StarWind Virtual SAN Review

The way virtual SAN is set up, we don't have to buy a separate appliance for storage

What is our primary use case?

We needed to consolidate our physical servers, so we went with the StarWind cluster to virtualize our servers.

How has it helped my organization?

We went down from eight discrete servers to two, so it's saving us money and electricity in cooling.

It's definitely saving us a bunch of time as far as server maintenance is concerned, because it's all virtualized. I would guess it saves us a good 20 to 30 hours a year, just in maintenance. 

We've also seen some performance gains over accessing the discrete servers, approximately five to ten percent faster access times to data. It has helped to maintain high-performance and data high-availability on minimalistic resources by doing load-balancing and resource-sharing seamlessly. The user never sees any downtime, any performance issues. It's just all done very well behind the scenes.

There's also a peace of mind aspect, knowing that we have failover now. Before, if a server went down, it could take days to get things back up and running, whereas now, if a VM fails, it's just minutes to get it back up and running.

What is most valuable?

One of the most valuable features is the way it sets up the virtual SAN, because we don't have to buy a separate appliance for storage. It uses the existing storage on the servers, which is definitely a cost savings for us.

What needs improvement?

The documentation could be a little more concise, but, for the most part, it just works.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's a very stable platform. The only way you can really break it is if you do something that you shouldn't, like shut a server, shut one of the nodes down without moving your VMs to the other node first.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

As far as scalability goes, especially with adding storage, it's dirt-simple. It's so easy to do. I'm very impressed with that aspect of it.

How are customer service and technical support?

StarWind Proactive Support is fairly responsive. They definitely go above and beyond to address the issues, when there are issues. We had a minor crisis a few months back, and they spent hours on the phone with me over a weekend to get our servers back up and running. The quality of service is really good.

If I were to say anything - not so much critical - there is a language barrier to overcome, but that's a minor issue. It doesn't affect their knowledge, ability, or willingness to help. It's just sometimes a little difficult to communicate adequately.

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

We did not have a previous solution. We went with it for virtualization, and we chose StarWind because it was a software-only solution and we could use off-the-shelf hardware. Everybody else that I looked at was basically selling appliances. They were just outside of our budget.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was a little complex, just to get the cluster configured, the iSCSI, etc. That was a little bit confusing because I had conflicting documentation.

Overall, our deployment took about three weeks. Our implementation strategy was to get the StarWind cluster built, working, and tested before virtualizing our servers, and then migrating them a couple at a time.

What about the implementation team?

We set it up ourselves.

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

Their pricing seems pretty good, and their licensing structure is pretty straightforward.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked into Nutanix, as well as Red Hat's solution, but StarWind seemed to be the best setup for us, the best fit for our environment.

What other advice do I have?

Definitely get a trial license. I'm pretty sure they still have a free version that you can download. Set it up in a sandbox and see if it makes sense for your environment. The great thing about it is it is all Microsoft-based, so if you're familiar with Hyper-V, then it's really pretty simple.

In terms of our users, it's pretty much just me managing it. It's running our production environment. Ideally, I'd like to add our third node this year so that I have extra available overhead so that we can be more proactive with maintenance, etc.

I would rate StarWind at eight out of ten. There's always room for improvement.

**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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