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StarWind HyperConverged Appliance OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance is #3 ranked solution in top Software Defined Storage (SDS) tools and #6 ranked solution in HCI Software. IT Central Station users give StarWind HyperConverged Appliance an average rating of 10 out of 10. StarWind HyperConverged Appliance is most commonly compared to Nutanix Acropolis AOS:StarWind HyperConverged Appliance vs Nutanix Acropolis AOS. The top industry researching this solution are professionals from a comms service provider, accounting for 35% of all views.
What is StarWind HyperConverged Appliance?

For SMB, ROBO and Enterprises, who look to bring in quick deployment and operation simplicity to virtualization workloads and reduce related expenses, our solution is StarWind HyperConverged Appliance (HCA). It unifies commodity servers, disks and flash, hypervisor of choice, StarWind Virtual SAN, Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct or VMware Virtual SAN and associated software into a single manageable layer. The HCA supports scale-up by adding disks and flash, and scale-out by adding extra nodes.

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance consists of StarWind Virtual SAN, Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct or VMware Virtual SAN “Ready Nodes”, targeting those, who are building their virtualization infrastructure from scratch. In case there is an existing set of servers, we offer a “software only version”, which is essentially our years proven StarWind Virtual SAN. Basically, it’s the fuel powering StarWind HCA. 

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Buyer's Guide

Download the StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: November 2021

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Customers

Sears Home and Franchise Business

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Video

Pricing Advice

What users are saying about StarWind HyperConverged Appliance pricing:
  • "Our entire package was around $35,000 for everything, including three years of support."
  • "In terms of cost, a storage array is more expensive... For half the cost of Compellent, I got two hosts, more storage, and redundancy."
  • "There is a bit of a start-up cost. Having never used HCAs before, I was reluctant to buy it. I would suggest that you jump in and do it, as I wish I hadn't wasted so much time."
  • "We didn't have any issue with pricing or any of the sales process."

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Reviews

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RB
IT Manager at Bonitas Trust
Real User
Top 10
Because it's all built into one box, they could offer us the majority of the functionality we wanted, affordably

Pros and Cons

  • "What makes it valuable is the high-availability. In the education field, when you've got students in classrooms, any loss of service disrupts the lessons to a point that the whole lesson is affected. For part of the business which isn't business-critical, to have a little bit of a hiccup wouldn't be such a big thing, but here, it's the high availability of service that is important."
  • "There is room for improvement in the setup and installation phase. We had massive problems connecting the StarWind appliances to our network infrastructure. That wasn't necessarily a StarWind problem. I don't know if their business partner in the UK wasn't used to having to deal with the supply of the cabling infrastructure, but that's where the problems started."

What is our primary use case?

What we use it for is resilience in our Hyper-V cluster, for both the guests and the data. We have two appliances split between two physical comms rooms onsite. If we lost the power or network to one comms room, all of the guests and all of the data residing in the second comms room would be dynamically available.

How has it helped my organization?

Overall, the solution has improved our system's performance. We were with Dell products before and those products were getting towards seven years old so they were at end-of-life. This product has an element of SSD, in our particular solution. The way that the system uses SSDs to cache out load onto the SSDs for regularly-used data means that it is a much better and more modern solution. We can definitely see that in the performance.

For example, we use some database services for our management information system that manages all the kids' data. There are a lot of ways that that information is accessed, through different applications, both internally and externally. Parents might be pulling attendance information from that service. The performance of the servers in that environment is much improved on the StarWind product over the standard Hyper-V host. The fact that the storage and the hosts are on exactly the same hardware reduces the network latency and all the other bits that contribute to the speed as well.

StarWind has also saved our organization money. It has probably halved the cost of a full SAN and individual-host solution.

What is most valuable?

What makes it valuable is the high-availability. In the education field, when you've got students in classrooms, any loss of service disrupts the lessons to a point that the whole lesson is affected. For part of the business which isn't business-critical, to have a little bit of a hiccup wouldn't be such a big thing, but here, it's the high availability of service that is important.

Also, the ProActive Premium Support has picked up some issues that we wouldn't necessarily have noticed ourselves because the depth of monitoring is pretty aggressive. You have to resolve those issues with StarWind by giving them updated logs, so it does put an onus on you that forces you to be doing a better job. But in terms of day-to-day monitoring, we still do that for each of the servers within it to see if there are any specific problems that are causing performance issues. Ours is probably more of a high-level monitoring than StarWind does in its ProActive monitoring.

So, there are levels to it. They come up with some good stuff in the ProActive monitoring that we wouldn't necessarily have noticed very quickly. The upshot is that you then have to work with them to troubleshoot that issue.

We still have to do a lot of stuff that StarWind doesn't do in their ProActive monitoring, but it gives us peace of mind that somebody else is watching the services 24 hours a day, so that we're notified if there's a potential issue. All the issues that we've had have been potential problems that have been picked up and resolved before they became problems. That's the real positive spin: Because it's proactive, it's stopping you from actually having the issue that would affect end-users.

We do use network monitoring tools to monitor the network and the core processing of all of the servers in our environment, including the StarWind, but we do leave the higher-end stuff to the ProActive Support guys. There are only two of us who are full-time in IT in our organization, so we can't really afford to have bought into something that would have had a big overhead in terms of day-to-day management. StarWind is one of those things that, once it's set up and working properly, there are some checks that you would do naturally on a daily or weekly basis, but there's a whole raft of reporting tools and you're notified if there's a potential problem. It is a put-it-in-and-off-you-go kind of thing. Once that initial commissioning has been done and it's in and working, it's pretty seamless.

For how long have I used the solution?

We bought into StarWind in the summer of 2019, so it's been a little over half-a-year.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of the solution's hardware footprint, it's very scalable. It's important that you look at future-proofing as much as possible when you buy the product. It's important that you think about three to five years' worth of growth. The ability to upgrade is always there, but that's going to come at a cost later on. Obviously, technologies change reasonably quickly — certainly server technologies, disks, and arrays, etc. So it's good, if you want them to be truly resilient with each other, to keep them at one state of firmware revision, rate controllers, all running at the same level, etc.

For us, scalability is an interesting thing because we have two comms rooms and we want to keep things resilient between those two comms rooms. We have the option, obviously, to increase the space and add additional memory, just like with any other server. We could add a third StarWind appliance and increase our capacity in that way. Clearly, if we were going to do that, our resilience wouldn't be quite equally spread because we'd have two appliances in one comms room and one in another. For us, there are many more options than we would have with a traditional SAN. Certainly, we're not constrained by it in any way.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support from StarWind is excellent. The guys really know what they're doing, and they're really supportive and helpful. Their response is excellent. You feel really looked after. There is nothing that is too much trouble. You could ask them a very basic question if you were concerned about something to do with your own infrastructure that was affected by StarWind, and they're quite happy to get involved.

There's good continuity. You get a support guy dealing with you on a particular problem and he stays with it through to resolution. You're not dealing with a lot of different people. Much of the time you get the same two or three guys dealing with your account, so you know the people that you're going to be talking to and dealing with. I really couldn't rate it more highly, on a personal level. They're very proactive and very responsive.

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

We had a Dell EqualLogic solution with multiple Hyper-V hosts and resilient SANs before we migrated to StarWind. For us, StarWind was a software option that would potentially reduce our costs and give us the same level of resilience that we had before. We've also increased performance and capacity.

If we had to replace the same technology in a Dell EqualLogic product, or whatever the new SAN product that they might have is called, it would cost us significantly more. Being in education, at the moment, money is quite tight. What we wanted is the best possible resilient solution at a good price point. That's what we got from it.

Also, the StarWind guys worked really hard to make the right kind of compromises to give us both the performance that we needed and a price we could afford. That's another element to this. When you buy a solution from Dell, you have to buy a particular model. There is an element of configuration, and there are discounts available depending on the time of the month or where you are in that calendar year — offers and deals to schools. Whereas StarWind was prepared to drill right down into the solution, look at exactly what we needed it to do, and make the compromises in the right places. So we still got the same level of resilience that we had before, but we got improved performance and improved capacity at a much cheaper price.

How was the initial setup?

There is room for improvement in the setup and installation phase. We had massive problems connecting the StarWind appliances to our network infrastructure. That wasn't necessarily a StarWind problem. I don't know if their business partner in the UK wasn't used to having to deal with the supply of the cabling infrastructure, but that's where the problems started.

Because of the way we are funded, I could spend the money only once. I have to write a business case for everything we do and I put all the costs in that business case. What I can't do is go off and buy a load of additional stuff because I should have added it to the business case. So the agreement was that the cabling for our infrastructure would be supplied with the StarWind but, unfortunately, they just couldn't do that. They supplied the wrong cables and the wrong number of cables. In the end, I had to go and buy all the equipment myself to do it, because they just didn't seem to be able to deal with it. I think the problem was with the UK side, with whomever they outsource the setup and installation to in the UK. If it had been a solution where they'd had to come onsite and install it, it would have been an absolute mess.

We were quoted three to four weeks for the deployment time but, in the end, it took about six or seven weeks.

We did have an implementation strategy for this product, but it all went out the window when we didn't get the cabling right. Because it's a school, the kids were on their summer break from the end of July through until the beginning of September. We had plans to do work in that time but, in the end, we just couldn't do that work because we didn't get the StarWind in early enough to do it. Some of that was our fault. We did order the product later than we wanted because we were looking at HPE, Dell, and StarWind together. But if we hadn't had the issue with the cabling, a weeks-long issue, we would have been a lot more successful in the summer.

Because that's the only time we really get a chance to do anything big on our infrastructure, some of the work we would have done in this past September will now have to be done in August of this year.

What about the implementation team?

Our experience with the StarWind partner was not the best. We spent a lot of time spec-ing and giving them the specs of every element of our network. When they failed to deliver it and we missed a number of deadline dates on the installation because of it, I just phoned up a cabling company, gave them all the details, and I had the right cables the very next day. So it wasn't a massive technical challenge. It just needed someone to take ownership of it. I don't know whether it was a financial thing or something else, but I've not been reimbursed for those cables. So in the end, I did overspend on the project. If you're going to write a business case and you're going to put the costs in it, you want those costs to be right.

In the whole scheme of things, it's not the end of the world, but was annoying. It could certainly be improved.

What was our ROI?

If we had gotten the StarWind installed more quickly, we would have migrated more to it than we have currently. Our seven years on our existing Dell solution just expired about a month ago. We've migrated the majority of our infrastructure onto the StarWind appliances, but we haven't fully migrated for the reasons I implied before. Until the summer, this year, we won't be able to migrate some elements, which is just a little bit frustrating. So at the moment, those elements are running on Dell solutions that are no longer covered by any hardware maintenance. That is a risk that I would have rather avoided.

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

We bought a seven-year solution including licensing, hardware maintenance, and ProActive Support. For us, in a school, we tend to buy high-end equipment — hardware and servers — and look at them in terms of a seven-year lifespan. That's a lot more than it would be in industry, but we ideally try to specify the equipment to have that length of life, if possible, in terms of capacity; or at the very least have the option to upgrade within that time. So, our one-off costs when we bought the equipment included seven years' worth of licensing and everything else that goes with it.

We paid it all upfront.

Obviously we pay our Microsoft licensing separately and that licensing covers the operating system on the StarWind appliances.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Microsoft storage but what we wanted was the resilience and the dynamic replication of data across two comms rooms. Before, we did that with EqualLogic SANs and physical Hyper-V hosts, whereas now, what we've got is the storage and the hosts in one box in each comms room, with StarWind.

We looked at multiple solutions, including HPE and Dell. Dell had been our partner up until this point, but the truth of the matter is that we couldn't afford their products anymore. The cost of their products had just moved out of the reach of a school with the kind of funding we have.

All these products have the ability to do what we wanted to do: real-time failover, real-time data between both comms rooms. The step up to achieve with some of the more well-known players is quite large though. In fact, it's an order of magnitude in terms of money. In layman's language, there are tiers, or steps, that you would have to climb to get more functionality. For example, you could start including cloud, cloud storage, and more. But the jumps and the tiers with StarWind are much closer together. The costs in taking those different steps are still there, but they are much more reasonable. That's because they're wrapping up all the technology in one box, rather than buying separate boxes for separate things.

Unfortunately, in my experience, there is quite a turnaround of technical guys within the organizations you deal with, and it's not easy to get continuity from the people at most organizations to look at your particular problems. What they always want to do is sell you their "gold" product, which is fantastic and very exciting, but if you can't afford it, you can't afford it. That was frustrating for me.

I would speak to Dell, I would speak to HPE, and they would jump up in the air and say, "Oh yeah, great. We can sell you one of those, and six of these, and that will do it. Fantastic." And that would do it. But we just didn't have that kind of money. And when we went back to the table and said, "Well, that's really great, but we can't really afford that," their reaction was, "Oh, well, that's not very interesting, because we will have to this product in instead. And then you can't do this, and you can't do that." And then it was not worth buying from our perspective.

With StarWind, they were much more flexible in looking at compromises and, because it's all built into one box, they could offer us opportunities to do things in a different way and still get the majority of the functionality we wanted. With a lot of the bigger players, if you bought the kind of functionality we wanted, you got a lot of other stuff that we weren't going to use, and obviously that was built into the price. With StarWind you can pick and choose, a little bit more, which elements you want to adopt and use, without having to go to the next, big, more expensive box or software revision.

What other advice do I have?

My advice is to check it out. Everybody has a tick-box of what they want to achieve with a product. If you've got that, apply it to StarWind. Give them a chance to offer you a solution that meets all those ticks in those boxes, because I think they can do it at a very good price. There isn't really a compromise in that in any way. You're getting a really good solution at a really good price, and you're not actually making any compromises.

The biggest eyeopener for me is that there are solutions out there that don't have to cost a lot of money for a very robust and resilient solution. StarWind gives you everything that you're going to get from a traditional SAN host in one box. You get really high-grade proactive support, and the solution is scalable and cost-effective. If we hadn't had the issues with the implementation, I would be saying it is definitely on par with the more recognized players. 

I'd have no hesitation in recommending it, once it has been installed, set up, and configured. It is definitely a challenger among the more traditional and more industry-recognized solutions. The others, Dell, HPE, etc., are all looking more into software storage and Microsoft storage and solutions to fill in those gaps between the tiers in their products. But I think StarWind has gotten there first. 

StarWind's product is very nice and very user-friendly as well. It's very understandable from a higher-level technical point of view. There are no smoke and mirrors with it either. They're not hiding anything, they're not making it unavailable to their customers. It's all very open-book and that gives you an element of comfort when you're making a decision to move away from the more traditional ways of doing it. StarWind's openness, and the information that's available to you on their product, and how the product is going to be implemented and used, allays a lot of those fears.

Once it's installed, I would happily give it an eight or a nine out of 10. It does exactly what it says on the tin, in our experience with it.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
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.
HunterMorgan
Owner at Data Barn
Consultant
Top 5
All of the failovers and converged storage are pre-configured, saving me significant time, and the support is high-level

Pros and Cons

  • "The hardware footprint is great. We've got two 2U servers which replaced four 2U servers. Granted, they were about three years old at that point, but we actually increased our processing capacity by about 50 percent while keeping our storage capacity about the same. We've actually been able to downgrade to a half rack from a full rack because we've gotten rid of some of our network equipment and some of our additional storage arrays."
  • "That situation, where Dell EMC servers were going down, has been my only real difficulty... it ended up being something that the wider audience of Dell EMC was actually aware of as an issue. Neither the StarWind technicians nor the Dell EMC technicians were able to actually identify that problem sooner than a week or so... The communication between Dell EMC support and StarWind support, in that particular scenario, left something to be desired, for me. I did express those concerns to StarWind and they were very responsive to that."

What is our primary use case?

I'm a value-added reseller for Microsoft. I do some other stuff on these HCAs too, but that's the easiest way to describe it. 

I'm providing a remote workspace for a special, select subgroup of clients who are running a pretty specific product called Infor. I'm pretty experienced with hosting and supporting this particular product, so I decided to also wrap a value-added reselling business around it so that I could give them a full remote workspace, instead of just support for their product.

We're running virtualized workloads for 300 or 400 users at this point. Our goal is to have them log in every day in and run all of their day-to-day work on these virtualized workloads.

How has it helped my organization?

The solution has probably saved me 100 hours of implementation work. 

In terms of support, we're probably on the low end of requirements because we don't have a lot of advanced stuff going on. We just have virtualized workloads, so once they're configured they're done. But we've had a couple of longer support cases, and over the course of a month, it has saved me, on average, six to eight hours. That's as a one-man shop. If we grow and we start adding more HCAs, I imagine that that time saved increases pretty linearly. The support is really a convenience. I could always schedule my own time to take care of issues, but if there's a minor storage or networking issue, it's nice to bring someone in. 

The major way it has changed our organization is that we came from a four-node, pure Microsoft setup, where we were using Storage Spaces Direct. StarWind is able to run on two nodes, so the hardware cost is quite a bit lower. They include support, so I don't need to keep someone on call in order to handle storage issues. And the fact that they were able to over-spec us for a reasonable price has meant that, over the past six months, I haven't had to worry about overhead and I haven't had to worry about budgeting any more systems. We have enough headspace to expand another 50 percent or so before I'll ever need to invest in direct processing hardware again. And when I do decide to invest more in hardware, I'm perfectly confident that they would just ship us a ready-to-go unit that can be plugged in with three cables and it's off and running.

What is most valuable?

I have burned a lot of time in the past configuring stuff like this myself, so the ability to pay a little bit of extra money to have something like this delivered, where all of the failovers are already configured, and all of the converged storage is already configured, and it's really just a blank slate to start building Hyper-V workloads on, is valuable. The fact that it's preconfigured and that there is a high level of support, so that I don't need to hire someone in order to do all this, has been my favorite feature.

Also, the hardware footprint is great. We've got two 2U servers which replaced four 2U servers. Granted, they were about three years old at that point, but we actually increased our processing capacity by about 50 percent while keeping our storage capacity about the same. We've actually been able to downgrade to a half rack from a full rack because we've gotten rid of some of our network equipment and some of our additional storage arrays. And the fact that that's all contained within 4Us of space is a complete 180 from the strategy we had before, which was four processing units and a few storage arrays. It's cut down on the amount of cabling we have to deal with by about 80 percent, so it's been a pretty big deal for the data center on the physical side of things.

The improved performance has scaled pretty well with the cost. I wouldn't say that the cost of performance is significantly lower. The main benefit is the cost of configuration and ongoing support. We're probably not saving a significant amount on hardware costs, but if I'm saving some 50 percent of my troubleshooting and hardware support time, we're probably saving, as a rough ballpark figure, $10,000 a year. If I were to hire even a part-time person to take care of just the hardware stuff that I'm now not having to take care of, it would be well over $10,000 a year to have a hardware architect available.

In addition, StarWind HCA has increased redundancy for us. Early on, just a couple of months into the tenancy, we had a pretty major hardware issue with one of the hosts, to the point where it was rebooting a few times a day. That was actually all Dell EMC's fault and had nothing to do with StarWind. Even with that host going up and down several times a day, there was only a little bit of inconvenience during the lag time when a live migration occurred from one server to the other, and we were up and running that entire time. We didn't incur any direct downtime over the course of a week-and-a-half where, literally, 50 percent of our processing units were going down three or four times a day. As frustrating as that experience was, it really helped strengthen my faith in StarWind solutions.

What needs improvement?

That situation, where Dell EMC servers were going down, has been my only real difficulty. I do understand that we were using refurbished Dell EMC hardware, so that may have played into the difficulties we were having. But at the end of the day, it ended up being something that the wider audience of Dell EMC was actually aware of as an issue. Neither the StarWind technicians nor the Dell EMC technicians were able to actually identify that problem sooner than a week or so. I found after, doing my own diagnosis and my own technician work, that there was actually a solution out there that many people Dell EMC's forums were aware of. The communication between Dell EMC support and StarWind support, in that particular scenario, left something to be desired, for me. 

I did express those concerns to StarWind and they were very responsive to that. They seem to really appreciate the feedback. I'm hoping that there has been a change that has already been enacted by them as a result.

For how long have I used the solution?

We installed in March of this year, so we're relatively new. I believe we got refurbished, seventh-generation HCAs.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been great, with the exception of that one issue I mentioned which seemed to be Dell EMC hardware-specific. That even spoke to StarWind's stability in the sense that we had one host going down regularly without downtime.

We've had zero issues directly caused by StarWind. Everything is contained within the VM guests. Those are just configuration and Windows Server problems. This is definitely the most stable hardware we've had, and I've been involved in this business for eight years, on various stages of hardware. These past six months have been the lowest in terms of overhead so far.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability seems really good. I haven't hit the need for scalability yet, but it seems to scale pretty linearly with the exception of storage. 

The idea is that all the storage is needed between all the hosts. So if we needed to increase our processing capacity, that would scale perfectly linearly. We would spend another X dollars to increase our capacity by 50 percent with an identical server.

I haven't explored storage capacity yet because we're a pretty low-storage-capacity company. But it seems like, with their additional products that aren't HCAs, their storage arrays, that you would be able to increase storage capacity on level with your costs as well. So you're not incurring a lot of overhead for interconnectivity or additional redundancy. At least that's my impression.

At the moment we're probably at 60 or 80 percent capacity across the board in all system resources, including networking. It's a really even 60 or 80 percent. If we can grow the business by another half next year, we'll be at 100 percent capacity. At that point, it would start making a lot of sense to look at adding another host because, if one fails and we have to fail over, we would effectively need to throttle everyone backed by 50 percent.

How are customer service and technical support?

We don't use the proactive part of support a whole lot but that's really because we're a very simple setup at the moment. They've come to me a couple of times when they noticed some things going wrong, but that's usually when I'm in there reconfiguring things or rebooting servers. When our proactive support expires we'll probably renew because of the fact that they've been really on top of issues, whether or not I've already been aware of them. 

The part where support has really saved a lot of time is not really directly due to the proactive part of it. It has had to do with the fact that when I do need help, if storage is running slower, or if I see that there's some kind of memory-usage issue on the hosts, they're usually back to me in probably half an hour, at the very most, with a solution.

The main thing I've enjoyed from them is the really fast response when I do need help with reconfiguring or the like. I actually just reached out last week to try and make some networking changes. I got a response in about five minutes and I had an actual solution, with an advanced-tech ready to help me, within about 30 minutes. I don't know if that has anything to do with the proactive part of their support but I would imagine — putting myself in their shoes — that having a customer who is part of proactive support probably accelerates their response a little bit.

I've been really impressed with StarWind so far. They've been really helpful.

I haven't had to talk to StarWind at all for about a month. The last thing was a major networking upgrade request and I was really pleased with their response time. From a small-shop perspective, this is probably the best experience I've ever had in terms of the backing hardware for the services we provide. It's been very nice.

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

The solution this replaced was all home-brewed. It was all running on a Windows Server. We had a backplane connected to a few different storage area network arrays. It worked well but it incurred quite a bit of overhead just to manage it. If you've ever heard of people working with just Microsoft Failover Cluster Manager with backplanes, it was a bear, both to physically connect and to manage.

The concept of an HCA was actually kind of new to me, at the time. We had been under the practice of putting processing and volatile memory on one box and putting all of our storage into other boxes. That introduced some issues with single points of failure: If your switch fails then your storage is done and if your network switch fails then your communication is done.

I had started researching Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct, which I believe was a new feature in 2016. StarWind must have a lot of search engine optimization related to Storage Spaces Direct, because they ended up coming up, really early, as an alternative. They're very active on Spiceworks and they were constantly in threads about Storage Spaces and putting their product out there. I ended up researching them and the total cost of ownership, hardware-wise, was possibly a little bit higher than bringing up your own, but the fact that support and configuration were included in that price, made it a slam-dunk for us.

How was the initial setup?

The implementation was fairly simple.

I had a really big, heavy pair of Dell EMC server boxes delivered to my workplace. I had to schedule some time to go physically into the data center, which is hosted two miles away from my office. The entire installation procedure was really a matter of unbox, throw the rails in, throw the servers on the rails. Each server then needed two power cords and two SFP connections between the servers themselves. And, bare minimum, they need one management connection to whatever your local Cat 5 switch is. That was it. That was really all that that needed to be configured, hardware-wise. 

Once those were up and running, we spent maybe 45 minutes just getting the initial Hyper-V configuration done, and I was off and running. I was able to create and migrate VMs at will. No downtime, no reconfiguration, and literally nothing else.

All together it took about two hours for completely setting up the hardware and getting Hyper-V ready to create guests.

We didn't have an implementation plan. Physically, we had room in our racks and spaces for the power supplies and the cables. The only planning was that I gave StarWind a half-day's heads-up that I was going to get everything installed. They were on the phone and on a remote support session at pretty much the minute that I was ready to do the software side of things.

I enlisted some help to get things physically installed. Once that was done, it was just me and one StarWind engineer. We had to be on the phone for about an hour in total over that entire process. It was just me and that one person. They seem to have their process petty down pat. He was flying through the configuration and I was just sitting in the back seat watching.

What was our ROI?

We haven't seen ROI yet because we're a pretty low-sales company. We're just sticking with who we have at the moment because we need some more people who are experienced with this Infor product in order to grow the business much. I would expect that we will break even with our hardware investment within the first quarter of the coming year.

That's not bad at all because that will end up being almost right at the one-year mark. Even if we had to throw those servers in the trash at that point we would be at zero loss.

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

In terms of the hardware pricing, we ended up going with refurbished machines because we're not in quite as critical a situation as other service providers may be. The pricing is pretty comparable between StarWind and other solutions, if you're just talking about hardware and a general support plan. The value starts to come back in a very real way with StarWind when you talk about the reliability of both the hardware and the support structure itself.

Our entire package was around $35,000 for everything, including three years of support.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated other options and, overall, the thing that made us go with StarWind was really the community involvement, mostly on Spiceworks. They're on Reddit too. Seeing how active they were in proactive troubleshooting and in answering sales questions for whoever was asking was a big deal. The fact they had extra manpower to handle that kind of stuff speaks really well to how efficient their support structure is.

What other advice do I have?

Look long and hard at your current hardware. There is a significant utility in sticking with a single vendor for stuff like this. If you are at that point where you need to refresh pretty much your entire environment, or a significant portion of it, I would say you should seriously look at StarWind because they would potentially be able to take care of just about everything, hardware-wise, as long as you're a small enough shop and you're ready to really commit.

Up until implementation, in March of this year, we were very reliant on ourselves and sub-contractors to support the hardware configuration and make sure everything was up and running. We had to be super-proactive about being on top of Microsoft issues because anything that is 100 percent reliant on Microsoft can go completely haywire if the wrong Windows Update runs. So the biggest change, and the biggest thing that we learned, is that it's nice to be able to rely on an external company, as long as they know what they're doing. We've been able to call StarWind for anything to do with the framework we're built on or anything to do with the substrate that Hyper-V is running on, no matter what happens, and know they're going to take care of it.

I'm the only one dealing with administration or maintenance of the HCA and it will probably stay that way, just for security concerns. It's a lot easier to stay compliant if I'm the only person that can do any of that. We do subcontract to other people for support of our customer VMs, but that's a whole different game. That's all built on the StarWind framework.

StarWind is an easy 10 out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
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.
Learn what your peers think about StarWind HyperConverged Appliance. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: November 2021.
553,954 professionals have used our research since 2012.
RF
Systems Admin at a tech vendor with 201-500 employees
Real User
Top 10
Provides us with cost-effective redundancy and a significantly smaller footprint

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable features of the solution are the redundancy and its cost. I used to have a SAN, a Dell EMC EqualLogic. Unfortunately, it was they call an "inverted pyramid of doom." It was two or three hosts, two switches, and one storage array at the very bottom. But the SAN, the storage array at the very bottom, is a single point of failure..."
  • "One area for improvement of the solution is that I had to get Windows, which I really didn't want because of the extra maintenance or overhead, as well as viruses, etc. It's going to take time for them to get their Linux to that point. They already have Linux but it's not as mature and they don't really support it on HCAs. They have it for individuals who want to use it on their servers, but not on HCAs."

What is our primary use case?

We use it for virtualization related to development. We have two entities in our company. One is corporate, a subcontractor for NASA. And the other one is an electronic timesheet system. For the corporate side, it's mainly a file server. And we use StarWind HCA for development of the electronic timesheet system. It provides us VMs and tools.

How has it helped my organization?

We can do updates without any problems. We can move all my VMs to one host and do updates on the other host. We can bring it down, move everything over to the other host, and then update the other host and bring it down.

In terms of redundancy, with my last solution, if we had two VMware hosts and one host went down, everything would transfer over to the other host. StarWind HCA is the same concept except that we don't have the single point of failure of the storage array anymore. It's all in the hosts. We don't have to worry about the storage going down. It used to be that if the storage array went down, we were dead in the water with both hosts.

Our only real choice, other than StarWind, was to buy a Dell EMC Compellent which would have been double the cost and would still be just one Compellent. So if we wanted redundancy, we would have had to put together a solution that would triple or quadruple the cost. StarWind saved us a considerable amount of money.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of the solution are the redundancy and its cost. I used to have a SAN, a Dell EMC EqualLogic. Unfortunately, it was what they call an "inverted pyramid of doom." It was two or three hosts, two switches, and one storage array at the very bottom. But the SAN, the storage array at the very bottom, is a single point of failure, and many people, including me in the past, don't take that into consideration.

The SAN was working for us, but I thought about the fact that it is a single point of failure. Anything could, possibly, take it out, even though it might have redundant hardware inside it: controllers, power, hard drives. The entire unit itself is a single point of failure. If updates were required to an EqualLogic, we would have to take down everything, just to be on the safe side. We'd have to shut down all the VMs. And those updates could always mess up the entire unit and, then, it's a single point of failure and all your infrastructure and VMs are down.

In terms of cost, a storage array is more expensive. It was time to renew our storage array. It was end-of-support, end-of-life, and the EqualLogic line is supposedly being phased out. The next in line is Dell EMC Compellent and we would have had to upgrade to that. It is highly expensive. For half the cost of Compellent, I got two hosts, more storage, and redundancy.

StarWind HCA also has a much better footprint because with a full-blown SAN you have one storage array, or in some cases two, as well as two switches and two or three hosts. Those two hosts are usually 2U each, and the storage array is 2U, and the switches are usually 1U each. We were able to shrink it all down to two hosts that contain all the storage, the switches or the all the storage networking, and the host or the compute/CPU power. In total, the HCA is just two hosts and they're both 2U. So our footprint was reduced to just 4U.

What needs improvement?

One area for improvement of the solution is that I had to get the HCAs with Windows Server installed to install the StarWind SAN software on, which I really didn't want because of the extra maintenance or overhead, as well as viruses, etc. It's going to take time for them to get their Linux implementation to that point. They already have Linux but it's not as mature and they don't really support it on HCAs. They have it for individuals who want to use it on their servers, but not on HCAs.

With Windows, there's always that fear that, if you add any software to it, if you need to configure monitoring software or the like, DLL conflicts and blue screens can result. Similarly, if you use Windows Update, you can get blue screens. Or, there have been times where an antivirus company has made a mistake regarding its virus definitions and it took down the server. The antivirus blocked or deleted a legitimate OS file that it thought was a virus. So I don't run antivirus on the Windows Servers VMs that run the StarWind SAN software. At the same time, I've had to configure Windows Firewall to block everything and only allow any kind of traffic going to the server. The only thing I allow is just Remote Desktop so I can manage it. But even Remote Desktop, in the recent months, has had exploits. I keep on having to do Windows Updates.

I prefer Linux because it's not as targeted. Don't get me wrong; it is targeted for viruses and all, but not like Windows Server.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using it for a few months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution has been stable so far..

How are customer service and technical support?

We are using the solution's ProActive Premium Support but it hasn't really reduced our monitoring efforts since we've only been using it for two or three months. We haven't had any issues come up where we've had to use it. I still do all the monitoring of my VMs and the hardware, the HCAs. However, in regard to the support itself, I do like that it's all-in-one. If I need support I call one vendor and they take care of everything. They call Dell EMC, they call VMware and, of course, they take care of the StarWind software. So it is nice.

Plus, each person I've talked to — and I've talked to multiple people there — has been very knowledgeable. I didn't get the sense that any of them were new or learning or that they didn't know what they were talking about. All of them are very knowledgeable and friendly.

How was the initial setup?

I wouldn't say the initial setup was completely straightforward but it's not too complex. I did have a lot of calls with support to help me get it up and running, but I did the majority of the cabling and some of the configuration of the VMs. They took care of many other things that I would not have known to do, but it wasn't too bad.

The deployment took about a month. I had other things I had to do; I'm always doing a lot of things. It probably took longer than it could have taken.

The implementation strategy was that I have all iSCSI. Our previous SAN had iSCSI with RJ45 switches. With the help of StarWind and Dell EMC, I was able to tie in and connect the HCAs to my SAN and see the data stores on the SAN from the HCAs. When the time came, I was able to migrate everything. I placed all the VMware hosts into one vCenter but two different clusters. I was able to simply vMotion them. Once I got the HCAs up and running, configured and set up, I was able to vMotion all the VMs from my old storage array to these HCAs.

What about the implementation team?

Overall, I did like the hardware installation and the cabling and they helped me configure the StarWind software. It was about half and half.

They were top-notch and professional. They know their stuff. I was always able to get them online when needed. Their support was very good.

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

Regarding licensing fees, the caveat is that with the Windows-based OS, we have to pay for that licensing for both hosts. That's is another reason I wanted Linux. As for VMware, we already had VMware licenses, so we just took those from our old hosts and applied them to these hosts.

There is also a cost for the ProActive Premium Support and, on top of that, is support for the Dell EMC hardware itself. We got four-hour, mission-critical, which is what we have on everything else.

Because of the absolute redundancy of the two HCA hosts, which they say can tolerate a failure of one host plus one drive, you might be able to save a little bit of money by bumping down the support of the servers and not need four-hour, mission-critical support. You could bump it down and wait for parts to arrive the next day instead of four hours.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I looked at Dell EMC storage. The only option was Compellent, which was highly expensive. I looked at Nutanix which was still highly expensive.

I also looked at StorPool; I liked the idea behind it, but I didn't like their implementation. It's roughly the same concept but requires more hardware. They take a bunch of servers that are not purely storage servers but which have the compute and memory. It's a rack mount server with all the storage inside and they aggregate the storage.

StarWind was all-in-one and consolidated on two servers. StorPool would have been three servers just for the storage. I would have had to buy two more new hosts to be the compute.

What other advice do I have?

I love StarWind HCA because of the cost and the redundancy. I love the service, the support. Across the board, it was the best choice. I love the HCA because it's all-in-one and everything is pre-configured. I could have bought my own servers but it would have taken longer to bring up the environment. It would have been less expensive, but StarWind's hardware and software support and the compatibility of all the hardware components add a little bit more to the reliability of the system. That's why I went with the HCA instead of doing it myself. I certainly could have done it myself if I had more time. But, as a small business with one or two people managing all the IT, it was the best choice.

We have two environments, one at the office and one at the data center. This implementation was a trial of sorts, but looking to the future I'm going to implement this for our data center, where we have a standard SAN like we did before this HCA implementation.

The solution has not improved our system performance. There were some things that we couldn't foresee or we didn't test, like restoring databases. It's a little bit slower there. That's more a failure on our part, not having tested it out, rather than StarWind's failure.

We have a hybrid HCA as far as our drives go. Some are flash drives and others are just regular spindle drives. The solution is supposed to move things into the SSDs and then give the appropriate power, from what I remember them telling me. But in one particular case, one of the developers, who is also a database admin, was restoring a file and he said it took way longer than usual. That was one thing we couldn't assess during our assessment of what kind of drives we needed. In this case, we probably would have done better having all flash drives. It might have been overkill — it depends on what you need. But we should have made it all flash drives and we probably wouldn't have had any problems. Again, that's not anything on StarWind's part.

Everything else, performance-wise for all the other VMs that we have that are not as intensive as a database, it works just fine. We have no complaints about the performance in terms of using it as a file server or for web-based development utilities.

We're a small company. We have two entities that these HCAs provide service to. We have about 30 to 40 employees. Of them, 10 or more are on the corporate/sub-contracting side. The rest work on our electronic timesheet system, whether they're in development or technical support. In terms of deployment and maintenance of StarWind, it is just me.

StarWind gives you choices of servers, as far as the HCA goes. It was either all-new certified Dell EMC equipment or equipment from another company that they can place these servers on. With our being an all-Dell EMC shop, and my being familiar with Dell, I opted for all-Dell EMC hardware.

Being a small business, we don't have another product alongside it. It is the product. So it gets 100 percent usage. I don't see us expanding our usage in the future. The power and the storage should last us for, hopefully, the next seven years, which is roughly the Dell EMC support contract life expectancy. We use our servers for seven years and, at the end of the support, we refresh and buy brand-new servers.

Nothing stands out, in terms of problems or issues. They helped me and got everything resolved that I had problems with. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Matt_Thomas
Network Manager at Riverston Schools
Real User
Top 5
Provides around the clock support that is supportive, friendly, and dedicated

Pros and Cons

  • "The support is the most valuable feature. The support has been amazing. It's around the clock. One of our hard disks accidentally ejected without me knowing or being onsite. They called and told me about it before I had a chance to see it myself."
  • "The only real flaw that I have seen so far is this hard drive that was accidentally ejected because when it was received and added back into the RAID. There was an error there. It was not added back into the RAID correctly, so I have an outstanding hard disk. Apparently, a guy just knocked it with his hand as he was in my office, so it was just a small eject. He said that he didn't crash into anything. That is the only thing that has reared its head."

What is our primary use case?

We were running out of storage on our on-prem servers, so originally the HCAs were brought in to combat that and relieve some of the load on the veteran machines. Our file servers, along with one of our file storage, have moved to the HCA. I have put our Exchange server on it and the backup of the domain controller is on it as well.

We are using the latest version. We just implemented the HCAs. We added clusters and have moved some of the old virtual machines onto these new HCAs.

How has it helped my organization?

To have someone looking at the alerts when the network, or at least when the HCAs go down, this means I don't have to keep checking the clusters and virtual machines to make sure everything is playing ball. It's peace of mind that I don't have to keep checking and administrating that. Eventually, I will have a lot more use from it. I'm right at the end of the setup stage, but I'm still allocating resources from these HCAs into the virtual servers. So, I have not gotten the full run out of these yet.

I have seen improvement in my system’s performance. Our Exchange servers are behaving a lot better. Our system is a lot quicker. We were having delays before, where emails were taking two to three minutes. That is a lot longer than you would expect. Now, sitting on its own allocated HCA, it is almost instant. Therefore, email service has improved. The original use for this was just to increase our storage capacity, which it has done very nicely. I suppose we won't have to look for storage now for a long time.

What is most valuable?

The support is the most valuable feature. The support has been amazing. It's around the clock. One of our hard disks accidentally ejected without me knowing or being onsite. They called and told me about it before I had a chance to see it myself.

It has helped to increase redundancy and failover capabilities. The cluster is there, so I now have four levels of failover. If one of my machines goes down, there are two pairs of redundancy machines, so it fails over onto the next one.

The most important virtual servers have gone onto these new HCA. This is automatic so if one of these goes down, then the cluster would just take over and allocate to the next one. Even if I'm offsite, which I am quite a bit, we're still up and running.

What needs improvement?

The only real flaw that I have seen so far is this hard drive that was accidentally ejected because when it was received and added back into the RAID. There was an error there. It was not added back into the RAID correctly, so I have an outstanding hard disk. Apparently, a guy just knocked it with his hand as he was in my office, so it was just a small eject. He said that he didn't crash into anything. That is the only thing that has reared its head. The support team was straight on it. I have people coming out this week to replace it because remotely they couldn't add it back into the RAID. I think maybe the HD got corrupted.

I have all the ports I need in the back. When you're sitting them next to each other for replication between HCAs, it's quick because it has these dedicated iDRAC cables in the back. However, this means I can't have them in separate locations. We could run it through the network to replicate the regular gigabyte Ethernet, but that would be quite slow, especially with the setup. I don't really know how you would change this because I've got a large site. My original on-prem server is quite far away just in case there is a fire (or whatever), so the other one could pick up the redundancy. Having them next to each other defeats the purpose slightly if there was damage localized here, because I would lose both of them at the same time.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using it for about three months now.

We did not install it straightaway. We were waiting for a couple of bits, so it was a late install.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good. I have had no downtime nor issues. You don't have to maintain it.

The only time I heard from the actual support was when that hard drive went down. As that was caused by a physical thing on our end, I can't really say that was a stability issue.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I sort of overbought on the storage needed for what I thought we would need in the future. The scalability is there. One of the main reasons I went with StarWind is because we can just keep adding. Possibly, in the future, our other sites will get added as well to have one centralized system. Though, I've not asked them about the specifics of what that would entail. But its scalability is definitely there, and hopefully, we won't need it for a long time. We might though as we have used a lot more data than I thought we would use so far.

As it stands, this is the setup that we will be using for a while.

How are customer service and technical support?

They are great at monitoring.

The Proactive Premium Support has helped to free up an employee, as I'm the only one here at this company. It's a big company with a few schools attached, and obviously, my time is critical. I probably would've been knocking my head a lot longer than necessary, but Boris knew what he was doing and jumped straight in. We had a couple of hiccups and he knew what he was doing every time.

Transfer time was a big time saver when we were migrating the data server, because it was huge. Originally, it was only hooked up to the one gigabyte per second Ethernet going to the domain switch, then back. Because that would have taken forever, support talked me through how to do this another way, step-by-step.

I'm not 100 percent that we have the Proactive Premium Support. I'm fairly certain that we have the Proactive Premium Support, but it could be that I've just been dealing with the standard support. In which case, it's amazing. If it's the Proactive Premium Support, then it's great as well. It's around the clock, very friendly, and informative. While I've only spoken to Boris, he never seems to sleep.

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

It fits into our racks very nicely. Before, we had a couple of data modules which were plugged in. They were huge, bulky, and heavy. They didn't fit in the racks. This is the replacement to those data modules. It was by looking for an alternative that I got turned onto StarWind in the first place. StarWind’s support system, along with the way it plays nicely with Hyper-V and the existing setup, makes it nice and tidy. I've had no overheating. The fans have been nice and quiet as well. The ventilation is on point.

My reseller, Softcat, tipped me onto this solution. I asked them for data storage plugins and this is what they suggested. They were the one that turned me onto StarWind.

It's exactly what I was after when I started looking for these type of appliances.

How was the initial setup?

The setup of the actual hardware was straightforward. Adding it to the existing network was complex. It would have taken me maybe a week of work to get the end result, instead having my hand held through the whole process was invaluable. It saved me a lot of time.

There was lots of different sessions involved with the deployment. If you put them altogether, it took probably a day as we had to stop and break. I had to go do other things and Boris also had to do other things, so we did the deployment in bits. 

The implementation strategy was loose. As long as it was off hours, so I could switch a bunch of machines off, that was essentially it. As long as I had this approved from Boris, that was our strategy. I looked at what resources we needed on which virtual machines. Then, I made the decision on what to transfer over, moving the most important things over.

What about the implementation team?

I had Boris (from StarWind) for the setup, and he was amazing. We have the Proactive Premium Support, since we paid extra to get it. I probably wouldn't have been able to set it up on my own to get it to play with our existing network and on-prem setup. The support guys were sending me photographs and explaining some of the basics that I probably should have known. They have been great.

Kudos to Boris. He has been great, supportive, friendly, and dedicated. 

I am the only person using and maintaining the solution.

What was our ROI?

It's not really in place of anything that would be costing us. We just had to upgrade because the storage was basically kaput. Savings-wise, I don't think it will save us any money, but it's not going to cost us anything more either.

We might see ROI from time saved. But I'm the only employee, so it'll probably take awhile to cover enough of my time to make that money up.

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

I was quite hesitant to buy these, and I don't know why. There is a bit of a start-up cost. Having never used HCAs before, I was reluctant to buy it. I would suggest that you jump in and do it, as I wish I hadn't wasted so much time.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did look at other options, just not HCAs. We looked at static storage to plug straight in.

I spoke to Softcat about alternatives, but they said StarWind was getting glowing reviews from very similar networks across education. So, I felt that I would give them a try. Their presentation was really good, and they seem friendly and very knowledgeable. Essentially, that's what I needed - someone to help me move through the process since I hadn't added HCAs before.

Compared to other solutions out there, StarWind was cost-effective. For example, we would have had to buy at minimum as much as these HCAs cost us going forward, if not more. 

What other advice do I have?

The biggest lesson that I learned was I should have started as 1st Line Support. There was a situation where our old network manager had to leave quite suddenly, and there were definitely holes in my knowledge. So, I learned quite a lot just through the setup, Boris talking me through different types of connections, and some Hyper-V stuff. I suppose that I also learned a lot about HCAs in general and how they fit into network clusters since I hadn't touched on clusters before.

I would rate it a 10 (out of 10). I'm very happy. It's exactly the solution I wanted to the problem, then extra on top.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ReinierMuller
Interim CTO at Royal Koopmans
Real User
High-availability means that all data is synched instantly through the three nodes

Pros and Cons

  • "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."
  • "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."

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?

On-premises
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.
EJ
I.T. Manager at a real estate/law firm with 201-500 employees
Real User
Top 20
Flexible and easy to set up with excellent support

Pros and Cons

  • "The initial setup seems to be very straightforward."
  • "We have to pay for support, which is high-end support. That can be expensive, at least for us."

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use the solution just for redundancy. It provides higher redundancy options so that if the server goes down, the other one picks everything up.

How has it helped my organization?

The high availability has really benefited the organization so far. You don't need two separate servers. If something were to go wrong with one of the servers, it automatically brings the other server up. It's sort of having a production and a spare, and then when production goes down, you bring up your spare if it takes a bit of time. However, this process is automated. Basically, one goes down, the other one comes up. You don't even know, except via the fact that you get alerts. The servers are on and they are on continuously. Nothing is ever down.

What is most valuable?

It's flexible. There are so many other solutions that have got very specific requirements, like vSAN from VMware and Microsoft S2D. Those tend to be very specific in terms of their requirements. This is more flexible. We had two separate servers that were not the same spec and the ordered solutions required that at least these specs should be very close. We didn't want to go out and buy new servers. And so, in that sense, it's flexible. It can run without those strict restrictions that other ones have.

It didn't require some of the high-end components, especially with regards to the NIC cards and the storage. In other cases, they require SSDs or a mix of SSDs and hard drives. In this case, it doesn't. 

Basically, it's fairly flexible, and it wasn't expensive compared to the others. If we had gone with another option, it would have taken a lot more money in terms of getting what we wanted.

The support is excellent.

The UI is very good. I know that you have the option of not going with the UI and then just use the PowerShell-based admin options. However, the UI just adds another level of simplicity to the whole thing. 

The sales guys are good. They tell you what you need and they don't oversell their product or anything like that. They tell you this is there, this is there. They are easy to talk to. I've had relations with them for quite some time.

The solution is very scalable.

The stability of the product is very good.

The initial setup seems to be very straightforward. 

What needs improvement?

We have to pay for support, which is high-end support. That can be expensive, at least for us. It may not be that much for others. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for four or five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is very stable. We've not had any issues with them. We've been using them for at least four years and we've not had any issues with them.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's very scalable. We are using it for two nodes, however, there's no reason for the product to not support three, four, or five nodes. You just have to scale in the number of VMs that you need and you just add more servers, really.

We have about 100 users on the solution currently.

We do not plan to increase usage. We do plan to move to the cloud. 

How are customer service and support?

Support is great. You can call them anytime if you have issues and they'll respond to you. They are easy to deal with. Sometimes they even let you know that "Hey, you need to do this and that." 

Our servers are continuously monitored 24 hours/seven by them. That way we know when things are getting worse before they actually get worse and before we are no longer able to react. We basically are able to know things before they go down and we can fix them.

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

We also use Microsoft as well.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is easy. It's not overly difficult. 

You only need one person to maintain the solution once it's up and running. Our network admin handles everything. 

What about the implementation team?

We had our engineers work with Starwind to implement it. It was very easy to work with them.

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

You can pay for support. If you decide to pay the extra amount for premium would depend on how critical your servers are and if the servers were to go down, how much you're going to lose compared to the cost of the service support.

We don't have any licensing costs. The only thing, with a perpetual license, is that we do pay for the support.

What other advice do I have?

We're customers and end-users. 

We tend to update the solution often. We try to use the latest version of the solution.

In the future, we do plan to move to the cloud, and when that happens, we will no longer need this solution.

It's a good product. It's reliable. The post-sales support services are great. This is a very flexible system, it works with basically any hardware. I'll definitely recommend it. What the others are doing is more expensive, and it can do everything with more flexibility and probably less cost.

I'd rate the solution at a ten out of ten as it meets all of our requirements. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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reviewer1462674
Senior Network Engineer at inSync Computer Solutions
Real User
Top 10
Increased performance, proactive support, and the redundancy gives us a good sense of security

Pros and Cons

  • "The full suite of redundancy gives a nice sense of security for the whole environment."
  • "I think some performance metrics would be nice to see, especially on the storage side."

What is our primary use case?

We used this solution to upgrade a bunch of old stand-alone servers to a cluster. There were at least eight different servers, some up to ten years old, running production loads on Hyper-V. Since everything worked, it was hard to get budget approval. Finally, we got someone to listen and we were able to get momentum on this project.

We got the three-node cluster in, and moving everything over was easy with no downtime to the approximately 400 users. Now that everything is on a cluster, the redundancy helps IT sleep at night. We have had to do some maintenance and there has been no interruption. 

How has it helped my organization?

Our environment went from a hodge-podge of Hyper-V servers of various ages and capacities to a simple-to-manage three-node cluster. The three nodes are interconnected, so we didn't even have to invest in additional network infrastructure.

There is redundancy, so if one node has an issue, the users have no idea and everything stays functional! There is a noted increase in speed both on the production loads as well as the backup (Veeam) being much easier to manage and running significantly faster.

Power consumption is down, so there was less need for UPS capacity and cooling as well. 

What is most valuable?

The configuration we purchased was built on Hyper-V, so there was no additional training for staff. The rest of the management tools are on Windows, so anyone with a little bit of IT background should be able to figure it out.

The full suite of redundancy gives a nice sense of security for the whole environment. Support has been stellar and we're notified of an issue before we even knew about it. We worked with support to get parts replaced and delivered the next business day and there was no downtime to the users!

What needs improvement?

I think some performance metrics would be nice to see, especially on the storage side. Since we have a decent amount of storage on our cluster, 80TB, knowing what our IOPS and typical usage is would be handy. There are times where something 'feels' slow so it would be nice what was happening on the storage side.

I do wish that if we needed more compute capacity, that we could do it without needing to invest in a lot of network equipment. That is hardly StarWind's fault, but just something to think about. 

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using the StarWind HyperConverged Appliance for between six and nine months.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

If we had smaller needs, the amount of expansion would have been more. We went fairly large since we only get money once in a blue moon. There is some additional storage scalability, although not a ton.

We can add plenty of RAM. If we wanted more CPU then sure, those could be replaced! 

How are customer service and technical support?

We had one issue with a part failing, and we were informed by support before we even knew. The part and on-site engineer was dispatched. It was a redundant part, so there was no impact on anything. Nice to know they are all over it!

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

Nothing in the HCA realm, just stand-alone Hyper-V machines. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very easy. Support ran through everything remotely and we were up in a few hours. It was nothing we probably could not have done ourselves, but it was nice to have an expert do it and have it up. 

What about the implementation team?

We implemented purely in-house.

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

We didn't have any issue with pricing or any of the sales process. If anything, we were difficult with changing what we wanted to include on the HCA all the time. Sales rolled with us without any issue. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did look at moving hypervisors and HCA platforms but passed because the amount of change to management would have been a lot for the current staff.

What other advice do I have?

We are very happy and the number of incidents and stress has been greatly reduced. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
reviewer1390521
IT Service Supervisor at VIP Technology Solutions Group
Real User
Top 20
Proactive support monitors the health of the cluster and hardware and reaches out if they see anything out of the norm

Pros and Cons

  • "With StarWind's Proactive monitoring we can go about our day helping our customers and not have to worry about our cluster's health."
  • "Multi cluster support for their Command Console would be very beneficial. Currently, you can only work with a single cluster at a time. The console is new so I expect much growth in this area in the near future. The other area that could be improved is the tech support locale."

What is our primary use case?

We are an MSP that offers IT services to SMB companies in our area. We wanted to branch out and start offering hosting services in the form of offsite backup and server. To achieve this we needed a highly available cluster of servers. We started off designing a typical cluster/SAN setup but decided that we wanted the simplicity of hyper-converged architecture instead. In researching HCA we found that StarWind offered exactly that as well of proactive monitoring support for the cluster. Having an extra set of eyes on the health of the equipment was a huge selling point.

How has it helped my organization?

StarWind has given us the ability to have a failover cluster without the complications of a SAN network. We are able to offer extra services to our customers that we haven't been able to in the past. Small companies can be wary of the large cloud providers so having a StarWind HCA cluster we were able to give our customers the ability to grow into the cloud while also staying with a company they have worked with and known for years. With StarWind's proactive monitoring we can go about our day helping our customers and not have to worry about our cluster's health.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is its Proactive support. They monitor the health of the cluster and hardware and reach out if they see anything out of the norm. They will then work with us through the entire resolution process whether it be a hardware issue or an issue with the StarWind vSAN services. If the issue turns out to be hardware related they will then work with the hardware manufacturer and get any replacement parts needed. Their techs are also very knowledgeable and have always been able to resolve any issues without any kind of long drawn out escalation process no matter the time of day.  

What needs improvement?

Multi cluster support for their Command Console would be very beneficial. Currently, you can only work with a single cluster at a time. The console is new so I expect much growth in this area in the near future. The other area that could be improved is the tech support locale.  Currently, all of their tech support is located in eastern Europe so if you have any issues understanding thick accents it may be a little frustrating. With that being said they have never got frustrated with me asking them to repeat themselves, they've always been very patient.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using it in full production for about seven months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability has been good. We've had one issue with the StarWind service locking up causing full sync to be performed. During this sync, there wasn't any noticeable performance impact by our users.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

If you provide your own switches instead of doing their direct connect option you should be able to scale this solution very well. If you go direct connect you are limited to 3 nodes.  Adding additional storage should be easy if you have available hard drive bays.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support has been fantastic. Always willing to help no matter what time of day/night.  I've never had to have an issue escalated as the first contact tech has always been able to solve any issues/questions.

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

This is my first venture into the HCA world.

How was the initial setup?

StarWind performed most of the initial setup for us. We racked the equipment and then they remoted in and configured everything. We did not have any existing VMs to migrate so it was a simple setup.

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

Cost is very reasonable and shouldn't catch anyone off guard if you've looked at other HCA devices.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We also looked at Nutanix, HP Simplivity, VxRails, and Scale.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.