Advice Wanted: Drobo Configuration

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by SkydiverFL, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. SkydiverFL macrumors newbie


    Jan 24, 2011
    CT USA
    I need some advice...

    - Would you buy a Drobo Pro, a Drobo FS, or a Drobo Pro and a Mac Mini?

    - Would you do eight WD 3TB Caviar Green drives or eight 2TB Caviar Black drives?

    - Should I hang it off my Mac Pro, and continue to stream to my AppleTV (black), or should I replace my AppleTV with a Mac Mini?


    1. My primary Mac Pro is out of space for my iTunes library (>2TB). I don't have DirecTV or cable and buy most of my movies and TV shows... costs less but fills up my drive faster.

    2. I write code in Windows and Mac and have YEARS worth of libraries, projects, and assets on multiple external drives. I need to consolidate everything so I can keep it at my fingertips.


    A. How would I purchase?
    If the Drobo is on a Mac Mini (in the entertainment center), could I still use my Mac Pro to purchase new shows and movies? If so, how could I EASILY get the content into the Drobo AND ensure it is available to Front Row on the Mac Mini?

    B. How would I sync?
    We have a ton of iPhones and iPods. If the Drobo is on the Mac Mini, how would I be able to sync my handheld devices with my Mac Pro and get new content?

    C. What about iPhoto?
    Similar to "B," could I move my iPhoto library to the Drobo (in the other room) and still be able to sync my iPhones and cameras to the library over there?

    Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, in advance, to anyone that takes the time to answer.

    -- Fred :apple:
  2. bfu macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2011
    In a house.

    Here's my setup, and a few comments on why I did what I did.

    1. Server - MacPro 3,1; MacOS X 10.6 Server; 32GB RAM*; 2x 160GB SATA in RAID 1. (* the official specs say that 16GB is the Max, but 32GB works like a charm, and when you're serving files, the more, the better)
    2. Storage - DroboPro, 8x 2TB WD Green SATA, direct connected to the MacPro's second ethernet port (not via USB).
    3. Living Room - Mac Mini (2010) running Boxee, and an AppleTV (2010). Just keep in mind that the new AppleTV only has HDMI output, unlike the older AppleTV which had HDMI and Component.
    4. Network - Everything's hard wired to a 1Gbps switch - not a hub, not 10/100Mb, not wireless.
    My reasoning:

    1. Server - I prefer to keep everything in one safe place, like my office, or basement on a shelf. I don't use it as a desktop any longer, either. I also share out the media-specific folders via NFS (not AFP or CIFS/SMB) since NFS is much more lightweight, less chatty, and won't go belly-up without warning if your LAN's name resolution isn't 100% perfect. Feel free to share out your data folders via CIFS/SMB, though, you Windows Kool-Aid Drinker!
    2. Storage - I'm a big fan of the Drobo series. I don't see any reason to go with the FS model, though. So what? But it can run servers(!), well so can the MacPro you're connecting it to. :) What I do recommend is this: don't load out the Drobo with 8x 2TB up front unless you actually have 12TB of stuff to store - the big selling point of the Drobo is that you can use whatever storage you have on-hand to load it up. When you create your first volume on it, make it a big 12+TB volume, and the Finder will see it that way (even if you only have 3x 2TB disks physically in there). The Drobo's very good at telling you when you need to add more. Also, not every Drobo model supports the 3TB disks yet, so keep an eye on that, too. Just remember to set up the email alerts in the Drobo Desktop app so you'll know if/when something goes wrong (especially if you hide your server in the basement and don't see it every day).
    3. Living Room - Yes, AppleTV and a Mac mini. I use Boxee on the Mac mini 75% of the time. A while back I ripped all of my CDs and DVDs to ISO files and/or various MKV/MPEG-4/H.264 files, and the AppleTV/iTunes combination can't support it all (without jailbreaking). Plus, you can sync your devices with iTunes running on the Mac mini (more on that in a bit). I keep the AppleTV around because (a) nothing beats it as an AirTunes endpoint, and (b) Boxee can't play the DRM'd MP4 files from the iTunes store. Plus, if you're a developer, there are rumors that the AppleTV's iOS will support the App Store sooner than later, so having a legit platform to test your apps is always nice.
    4. Ethernet - If you're going to do HD even a good 802.11n network can stutter if you're playing 1080p streams while someone else is watching YouTube on their iPad and you're pulling an ISO off the server to your Windows box. Besides, Bonjour is a bit picky if the connection on the LAN is less than perfect, even for a short period of time. The original AppleTV was notorious for losing its connection back to iTunes for no apparent reason (hint: it was the wireless).

    Now, finally, a few things to think about:

    1. Backups - with all that data, you need to back it up. It's probably too much to back up to an online service, but not too much to back up to a local drive or two - especially if you've saved some money by not loading up your Drobo with 8 disks at the start. Get an external dock that is easy to swap out, and use Time Machine to back up your MacPro. Every now and then, swap the external disk with an empty one and take the "full" one somewhere outside of your house... your desk at work, a friend's house, whatever. Cycle them back around at regular intervals so you always have 3 copies of your data - one "live" copy on the Drobo, one copy next to the server on the external HD, and one offsite copy on a HD. Alternatively, put 2 or 3 disks in the spare bays of your MacPro and do a full TM backup to those disks, and use the external one for a smaller subset.
    2. iTunes Library - I keep iTunes running on the server with all the media loaded into the library, and share it out like this. I also turn on Home Sharing so that new media that I buy on the Mac mini can be auto-copied to the server, and vice versa. You don't have to physically copy any media to the Mac mini's iTunes library if you don't want to, but if you do, just drag and drop it from inside iTunes - ditto for syncing with devices if you manage your media libraries manually. Alternately, you could mount the server's media folders as a volume on the Mac mini (via NFS) and load everything into the Mac mini's iTunes library, while keeping the actual files on the server.
    3. iPhoto Library - pretty much the same concept as the iTunes library.

    All in all, I like to think of my server as the workhorse, and the Mac mini as a "disposable" head unit. That is, I try to configure the Mac mini as little as possible so that if anything were to happen to it, a quick rebuild would get things going again. I've got a lot more control over the number of screaming kids that go into my basement than I do over my family room.

    If I'm leaving anything out, or if you have any other feedback/questions, let me know?

    Enjoy! --BFU
  3. SkydiverFL thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jan 24, 2011
    CT USA
    Man, now THAT'S a reply! Whoa! Thanks for taking the time. :)

    Your reply got me thinking...

    1. I really like the idea of NOT filling up the Drobo bays on day #1. You're right. I can pocket some of the cash from the drives. And, when the time comes, there will be bigger / faster drives available.

    2. How is the Drobo mounted on your server? iSCSI? Does OSX see it as an external / networked volume?

    2. How do you handle Time Machine with so much space? Are you selectively deciding what to sent to TM on each drive? My fear is that attaching a TM volume will force a full replication [since the content is not on the drive] and the volume will fill up before getting everything... 8 TB on a Drobo won't exactly fit on a 2 TB external.

    3. Great idea, bringing my drives from home to the office. I'm sure our IT guys will castrate me, however. I've heard stories about developers being walked out for similar actions. ;)

    4. Since when does iTunes handle auto-copying media? You mentioned that buying content on the Mac Mini causes it to automagically get copied to the server. You doing that with a script or something?

    All in all, I agree with EVERYTHING you mentioned... primarily using the other nodes as "head units." That's the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, I'm at the mercy of the apps to handle the volume properly (iTunes via NFS, etc.).

    Thanks, again, for your time. With a name like "BFU" you've gotta be incredibly busy.

    -- Fred
  4. bfu macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2011
    In a house.
    Yep. Just use the Drobo Dashboard software and it will mount as a volume under /Volumes like any other drive.

    Well, assuming that most of your stuff isn't dynamic (how often do multi-GB movie files change?) you can exclude it from your daily TM backup. Just use your daily backup to get the stuff that changes - like your boot drive, and any working folders you have. Back up the "static" stuff via a special TM job every now and then excluding just enough to make sure there's not more that 2TB.

    Alternately, use a different backup tool - TM isn't the only game in town. Stuff like CCC, Chronosync, SuperDuper, and a bunch of others do a great job, too.

    Jerks. :)


    After turning on Home Sharing on the Mac mini, go to the server and launch iTunes.
    1. Select the Mac mini
    2. Under "Settings" select everything you want to auto-transfer
    3. When new stuff shows up on the Mac mini, it will automatically be transferred to the server and added to the server's iTunes library.

    Alternately, use the "Automatically Add to iTunes" folder on the server, populated over the network via the Mac mini, to add items to the server's library.

    Just mount the network volume as usual and point iTunes at it... easy breezy. The app doesn't need to know. This ain't Windows... :) NFS is a block-level protocol so the OS treats it like a local disk, not as an SMB share, so it's more transparent than usual.

  5. SkydiverFL thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jan 24, 2011
    CT USA

    See if I'm missing something...

    How do you handle purchases on your laptop?
    Do you have this setup in a circular pattern so that the server's copy of iTunes will pull from your LAPTOP also? In the screenshot, you've set iTunes up to PULL from a shared library on your server (machine "FS_____"). This would help if you wanted to sync TO an iPhone/iPod, but would not handle any purchases made on the iPhone/iPod or laptop.

    What are you using to tweak Time Machine?
    I tried to find a button to enable a grandfather-father-son routine (just kidding) but all that exists is to EXCLUDE items. Until now I've been using GoodSync so that the location is tied to a volume (ie "Backup01 is mounted so go backup the Multimedia volume").

    Would you buy an Ellite?
    I have yet to find anyone that's actually used both the Pro and Ellite. I've even called Drobo. Nobody can give me a head-to-head performance comparison. Aside from the coolness factor, I'm curious if it's worth it.

    Thanks, again, for all of your wisdom.

    -- Fred
  6. bfu macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2011
    In a house.
    You don't have to set up cyclical syncs, but it can't hurt. It might not make sense, though, if you ultimately have both your iTunes libraries stored on the server. If you buy something on the device, just right click on it while it's mounted in iTunes on the Mac mini and select "Transfer Purchases".

    Yeah, it's not as flexible as would be nice, which is why I recommended the other tools. On further reflection, unless you're using an external 8TB drive array, or 8TB disks are invented, its probably best to stick with a non-TM option

    Yes, definitely, but not for home use. Well, not yet anyway. :) The Elite only supports iSCSI but that also means it can share out LUNs to multiple machines at once (and with CHAP authentication), where the Pro is a 1:1 setup.

    The Elite is also VMware certified, if you're in to that kind of thing and need decent shared storage for a vCenter cluster. It also supports jumbo packets and has more cache for slightly higher bandwidth.

    You're quite welcome!

    Now, here's a thought - after all that on the Drobo side, don't forget there are other NAS vendors out there, too... QNAP for example. Worth looking in to, if you have the time/desire/understanding wife. :D

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