StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Review

High-availability means that all data is synched instantly through the three nodes

What is our primary use case?

I'm a self-employed consultant and I'm currently an interim CTO at one of the largest flour companies in the Netherlands. Here, I have introduced the latest solution of StarWind, the hyperconverged hardware cluster. In the past, it was all software-based. But now I use their latest solution, including hardware.

The primary use case is all on-premise. An ERP system is running on it as are a VDI solution and a terminal server, and it is all based on a Hyper-V virtual environment. The complete IT infrastructure is running on the StarWind cluster. The company has about 200 employees.

How has it helped my organization?

Using the StarWind solution, I was able to consolidate all the servers, hardware and firmware, with a three-node StarWind cluster, based on Hyper-V. As a result, in this company, I have seen gains in I/O rates on the order of ten times what they were and a better performing environment.

Overall, the solution has definitely improved our system's performance. When I started with this firm last year in May, they really had a poor performing environment. The StarWind solution has made everything at least ten times faster.

The fact that it has helped increase the redundancy and failover capabilities is implicit. It's a hyperconverged solution. It's all-inclusive. It runs all the time and the technology takes care of failures. It works as it should.

The solution has also saved us money.

StarWind delivers what they promise. In this case, the client is a company working in the food sector and they don't have innovative demands. What I have implemented for them has already brought them ten years ahead of where they were.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the high-availability. We have three nodes, and all data will be synched instantly through all the nodes. Even if we had a disaster where two nodes failed, containing dozens of critical machines, almost automatically, all the loads would be run on the remaining node. So it features high-availability and provides business continuity. They are the most important elements for me.

It's also fine-tuned, so the performance is the second most valuable feature. It provides great performance. I've only seen I/O performance like this in solutions that are ten times more expensive than the StarWind solution. In the SMB market segment, you cannot sell Dell EMC-like solutions. Thus, StarWind would be the best solution with the best price for the performance that you receive.

I only have three nodes, so the footprint is very small, yet I can provide all the IT services that the company requires, including a very demanding ERP system. It would fit in a half-rack if you put everything in one place. But of course, it's high-availability, so you have to spread it between locations. But the footprint is really small.

In addition, we have full support from StarWind, 24/7. They know about issues in our environment before we know about them. They see, for instance, network errors before we do and what implementations we have. They send a message to us and our engineers respond with a local, physical check on what is happening. Although the environment of StarWind is great, the overall network environment of the company where I'm working is not so good. StarWind notices when there is something wrong in the network, an issue which might affect the performance or the availability of the StarWind solution. We instantly know whether our problem is in the network, before we actually know about it ourselves, by their sending us emails about the site being down or an error.

What needs improvement?

A past problem that they fixed was related to split-brain syndrome. 

The only thing that is lacking would be a fool-proof GUI for system administrators. 

At the moment, the initial configuration is very technical and error-prone. That is the reason StarWind does it for you as a service, which is a great thing. But it would be nice if we could change or rearrange storage assignments ourselves.

For how long have I used the solution?

My history with StarWind goes way back to somewhere around 2008 or 2009 so it's been over ten years. When they first started introducing the so-called virtual SAN solution, I owned a cloud computing business. At that time I was looking for an affordable storage solution that was scalable and highly available. 

Later on, I moved towards an IT consultancy business where I was asked to solve a problem with an ERP system in one of the Dutch government agencies. Because I'm also an IT architect, I noticed that had a big challenge with I/O. So I designed a solution for them around StarWind, also based on a highly-available solution they offered. The application, before I provided my solution, had query response times of over 60 seconds, and some queries even ran for a couple of minutes. Using the StarWind solution, 80 percent of the transactions completed in less than two seconds. That really was a big performance gain from using the StarWind solution. That was about five years ago.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

StarWind is almost infinitely scalable. It depends on the use case. You can scale it on-premise or you can scale it towards the cloud. And then you get the disaster-recovery option included because you can easily move the machines from on-premise to a StarWind solution in the cloud. But for my current client, the cloud is not an option, with all its manufacturing equipment in-house. You have to have the computer system close to the points of contact.

How are customer service and technical support?

I praise them for their support and the willingness to always be available. I would rate their support at ten out of ten because they are the best. I have experience with a lot of other companies, like Dell EMC. StarWind goes much further than other companies, without asking for money for it. You can get similar support from Dell EMC or IBM or HPE if you are willing to pay big-time. Compared to all the others, they are really great.

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

A hyperconverged cluster had never been used at this company, but from a storage point of view, LeftHand was used. The company moved to StarWind because I advised it. I know StarWind, how it performs and how good it is. To me, there was no other option. I will always start with StarWind, for all clients I will service in the future. I know it's good, it performs well, and the price is right.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is absolutely straightforward. Just open the box and follow the instructions, do the cabling, and you're set. And StarWind gives good implementation support. The moment it has been set up and is running, they will do a complete operational test. The moment they say, "Okay, the system is good to go," you're able to use it. It's a matter of one or two days.

The deployment plan for the company I'm currently at was to virtualize all the operating systems, to get rid of all the hardware and consolidate. They had outsourced their systems services. By putting it back on-premise and hiring two full-time equivalents, I saved 50 percent of my IT budget.

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

The pricing model is very straightforward. I always go for the maximum, enterprise-level. It includes all the services I need and availability guarantees. It's a turnkey solution. It's a whole package, including five-year support on everything.

There are not so many companies that offer hyperconverged solutions, the way StarWind does. HPE doesn't offer it. Dell EMC doesn't offer it, although they do offer a solution combined with Cisco. There is no real comparison, other than parties that are working together. The closest to this would be the Dell EMC/Cisco solution, and that is four or five times more expensive.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

If I have to decide, if I can choose, I will never evaluate other options. I know the market. I have been in the IT business for over 35 years. I know what's good and I stick with what's good and I don't need to compare every other solution in the world.

What other advice do I have?

I would advise you to let StarWind be in control. Let them guide you through the process. If you follow the procedure they offer you, it will be an easy implementation.

Overall, I have more than ten years' experience with StarWind. They are a trustworthy company and they are a very technical company, meaning that they like to solve all the issues. For instance, in all the projects that I have done with StarWind, when we did the implementation at any client or customer, they provided us with remote support and they didn't leave until everything worked as it was supposed to, and they did so without any additional financial implications. It all comes with within their service. I can only praise them for all they do, what they deliver, the service, technology, and performance. They do what they do and they're very good at it. It sounds too good to be true, but that has been my experience.

The product does do everything I expect, and at a high level, so I would also rate it a ten out of ten.

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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