Tuesday, 5 April 2016

StarWind Virtual SAN review - Part 1 - Overview

No doubts the hyperconvergence is the hottest virtualisation topic nowadays. According to IDC, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is the fastest growing segment of the converged infrastructure market. One of the key element of hyperconverged infrsastructure is Software Defined Storage. It is relatively new market, but it has already proved to be a highly competitive industry offering plenty of choices. This market already has its own luxury and economy products aiming at different segments of the market. So you have a wide range of choices priced like Ferrari or Ford.

Surely, if you have an option you would prefer to drive Ferrari (wouldn't you?), but most of us happily drive Ford as long as it gets you from point A to point B, and that's exactly what StarWind Virtual SAN does featuring some of the Ferrari characteristics. And that's what I will be reviewing today.

StarWind Virtual SAN

So what is StarWind Virtual SAN? 

It is a platform agnostic software defined storage solution which can be used with most of the hypervisors - ESXi, Hyper-V, Xen Server, whereas delivering hardware agnostic virtual shared storage.

To put it simple, it can run on most of the hypervisors and on any physical server that meets quite loose hardware requirements. That gives organizations a flexibility of choice and lowers the budget requirements to own a shared highly available storage. It also doesn't require any hardware certification.

The main idea behind StarWind Virtual SAN is to mirror storage between StarWind nodes. If one of the nodes goes down hypervisors will automatically switch storage paths to other StarWind node that contains a replica of data.

You can start really small running StarWind on top of 2 x ESXi servers only. Once you get extra funds or need more capacity or performance you can easily scale-out Virtual SAN by adding additional nodes and/or buying more advanced license. This proves to be more cost-effective solution compared with Scale-up approach and lets you increase compute and storage resources as needed.

If you are not a big fan of DIY you can always opt for StarWind Hyperconverged Appliance built on top of Dell servers. As its names states it is indeed a solution where compute and storage layers are merged into a single physical appliance.

StarWind Virtual SAN is designed to be easy to deploy and requires minimum administrative efforts to support it. After all it is just another Windows service running in a standard Windows server. And yet it delivers surprisingly high performance compared to proprietary SAN solutions in its weight class as it can run on top of the hypervisor, thus, eliminating need in storage fabric.

It comes with all flavours of storage features - Thin-Provisioning, Deduplication, Synchronous and Asynchronous Replication, Log-Structured File System, Snapshots, RAM and SSD caching and many more.

With all that said StarWinds stays a very affordable product for SMB customers. Just grab a couple of descent second-hand servers with plenty of local disk space, install free ESXi and deploy a StarWind Virtual SAN on top of them and you can report to your boss that all business critical applications are safely protected from hardware failure. Off course, I am oversimplifying things here, but you get the idea.

As far as I am aware StarWind is a very competitive "share nothing" solution price-wise, which delivers HA shared storage and at the same time has all bells and whistles.

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