Drobo: Support Linux or drop it

I am in the middle of a migration from a Drobo to a DroboPro.  I love the way these things work.  I love how easy they make it to protect your data.  It’s so easy their CEO’s grandmother could use it.  (I learned that they actually referred to Geoff Barral’s grandmother during initial design.  They wanted to make it easy enough for her to use.) And I think they succeeded there.  It’s not everything to everybody.  it’s not the cheapest box or the fastest box, but it does what it does well.

And then there’s what happens if you try and use it on a Linux system.  Let’s talk about that.

I’ve been using my Drobo on a Linux box for quite some time now.  As long as you stick with ext3 and LUNs smaller than 2TB, you’re golden.  But for many of us, 2TB is not enough.  (I have more than that in just DVD images.) If you look at the website, you’re told that Linux support is in beta.  Really?  For over a year now?  That’s the longest beta in history if that’s the case.  But it’s actually worse than that.

Beta software is a “test version of software issued prior to a final commercial release.“  The intention is to make it ready for primetime.  One of the aspects of that is that you provide some level of support for those customers that are basically bug-testing your software for you.  They shouldn’t be surprised if there are bumps in the road, but with a good two-way relationship, you can eventually release a product.

So imagine my surprise when I opened at ticket with DRI and was told “Thank you for contacting Drobo Technical Support. Data Robotics does not officially offer support for Linux. You can review these Knowledge Base Articles…You can also go to DroboSpace and talk with other Linux users. “  The “funny” thing is that I even put in the ticket that I knew that they didn’t officially support it, but that I was “special.”  (I put a smiley.)  I told them that I had personally spoken with their upper management and discussed my isues with them, and they told me to contact support.  The curt reply to the ticket said one thing to me.  The support engineer saw the word “Linux,” hit reply and cut and pasted his usual response without even reading the ticket.

(After some problems getting in drobospace (their user forums), I eventually read that it didn’t look like much had changed, or at least not that I could find.)

Besides the fact that Linux support has been in use for over a year (probably longer), and that would be the longest beta ever…  There is the fact that the Droboshare (which they sell) uses Linux and the ext3 filesystem!  So it’s OK for them to use it and sell it, but not to support it?

Look, I know how hard Linux can be to support, with all the different distros.  But throw me a bone here.  Tell me that you only support Redhat, CentOS or Ubuntu 9.10, or whatever.  Don’t just tell me you don’t support it.  The logo’s on your data sheets, for goodness sake.  (With a TINY footnote mentioning the “beta” status and NOT mentioning not being able to contact support.)

So either support it or quit telling people that they can use your product on Linux.

----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.