Please share with the community what you think needs improvement with StarWind HyperConverged Appliance.
What are its weaknesses? What would you like to see changed in a future version?
When we purchased the StarWind HyperConverged Appliances, they shipped with the Windows-based vSAN solution. Since then, they have released vSAN for vSphere, which is based on a Linux VM and would save us money as we would be able to get rid of the two Windows Server Licenses. In the future, it would be nice to be able to migrate from the Windows vSAN to the Linux vSAN without having to do a full restore from backups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We were slightly disappointed with the hardware footprint. We were led to believe, and all the pre-sales tech information requirements pointed to the fact, that it was coming on Dell hardware. Then it came on bulk servers. They asked for some email addresses for iDRAC and the like. We thought, "Oh good, it's Dell. We're familiar with that kind of hardware infrastructure." Our other servers here are Dell so we know how the Dell ecosphere works. But then, these weren't Dell. These are Supermicro, which, when you boil it down, are the same Intel parts. But it's a little reminiscent of putting together OEM PCs. That's how the servers look. But they're in and they're working. What you're not paying for, and that may be why it was £36,000 instead of £110,000, are those Dell Concierge services. They've got a well-rounded, iDRAC infrastructure and we could integrate it into our other stuff. We're all used to how all the ILO stuff works on it. But here it's, "Oh, Supermicro. It all looks a bit '2002.'" It's not what we weren't expecting but it works.
I wish I understood what goes into the StarWind software a little bit better. To me, it's kind of magic the way some of it works. As an IT professional, you don't really want things to be magic. I do wish there was a little more "Here's how it works." There could be more documentation given to administrators to know, just in case you have to troubleshoot this by yourself, what you should look out for.
This is just being nit-picky but the only thing I have run into is that I did want to add more hard drives into the host, so that we could look at doing a RAID 10, and the hard drive prices were pretty expensive. I think they're just getting pricing straight from whoever supplies their hardware. They do have the Dell EMC guarantee where, if you have hardware that goes out, you will have a replacement there by the next day. So if one of my drives goes out they'll have a new one to me by the next day. But I compared the price of one hard drive - I can't remember what size it was - and the cost was about $700. I could buy one like that from a Best Buy for $100. Obviously one is enterprise-level and one is just a personal-user-type of drive. They're not apples to apples but the price difference was still pretty significant. I was expecting more like a $300 or $400 difference. Again, that's pretty nit-picky and I don't think it has anything to do with StarWind itself. I think it's more on whomever they work with for their hardware.
This product is not one hundred percent enterprise-ready, so it is more suitable for SMB. The price could always be reduced.
The only thing my team has recommended improving on is possibly a StarWind-customized GUI to monitor the overall system health, similar to 5nine Manager. There is nothing else I would recommend improving because everything from sales, installation to post-install service for the past year has been great.
It's been a few months since the implementation, and so far, the only improvement I'd like to see is the addition of a web console to manage the clusters instead of a client to install.
Better overall monitoring software. Maybe integration with Windows Admin Center was a good direction to go with on monitoring software.
It could potentially be less reliable due to the Hypervisor, and the cluster relies on Microsoft Windows Server. However, we have not had any issue since putting them in production 12 months ago.
None so far. StarWind has met our needs, exceeded our expectation, and increased our system up-time and availability.
We are happy with the product, and my only suggestion would be a better process for an unplanned power outage.
A desired feature or service would be the ability to have a hardware subscription plan that ensures routine hardware updates in conjunction with hyper-converged software.