Castlewood ORB Drive

ORB Drive


Castlewood, Inc.


In a Nutshell

Rating: 4 1/2 Penguins


* 2.2 GB capacity cartridges

* 12.2 MB/sec sustained transfer rate, 20 MB/sec synchronous transfer


* Lack of native ORB utilities

* No official support policy for Linux

In the Driver’s Seat: The ORB drive offers a viable alternative to Iomega.

ORB Offerings

Internal Drives Available



External Drives Available





*All drives come with a one-year limited warranty

Removable storage is a concept that seems to have fallen by the wayside as CD-Recordable units and media have hit rock bottom prices. However, there are still a significant number of PC and Mac users, especially within the multimedia, entertainment, publishing, and Web-design disciplines that need higher-density removable storage media with significantly higher performance than what CD-Recordable technologies offer.

Unfortunately, the removable storage industry has become something of a one-horse town. While Iomega’s drives are without question the closest thing to an industry standard for high-density removable media, the drives themselves have not improved significantly since their introduction a little over five years ago. Both of the units have doubled in storage capacity (from 100 MB to 250 MB for the Zip and from 1 GB to 2 GB for the Jaz) and both of them come in USB models, but they have not really increased in performance as much as one would have expected.

Move Over, Iomega

Castlewood has come forward with a product that is a true challenger to the Iomega hegemony — the ORB drive, a removable storage device that’s capable of storing up to 2.2 GB of data on a single removable disk. Not much better than the Jaz, you say? If you were going strictly by media density, you’d be right.

But what if I told you that Castlewood’s ORB media costs about half as much per disk as Iomega’s Jaz media, and that the unit is capable of 12.2 MB per second sustained and 20 MB per second synchronous data transfers? Now we’re really cooking with gas!

Castlewood offers the ORB in internal and external versions. Currently, the company has no official support policy for Linux — however, the SCSI and EIDE versions of the drive are usable as standard block storage devices (we were unable to test a USB version of the drive with a 2.3 development kernel to verify if the USB model worked with Linux). Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon for native ORB tools for Linux, as Castlewood’s support Web site indicates that Linux utilities are being written by third parties.

Even without native tools, the Ultra-SCSI external ORB drive works extremely well with Linux, even as a generic SCSI storage device. Once we daisy-chained and terminated the ORB off our venerable Adaptec 2940U SCSI host adapter, we were able to format the media with the mkfs command using VFAT and ext2 filesystems and then mount and unmount them using the mount and umount commands respectively. After modifying our /etc/fstab file, we were also able to get the unit to automount the ORB disks after each boot.

A casual performance test of copying 2 GB of MP3 files from our Windows 2000 server using SAMBA over our 100Mbps switched Ethernet LAN took only about five minutes to complete — easily several times faster than our SCSI-2 internal Jaz drive, which typically takes about 15 minutes to do the same job.

The Castlewood ORB is a high-performance removable storage drive that promises not to break your bank account. At these prices, why not buy one for the office and one for your home machine?

Comments are closed.