StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Review

Enabled us to reduce use of physical machines and consolidate virtual hosts into a single cluster

What is our primary use case?

We've got a two-node, Hyper-V cluster for high-availability. We have it running on Windows Server 2016.

It's being used for file servers, database servers, application servers; all on-premise, private cloud-type services.

How has it helped my organization?

By using this solution we have reduced some of our physical machines and virtualized them. We've consolidated some other standalone, virtual hosts into the single cluster. It's really helped that P-to-V movement and reduction of other hardware and services.

Overall, the solution has improved our system's performance. I was concerned about the physical-to-virtual conversion of our database server. It's actually much faster now, as a virtualized host on this Hyper-V cluster. A lot of it has to do with updated hardware. The previous hardware was probably ten years older, but still, we were concerned about that overhead with virtualization and it's not present.

What is most valuable?

The fact that it has eliminated a separate SAN has been really handy. We moved away from an older SAN and that's one of the reasons we got this. The synchronization has also worked really well. From a feature point of view, it does what it's supposed to do and that's the best you can hope for.

The ProActive Premium Support feature has helped for sure. If there's an issue that we don't know about, we get an alert email. They are very proactive. Where it has created an even greater benefit for us is purely on support. If we have a problem, I can send an email and within an hour somebody's trying to set up a remote session with us.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using it for about six or seven months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable. It does everything it's supposed to do. The monitoring points out any issues with connectivity or downtime.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

One of the reasons we got it was that we could deploy with as few as two nodes. We're not a large environment and a lot of solutions out there started at three nodes and more. This was attractive because it was just two. I understand it could scale but we're not going to scale it.

We have approximately 100 users using basic Windows functions like file shares. The common user would you utilize those things which are running off of this solution.

We don't require much staff for maintenance. We only have two onsite administrators, me and someone else. Between us we can handle the Windows updates and additions of VMs if we need to.

How are customer service and technical support?

I would commend the support. They have very knowledgeable people. If they don't have the answer, they quickly access colleagues who do have the answer or more experience. They're very fast.

The only critique I might have is that the support is overseas in Eastern Europe and, on occasion, there has been a language issue. But in general, they're as good as can be, considering they are non-U.S. citizens speaking English. The language barrier is not even as bad as it is for some other products we have.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We never had anything that was hyperconverged like this. We had a standard pair of Windows servers that were utilizing a SAN appliance. That equipment was becoming very old and with the StarWind solution we could eliminate the SAN component altogether.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was straightforward. We completed a survey which provided information to configure the appliance and they did that before shipping it to us. By the time we received it, it was very simple to physically install and get it on our network. Everything else was pretty much configured.

The most time in the process was probably due to moving and converting the virtual machines. It wasn't the nature of the product itself, it was just our workloads on it. The whole process, once we received it until we were up and running in production, took about four weeks.

Our implementation strategy was to make it a secondary environment. We transitioned from our old Hyper-V host structure to this one, one VM at a time. We had some flexibility to keep up and running in both the older and the newer environments, as we were completing the transition.

What about the implementation team?

We handled everything directly.

What was our ROI?

This isn't like a revenue-generating purchase. It's more about risk-avoidance by not continuing to use aging hardware, and it's about the elimination of additional components like a SAN. We've reduced the points of failure and increased stability, but it's not like we're going to make revenue out of this.

At this point, the solution is probably costing us money but you get what you pay for. We have newer hardware and the support is very good. The service makes sense for what we're paying for it. But when you're going from equipment you've owned for ten years to buying brand new equipment, it's not really saving you much money.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

There was a one-time, upfront cost but I don't know what the recurring cost is. I imagine it's the standard 18 to 20 percent maintenance. Nothing stands out as unusual about this solution in my memory, so whatever is standard for keeping support and hardware is what this solution would cost.

There are no other costs that I'm aware of.

The only thing I could compare it to is the cost of Windows Server and Windows licensing in general, but not to a specific StarWind-type of product. The fact that some of the other solutions that I researched operate on a minimum three-node basis — not a minimum of two nodes — that factor alone would make the cost of StarWind less.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I don't think we considered anything else like this. Our other choice would have just been to update our SAN and update our other Windows servers: keeping the old model but with new hardware.

What other advice do I have?

Know what your needs are. Know your requirements. Know your environment. Those are the typical things you ought to know before investing in something like this. Beyond that, ask any questions you have and think about the future.

I got most of the recommendations for this product from reading online user forums. The users are always pretty accurate and this was no exception to that. A lot of people didn't have the HCA, the hardware-based solution, but they had the software-based component of StarWind and really liked it. They said how good the performance is. All of that is true.

From a product point of view, it's been ideal. I did my research beforehand and got an idea of what it would offer and it's done everything that I thought it would, plus things I wouldn't have considered. It's stable.

It's a typical rack-mounted device. Each unit is two U's so it takes four U's of rackspace. It's like anything else we've got.

The solution doesn't really help to increase redundancy or failover capabilities because we already have a cluster. This is just refreshing it with better hardware and removing the SAN element from it. It hasn't increased reliability but it has given us continued life, to move forward.

I would rate it at ten out of ten because we know what we need to know to run it and, if we don't know, support provides it and they're very responsive.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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