StarWind Virtual SAN Review

Ability to use off the shelf hardware is invaluable in terms of cost and flexibility


What is our primary use case?

We are using VSAN in our private cloud environment to provide highly redundant CSVs to a Hyper-V Cluster. We are using a converged environment so we have two commodity grade servers setup as a highly available StarWind cluster, then we have numerous Hyper-V compute nodes which access CSVs from the StarWind cluster. 

We are able to use Veeam to backup and replicate the VM files from the CSV/cluster.

We use off the shelf 10 GbE SPF+ modules and off the shelf 10 GbE switches.  With MPIO, we were able to create a redundant network infrastructure to support our SAN network. 

How has it helped my organization?

We were previously using Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct, but that product was unreliable and practically unsupported by Microsoft. We were able to leverage our previous hardware capital investment and converted our infrastructure to use StarWind VSAN. The migration process was simple, and afterwards, we had a highly reliable SAN system. 

We've always wanted to deploy a software-defined storage system, as proprietary SANs do not meet our requirements. They are expensive and very inflexible. StarWind has been excellent.

What is most valuable?

The highly available feature between two nodes works without any issues. We have practiced DR scenarios and our CSV/cluster has always stayed online. The software has the ability to "elect" a master after a failure of one or two nodes, then it will resync after that without issue.

The management interface on the software is very simple. It is insanely simple compared to most SANs. The interface is also powerful when used to complete tasks that an IT administrator needs to complete.

The ability to use off the shelf hardware (servers, RAID cards, SSDs, etc.) is also invaluable in terms of cost and flexibility. 

What needs improvement?

A duplication feature inside of a CSV would be very useful. I'm sure there are a lot of duplicated blocks on a CSV that have 75 VMs of Windows Server.

StarWind relies on the underlying OS to manage the "SAN files" whether that would be a RAID volume, software RAID (such as LVM), etc. It would be useful if StarWind could incorporate the actual physical drive management inside of the solution, similar to Storage Spaces Direct.

A web interface for management and StarWind SNMP MIBs would also be very useful.  

For how long have I used the solution?

One year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is very stable.  We have tested storage network outages with failure of one or two nodes. The solution is able to stay online or repair itself with ease. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The storage is as salable as your underlying storage. If you are using hardware RAID cards, then you are somewhat limited for expansion, etc. It is still much better than proprietary SANs. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Support has been very good. I regularly schedule off hours support sessions and their team has never complained. 

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

We previously used Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct but had numerous reliability issues with the solution. It was definitely not ready for a production environment. 

How was the initial setup?

Setup was somewhat complex, but StarWind works with you the entire way and handles nearly all of the setup. 

What about the implementation team?

We worked directly with StarWind. The experience was excellent. 

What was our ROI?

Less than one year. 

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

The premium support from StarWinds is a must have. The ability to have access to a storage engineer 24/7 is a must for a production environment. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We had thought about proprietary SANs, but those didn't fit our requirements for cost and flexibility. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Other
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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