Mac & Drobo iSCSI users beware

My predecessors liked Drobo, I inherited a variety of models here at the newspaper. We’ve got around ten of them connected to various servers and systems via Firewire, USB and iSCSI.

I’ve never been a big fan, personally preferring products that operate with standard RAID levels instead of proprietary technologies like Drobo. While I’m sure “BeyondRAID” works fine it will require another Drobo to recover data in the event the disks are fine but the chassis fails. But I understand why they are popular, Drobo offers RAID-like storage at reasonable prices that isn’t intimidating to the average consumer.

But a change they sprung on Mac OS X users this week has really soured me on the company. Read on for the details…

On Wednesday Drobo released version 2.6.4 of Drobo Dashboard, what at first glance appeared to be a standard point update similar to those released every few months. However a closer look at the release notes reveals this concerning note:

• The ATTO iSCSI initiator is no longer a package bundled within Drobo Dashboard for Mac OS installs. Drobo Dashboard upgrades from a previous Dashboard release onto to 2.6.4 will continue to work, when iSCSI is used. New Dashboard installs will prompt users to visit ATTOs website to obtain such package if needed.

Owners of Drobo’s four iSCSI models (Drobo Pro, Drobo Elite, B800i and B1200i) are suddenly being told they need to spend an additional $195 per Mac to purchase the ATTO Xtend SAN iSCSI Initiator. This could be tricky for businesses with strict purchasing requirements or no budget for such things. Even though the cost isn’t huge, I’m annoyed simply on principle.

This is a pretty significant change with zero warning for users. While upgrades of existing installs will continue working, any user attempting to install the latest Drobo Dashboard on a new Mac or fresh install of OS X are going to have a frustrating experience. Honestly this isn’t anything new, as Mac users found they couldn’t get reconnected to their Drobos via iSCSI after upgrading to OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Thankfully Matt Coneybeare provided the solution to that problem in his article How to Make Drobo iSCSI Work Again on OS X Mavericks back in 2013.

Thankfully you can, for now, still download older versions of Drobo Dashboard by altering the download URL to plug in the version number you want. You can grab version 2.6.3 with this link. I personally just created an archive of all the versions from the past year in case I need them in the future.

UPDATE: January 16, 2015

I posted a warning to other users on Spiceworks last week and “Jim” from Drobo responded this morning. His explanation makes sense, but I took the opportunity to express my frustration.

UPDATE: January 21, 2015

Another Spiceworks user chimed in with similar frustrations and pointed out that the URL I provided last week no longer works to obtain the older version of Drobo Dashboard. Jim from Drobo replied that after reviewing their contract they can keep providing the older version to users who purchased their unit before 1/1/15 but they haven’t yet provided a way to obtain it.

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