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Going beyond with BeyondRAID: What does the technology have to offer against data loss?

Over the decades of RAID existing, the technology has undergone drastic changes and improvements. In the attempt to balance the system between performance, capacity and reliability, the developers created new levels, new features, and new opportunities.
Passing by RAID0 and JBOD, RAID has always been something reminding of safe data storing. Redundancy, parity and hot spare are just the terms related to safe RAID methods.

First implemented as a storage solution for big enterprises, RAIDs appeared to have so many advantages that they have easily gained popularity among small businesses and home users. Yet, the latter had little time and knowledge to get into all RAID terms to choose the right balance between useful storage capacity, system reliability and cost. A new BeyondRAID solution developed by Drobo has gone beyond any limitations and relieved the strain of choosing.

BeyondRAID: specifics and advantages

The main idea of BeyondRAID was to create a storage system that, taking the best of basic RAID principles, would be easy to manage and would surpass usual barriers imposed by dependence on a RAID level. Certainly, with Beyond RAID the technology underwent improvements not only in terms of performance, but in terms of safe data storing as well.

  • Self-management. The major feature of BeyondRAID system is self-management. Balancing between efficiency, fault-tolerance and capacity provision, flexible BeyondRAID chooses its own strategy for writing data on disk at any given moment. Thus, you don’t have to think about the RAID level before using the storage.

  • Data awareness. BeyondRAID writes a Data Allocation Table to keep track of the file chunks stored on the device. The table contains information concerning properties, physical disks and data distribution pattern of each data chunk. For enhanced security, the table is created in more than two copies. If any of the data chunks gets corrupted, the system immediately recovers them in a way depending on whether the data was mirrored or striped and made redundant before writing.

  • Copy-on-Write (CoW). In its policy of data modifications, BeyondRAID applies Copy-on-Write method. Any changes to a file are made with creation of a new copy and a link (or path) to the older file version. This method ensures successful data recovery, as several copies of the same file can still remain on the BeyondRAID storage.

  • Thin provisioning. Targeted at maximum efficiency, BeyondRAID applies thin provisioning using the whole storage pool to write data. This allows allocating exactly the right amount of disk space as needed for storing data at any given moment of time and eliminate wastes of physical disk space.

  • Smart Volumes. A BeyondRAID Drobo gives a total of 16TB of virtual disk space. However, LUNs can be of different sizes not depending on the amount of the physical disks capacities available in the storage. Creating a new logical unit does not require specially allocated physical space. A new LUN would rather take the exact amount of storage space from the common pool it needs at any given moment of time. Moreover, if the disk space is cleared, the volume gives it back to the common pool to write new data.

  • Zero-click iSCSI protocol. There is an iSCSI protocol in Drobo BeyondRAID storages fitting both Windows and Mac OS X servers.

BeyondRAID vs. traditional RAID

Traditional RAIDs have such unpleasant side effects as: the necessity to insert the disks of the same size with the same specifications and performances only and to choose RAID pattern beforehand; as well as no opportunity to change RAID configuration without losing data. BeyondRAID leaves behind dozens of questions about RAID storages allowing even unskilled user to benefit from a RAID storage.

Traditional RAID BeyondRAID

Strict requirements to the disk size. If disks of different sizes are inserted into RAID, the system assigns the size of the smallest disk to the array. Thus, the size beyond the smallest disk limit will be wasted.

No requirements to disks sizes. The system efficiently utilizes and distributes the data across the total disks capacity.

Strict requirements to technical specifications. If specifications differ, the system may not work.

No requirements as to disk characteristics. You can use any working disks you like.

Strict requirements to the drives order. If the drives order is changed, the system is not able to read the data.

Easy drive re-ordering. The system reads data independently from the order.

RAID Level. You must decide what RAID level you prefer before the system is configured. You will often have to choose between the capacity, performance and resilience.

No such term as RAID Level. The system efficiently distributes the data choosing the most optimal data distribution pattern for each certain data writing. You only choose if you want a single or a dual-disk redundancy.

Unchangeable data distribution pattern and the number of disks. Changing RAID configuration as well as adding more disks may cause data loss.

The flexible and easily expandable system. It allows changing data distribution pattern and adding disks without any threat of data loss.

Idling reserve disk. A spare disk just exists in the system and wait idly until a disk in the storage fails.

Virtual reserve disk. A disk intended to replace a failing drive is used in the system all the time. If the system happens to lay out, it will be reconfigured in a way to protect data from loss without disruptions and down times.

BeyondRAID still loses data

Despite all enhanced security and its smartness, a BeyondRAID storage still remains a material world thing. This means that it is still exposed to failures causing data losses. If you are experiencing a data loss from a BeyondRAID storage, you can come up against one of the following problems:

  • Failures while updating a Drobo software

  • Overshooting failures

  • Need for replacing more than one disk with a reserved one

Beyond RAID and data recovery

A solution in data loss case with a BeyondRAID Drobo is reading the Data Allocation Table and the scheme through which the data have been allocated on the physical storage space.

SysDev Laboratories have their own BeyondRAID system analysis results and custom software developments to efficiently recover valuable information from this RAID storage type.

If facing data loss from a BeyondRAID storage, please, feel free to contact our technical specialists.