, load the disks into the Drobo, connect he Ethernet cable, and connect the power. The third set of instructions, adds a step at the end: toggle the power switch on the back of the Drobo.
I figured that I’d go with the majority, and didn’t hit the power switch. The Drobo gave me a light show, and then settled down with a green power light. But the Dashboard couldn’t find it. So I hit the power switch and the unit shut down. Hitting it again brought it up, but the Dashboard still couldn’t see it. It finally settled down with the power light blinking green, a signal that was not explained in the manual. (As you can see below, I just caught the box in the middle of a boot.)
I brought up DHCP and determined that the Drobo had been assigned a lease. I pinged it from the computer on which the Dashboard was installed and got answers. That left anti-virus software in the Dashboard computer. I use Norton. I checked the rules, and Norton recognized the Dashboard, and said that it assigned rules to it automatically. Just to make sure, I configured AV software to allow the Dashboard to do whatever it wants. No change.
I went down to look at the Drobo one more time. The lights had changed: now the power light was solid green, and all five drive bay lights were yellow, even though only four drives were installed. The manual said that the yellow lights mean that that the Drobo is running out of disk space. That didn’t seem right.
I went to the web and read all the Knowledge Base articles on the FS without finding anything about how to troubleshoot the failure of the Dashboard to find the Drobo.
I went back and looked at the Drobo. The lights kept changing. It looked like it was going through a boot. I waited. It did it again. Bad news. I straightened a paper clip and performed a reset. Same thing.
Time for tech support. The tech said to pull all the disks and see if it would get off the boot-up rollercoaster. It did, and ended up with the upper most disk light red and the power light green, which the tech said was normal. But the Dashboard still couldn’t see the Drobo. The tech suggested setting the Drobo up with a laptop and not using my Ethernet switch. I told him that I’d have to continue later in the day, since I was out of time. He said call back when I was ready.
When I called back, the first tech was out for the afternoon, but I continued working with the second tech. He asked me what version of the Dashboard I had installed, and I said 1.6.8, which was the latest version on the Drobo web site. He said to uninstall and reinstall with the version on the CD, which was 1.7.0. He didn’t know why the latest version wasn’t on the web site.
After I installed Dashboard 1.7.0, I booted up the Drobo with no disks installed, and the Dashboard found it. The tech then had me upgrade the Drobo firmware from 1.0.0 to 1.0.3 and the Dashboard itself to 1.7.1, both using the Dashboard’s “Check for Updates” button.
There was no change to the symptoms. The tech thought it was a bad drive, told me to swap drives until the Drobo would boot cleanly, wished me good luck, and rang off. I shut down, swapped, and booted for half an hour, finding not one, but two, drives that would, individually and together, send the Drobo into continuous boot mode. I replaced one of them with a spare, and the Drobo booted with three 2 TB drives installed.
The dashboard gave me an interesting message: “Too many hard drives have been removed. Please re-insert the removed hard drives.” I used the Dashboard to reset the Drobo to factory default settings. The Drobo came up indicating the two of the drives were good, but a third was bad. I called tech support again. They looked at the logs, and said that, near as they could tell, they had shipped me three bad drives, and that I should call customer support in the morning.
I found it really hard to believe that three out of five drives were bad, but it doesn’t look like I have much choice. I’ll let you know how it goes with customer support.
All in all, one of the worst OOBE’s I can remember.