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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

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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.
CK
IT Manager at a transportation company with 51-200 employees
Real User
Enabled us to reduce use of physical machines and consolidate virtual hosts into a single cluster

Pros and Cons

  • "Overall, the solution has improved our system's performance. I was concerned about the physical-to-virtual conversion of our database server. It's actually much faster now, as a virtualized host on this Hyper-V cluster."
  • "The only critique I might have is that the support is overseas in Eastern Europe and, on occasion, there has been a language issue. But in general, they're as good as can be..."

What is our primary use case?

We've got a two-node, Hyper-V cluster for high-availability. We have it running on Windows Server 2016.

It's being used for file servers, database servers, application servers; all on-premise, private cloud-type services.

How has it helped my organization?

By using this solution we have reduced some of our physical machines and virtualized them. We've consolidated some other standalone, virtual hosts into the single cluster. It's really helped that P-to-V movement and reduction of other hardware and services.

Overall, the solution has improved our system's performance. I was concerned about the physical-to-virtual conversion of our database server. It's actually much faster now, as a virtualized host on this Hyper-V cluster. A lot of it has to do with updated hardware. The previous hardware was probably ten years older, but still, we were concerned about that overhead with virtualization and it's not present.

What is most valuable?

The fact that it has eliminated a separate SAN has been really handy. We moved away from an older SAN and that's one of the reasons we got this. The synchronization has also worked really well. From a feature point of view, it does what it's supposed to do and that's the best you can hope for.

The ProActive Premium Support feature has helped for sure. If there's an issue that we don't know about, we get an alert email. They are very proactive. Where it has created an even greater benefit for us is purely on support. If we have a problem, I can send an email and within an hour somebody's trying to set up a remote session with us.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using it for about six or seven months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable. It does everything it's supposed to do. The monitoring points out any issues with connectivity or downtime.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

One of the reasons we got it was that we could deploy with as few as two nodes. We're not a large environment and a lot of solutions out there started at three nodes and more. This was attractive because it was just two. I understand it could scale but we're not going to scale it.

We have approximately 100 users using basic Windows functions like file shares. The common user would you utilize those things which are running off of this solution.

We don't require much staff for maintenance. We only have two onsite administrators, me and someone else. Between us we can handle the Windows updates and additions of VMs if we need to.

How are customer service and technical support?

I would commend the support. They have very knowledgeable people. If they don't have the answer, they quickly access colleagues who do have the answer or more experience. They're very fast.

The only critique I might have is that the support is overseas in Eastern Europe and, on occasion, there has been a language issue. But in general, they're as good as can be, considering they are non-U.S. citizens speaking English. The language barrier is not even as bad as it is for some other products we have.

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

We never had anything that was hyperconverged like this. We had a standard pair of Windows servers that were utilizing a SAN appliance. That equipment was becoming very old and with the StarWind solution we could eliminate the SAN component altogether.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was straightforward. We completed a survey which provided information to configure the appliance and they did that before shipping it to us. By the time we received it, it was very simple to physically install and get it on our network. Everything else was pretty much configured.

The most time in the process was probably due to moving and converting the virtual machines. It wasn't the nature of the product itself, it was just our workloads on it. The whole process, once we received it until we were up and running in production, took about four weeks.

Our implementation strategy was to make it a secondary environment. We transitioned from our old Hyper-V host structure to this one, one VM at a time. We had some flexibility to keep up and running in both the older and the newer environments, as we were completing the transition.

What about the implementation team?

We handled everything directly.

What was our ROI?

This isn't like a revenue-generating purchase. It's more about risk-avoidance by not continuing to use aging hardware, and it's about the elimination of additional components like a SAN. We've reduced the points of failure and increased stability, but it's not like we're going to make revenue out of this.

At this point, the solution is probably costing us money but you get what you pay for. We have newer hardware and the support is very good. The service makes sense for what we're paying for it. But when you're going from equipment you've owned for ten years to buying brand new equipment, it's not really saving you much money.

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

There was a one-time, upfront cost but I don't know what the recurring cost is. I imagine it's the standard 18 to 20 percent maintenance. Nothing stands out as unusual about this solution in my memory, so whatever is standard for keeping support and hardware is what this solution would cost.

There are no other costs that I'm aware of.

The only thing I could compare it to is the cost of Windows Server and Windows licensing in general, but not to a specific StarWind-type of product. The fact that some of the other solutions that I researched operate on a minimum three-node basis — not a minimum of two nodes — that factor alone would make the cost of StarWind less.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I don't think we considered anything else like this. Our other choice would have just been to update our SAN and update our other Windows servers: keeping the old model but with new hardware.

What other advice do I have?

Know what your needs are. Know your requirements. Know your environment. Those are the typical things you ought to know before investing in something like this. Beyond that, ask any questions you have and think about the future.

I got most of the recommendations for this product from reading online user forums. The users are always pretty accurate and this was no exception to that. A lot of people didn't have the HCA, the hardware-based solution, but they had the software-based component of StarWind and really liked it. They said how good the performance is. All of that is true.

From a product point of view, it's been ideal. I did my research beforehand and got an idea of what it would offer and it's done everything that I thought it would, plus things I wouldn't have considered. It's stable.

It's a typical rack-mounted device. Each unit is two U's so it takes four U's of rackspace. It's like anything else we've got.

The solution doesn't really help to increase redundancy or failover capabilities because we already have a cluster. This is just refreshing it with better hardware and removing the SAN element from it. It hasn't increased reliability but it has given us continued life, to move forward.

I would rate it at ten out of ten because we know what we need to know to run it and, if we don't know, support provides it and they're very responsive.

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.
554,873 professionals have used our research since 2012.
AL
IT Infrastructure Analyst at a retailer with 201-500 employees
Real User
The improved response times and performance are helpful

Pros and Cons

  • "The software is great. It's very easy to understand. I've not delved into any of the command-line stuff, but there's no real need to script it. Since it went in, pretty much the only thing that I have needed to do is increase device image sizes and that process is very straightforward."
  • "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."

What is our primary use case?

We use it to replace some Hyper-V infrastructure. We are looking for some decomplication, hopefully. Our old Hyper-V cluster was three Dell R410 servers with two Cisco switches that were connected by iSCSI to VNX. The VNX was coming toward end-of-life. I've de-cabled it now and taken out the rack and I've got a box of Ethernet cables. There was a massive amount of stuff that did the same job as two servers and a couple of Mellanox cards.

Although it was end-of-life, we got some quite severe warning emails from EMC saying, "This is it guys. Your support is terminating. If anything goes wrong with it, good luck." We could have purchased a third-party warranty on it if we'd wished, but then it would have been a matter of luck in terms of the parts. Although nothing ever actually went wrong on the VNX, hardware-wise, it was about not having that parachute.

How has it helped my organization?

It's just taken over the job of something that was going out-of-support. The only thing that we have really noticed as being a massive improvement — because of the live migrations, because it's disk-based rather than iSCSI — is that it is super-fast now.

It's fairly instant. Before, live migrations meant we had to leave it on a countdown. So if we had to move stuff around quickly, we had to do some quick live migration. It would take a few minutes and only one could be done at a time. There is an improvement in having a new Windows Server. The 2008 R2 Server that we replaced didn't have PowerShell for Hyper-V, but obviously this version does. We've just scripted it and, bang, with the improved response times from it being disk-based instead of iSCSI, trying to shove an 8 Gig memory file through goes a lot quicker. It's not really something that's saved our ops at any time but the improved performance is pleasing.

It hasn't increased redundancy or failover capabilities, it has just like-for-like replaced. We did have three servers, two switches, and a disk array, whereas now we just have two servers. There's a big chunk of less stuff doing the same stuff. So we've consolidated. We're doing the same with less. It has saved us money in the sense that there is less stuff to pay out warranty on.

What is most valuable?

We bought their ProActive Premium Support. That's why they email us when we have rebooted to patch, and they check with us that everything is okay. We've not really had any problems with it, so it has not really presented with any real-world benefits yet. Obviously there are benefits to it because it's monitored. We do monitor stuff onsite, but it's good to have backup. We're a small team so that is one of the major benefits of it.

The software is great. It's very easy to understand. I've not delved into any of the command-line stuff, but there's no real need to script it. Since it went in, pretty much the only thing that I have needed to do is increase device image sizes, and that process is very straightforward. As part of the installation, the StarWind representative took me through it. We just migrate everything to the other server, put it into maintenance mode, increase the size, and commit.

There really isn't any maintenance. It's fairly self-sufficient. 

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using the appliance for two or three months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been great. There have been no problems, not a hiccup or anything. So far, it seems fine.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It would be fairly easy to add to it. We could add a third node with another card.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support is very prompt, very friendly. They're knowledgeable. I don't think I have come across anything that they couldn't answer.

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

It was just a straight one-for-one swap. Decomplication was really was the main driver for it. If you're troubleshooting problems on Windows Server core on iSCSI and logging into a bit of an unfriendly VNX with no info panel on it, and if it was struggling, it had a lot of trouble telling you. We had to actually order a special cable to be able to serial into it at one point. This solution is relatively straightforward now.

We came across StarWind by just having a look at what options were out there. I liked StarWind because, when you look at their material online, they seem more geared towards education. They've got a quite extensive Knowledge Base and they are very good at tutorials. Other companies seemed more to emphasize the marketing: "Look at our shiny boxes."

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was fairly straightforward. The only thing that wasn't straightforward was, "Oh, we've never had Supermicro before." It was a matter of getting used to, and documenting, how stuff works.

There were no instructions. We just got two boxes. There wasn't any "Welcome to your StarWind Hyperconverged Appliance." It was just two brown boxes with two servers in them.

We just racked it up and then had a phone call with them and let the guys at StarWind know when it was online. It was up and running in our environment pretty much straight away. The only problem I had were the SFP cables: "Which way up do these go? And does it go A to B, or A to A and B to B?" So that required a phone call.

The only other problem that we encountered, that protracted the migration, was that while they've got good V-to-V migration software, our old environment was 2008 R2 and it wasn't supported by the migration software. So we had to "handle" it. It was a matter of having to recreate the service. I scripted it from PowerShell myself, and did them one or two each weekend over a period of three or four weeks. They're production servers so they had to be down to do the Hyper-V conversion process. Our file server took a while. It is about a terabyte-and-a-half. It took about 11 hours to convert, but I had it scripted anyway. So once it converted, I just did a convert from source to the StarWind. That was part of the copy process. It was then just create out and boot and notify me.

For the setup it was just me involved.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Nutanix and found it did almost the same thing but for more money. In fact, StarWind was nearly one-third of the price; it cost us £36,000. That includes five years of monitoring. If we have to reboot we get an email from them saying, "Is everything okay guys?"  We tell them, "Yeah, yeah, it's fine. Don't worry. Patching". The Nutanix was near enough £110,000 for relatively the same amount of performance and storage.

There were no additional fees for StarWind. That amount is for five years, done and paid for.

What other advice do I have?

They're not really appliances, they're are just two servers with a bit of software on them. It's slightly misleading that it's hyperconverged appliances. It's just two white-box servers with a Mellanox card in it.

In terms of improvement to IOPS or latency from using it, we haven't seen anything drastic. But then again, we weren't really hitting it hard before. I've not measured it. It has just not caused us any trouble. So it's all good.

I would give it a solid eight out of ten. It's trouble-free, it's very clear to use. It's not one of those implementations where you're tearing your hair out. If you are tearing your hair out, it's about other things, not the actual StarWind part of it. I would probably have given it a ten if the hardware was a bit slicker, or there was more actual, "Welcome to your new StarWind implementation. Here's where everything plugs in," type of documentation. We did get some e-mail stuff, but it tended to look like it was more for Dell hardware and not Supermicro, white box, no-name servers.

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.
Claire Madison
IT Manager at Projects Inc.
Real User
Enabled us to significantly condense and eliminated excess in our server rack

Pros and Cons

  • "The hardware footprint is perfect. It fits in our rack perfectly, and we were able to condense a lot of physical servers we had. It has greatly eliminated the excess stuff in our server rack..."
  • "We have the ProActive Premium Support and it has reduced our monitoring efforts. It has been very useful. They have been able to detect things such as when there's an issue with the cluster or they're getting some kind of weird reading that I have no idea about. They're really quick to let me know about it and even set up a schedule to address it. I've been very happy with their level of support on that."
  • "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..."

What is our primary use case?

We run it mostly for business processes. We have a manufacturing plant. We use it for our ERP system, some of our databases, some IT applications. It really drives the organization and the main things we use on a day-to-day basis.

How has it helped my organization?

We used to have a lot of issues with our database servers. At one point, we had a database front-end that required five different servers to run, literally five physical servers. Just one of those computers going down would effectively halt the whole database. Bringing in these units really helped us condense our infrastructure and make things more reliable and redundant. That has definitely been the biggest key value in this.

In terms of redundancy, we were completely physical before we brought these units in. We had no virtual infrastructure at all. In addition to that, nothing was redundant. These really helped to give us some form of redundancy in a pretty compact package. With a lot of hyperconverged units, you need at least three of them, sometimes four of them. One thing that was attractive with StarWind was that we could get it in two units that communicate directly. It is a pretty self-maintained hyperconverged appliance. That was something that was really appealing.

Overall, it has helped to improve our system's performance greatly.

What is most valuable?

Nearly all of it is valuable. On a software level, it works really well. I've never had any issues with the hosts communicating with each other. The failover works perfectly. They set up everything on a software level and I've been very happy with it. They can monitor the software remotely and make sure everything's working with our Hyper-V cluster. Overall, I have been very happy with the setup of the software.

The hardware footprint is perfect. It fits in our rack perfectly and we were able to condense a lot of physical servers we had. It has greatly eliminated the excess stuff in our server rack. The footprint is completely acceptable.

We have the ProActive Premium Support and it has reduced our monitoring efforts. It has been very useful. They have been able to detect things such as when there's an issue with the cluster or they're getting some kind of weird reading that I have no idea about. They're really quick to let me know about it and even set up a schedule to address it. I've been very happy with their level of support on that. 

For example, they had messaged me a couple of times in regard to what they assumed was a bad block on our server. That could be very devastating if there is something actually wrong with our data — a corruption or anything like that. They went in there a couple of times and looked at it and made sure everything was okay. I would consider that pretty nice preventative maintenance.

When we first got the appliance, we hadn't done any major updates on the actual hardware itself. They recommended to me that we do an update on it. They pretty much did the whole process for me and that saved me a lot of time on software and firmware updates.

The Premium Support has saved me about ten hours of troubleshooting time. Whenever there's an issue, they're quick to reach out to me. I'd consider that a good value in terms of my time in general. There is less I have to worry about, as far as something going wrong with these servers goes, when they're monitoring it 24/7.

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

These are our first HCA units at this company. We have had the product for six to eight months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been excellent. We've never had any crashes or issues with the products themselves going down or any kind of instability. Everything that we have had — as I mentioned, there was something potentially wrong due to a disk issue, although it turned out that there wasn't a problem — they have usually been quick to catch it proactively.

But as for anything unexpected happening or that brought us down, there's been nothing thus far, which has been awesome.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It could be relatively scalable. We're at where we need to be with two of them, but it seems it would be very straightforward to get a third one, for example, if we wanted additional redundancy or more computing power.

It's being fully utilized to drive our day-to-day production. We rely on it every day to drive the business, so it is very key in our infrastructure now. I could see us getting an additional unit if the business needs demand it. I don't think we will have a demand for it within the next five years, but if it happens, if we have rapid growth, I would definitely look into getting another unit.

Currently, we have about 100 end-users of the solution in our organization.

How are customer service and technical support?

They could use a little more diversity in their technicians. Some of them are a little bit difficult to understand. That's typical for remote technical support people, but they should make an effort to have more US-based technicians available. It would add good value to their customer support.

The actual responsiveness and helpfulness of each technician has been great. I don't have any other complaints about the support. We've never had to escalate a case to anyone beyond first-tier support.

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

We didn't have a previous hyperconverged solution.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very straightforward. We got the units in, we plugged them in, and set them up. They had given us a map of how everything should be connected, which I had no difficulty understanding. 

They then followed up with a more formal implementation day, where they did some of the final setup on the two units. It was a GoToMeeting type of set up and they remoted in and finished configuring the host.

I do wish that they had done the setup in advance so that we could have run them right away. I thought they would be a fully turnkey kind of product, so I was a little surprised to see that there was an extra set up when we got them in. But it was nothing too time-intensive.

The software configuration took about an hour. The hardware was done by them before we even received the product. It did take a couple of days before we could actually get them booked to finish the installation. That was my main complaint, not so much the actual time it took the technician to do the rest of it.

It could be done by one person, but two are helpful for the initial racking. And for day-to-day maintenance, now that it's deployed, we definitely need just one full-time person.

What about the implementation team?

Everything was done through StarWind. We didn't have any consultants. The only actual help we had from the outside was getting it physically installed.

What was our ROI?

To give it a ballpark, I would say the solution has saved us $25,000 over the six to eight months we've had it. In terms of a projected ROI, we don't have a hard number on it but I would say about $100,000 would be ideal over the five years that we would have it.

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

The Nutanix piece was about $45,000, getting close to $50,000 with all the licensing involved, whereas the StarWind was less than half of that, after Microsoft licensing and such.

The price point was spot-on.

There were no hidden fees. Everything was up-front. We had the option to go with three or five years' worth of support. There was really nothing unexpected. We knew we had to license our Windows Servers, but that was about it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Nutanix and we looked at Dell VRTX and we decided on StarWind ultimately, by a pretty significant margin.

With the Nutanix, we didn't like the fact that pricing was way higher than the StarWind appliances. Plus, if I'm not mistaken, we would have needed at least three of the Nutanix hardware, the HCAs. They also run their own specialized platform. I have more of a Hyper-V background, which is what StarWind bases its virtualization on. There would have been a little more of a learning curve on my end as well. Ultimately, the price was the biggest killer on that.

What other advice do I have?

Not so much with the appliance itself, but more the process for going from physical to virtual machines took a lot of planning. That was a little challenging. They did offer to help migrate some of our data over to the new servers if we chose to, but we decided not to. We did everything in-house in terms of getting everything migrated over to the new servers.

For a small to mid-size organization, it's a great fit. It may not be the right fit if you're a really big enterprise.

I would give the solution a nine out of ten. There's great hardware in this solution. Everything that we purchased was really competitive. I am a person knows what I'm looking at when it comes to hardware, and I thought everything was great. The software is also very good.

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.
DR
CEO CIO at Store & Haul Inc
Real User
High-availability should prevent any downtime and the costs associated with it

Pros and Cons

  • "High-availability is what I bought it for."
  • "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... 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."

What is our primary use case?

I wanted something for high-availability. We're a logistics company and we have guys working 24/7, to some degree. I needed a solution that was going to provide high-availability. 

It's all on-prem. It's the two-node, high-availability model.

How has it helped my organization?

We're getting close to 50 trucks and growing pretty quickly. We have guys out on the road all the time and this system we're putting in place is going to track all of that in the greatest of detail. If anything happens with a load, it's all being communicated back through the system. That includes dispatching the drivers, monitoring the drivers as they're hauling the load, tracking when they arrive at their destinations. All that is done through the system. Any time that it goes down for an extended period of time is a time that we have to operate on paper. As of now, we are familiar with doing that, and we probably will continue to have a backup plan, but it's not nearly as efficient. Someone is going to have to go back and enter the data in later. That could potentially lead to disruption where wrong information goes to the driver, causing delivery of a load to the wrong location or at the wrong time.

It's too early to say whether or not this solution will save our company money. Right now, I very much think it's going to. Even if I were to have one substantial instance of downtime - if I were to just build it out on a regular host and the host went down and I had to spin up another host and bring up backups, etc. That downtime, right there, would be significant money lost. I'm pretty sure that it will save money but I can't say that it's 100 percent sure since we haven't been through that scenario yet.

What is most valuable?

High-availability is what I bought it for.

The hardware footprint size is good. They use Dell EMC boxes for the appliances. They're pretty standard for the industry, as far as servers go. I think they're good.

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

It was installed about four or five months ago. I put it in place for a large transportation management system and I'm only now in the process of doing all the installs for it. I'm bringing up all the servers on their appliances. So I haven't used it at all for production yet. I've done about two months of installation and testing.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

They're doing a great job. I do want to benchmark this and see how well it's going to do. I'm going to hit it with heavy loads and find ways to really stress-test it more.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It seems very scalable. Obviously, my host only holds up so many drives but I can expand there. I can add a third, fourth, fifth, sixth node onto the end of the cluster if I want to. I don't know if there's a max to it. I didn't ask because in the next 20 years I don't see us hitting four hosts or five hosts of that size. From everything I can see, the scalability is good.

I have one physical box that runs my domain controller and all our other VMs are on the StarWind appliance, except, perhaps the secondary domain controller which might not be in the cluster. But every other VM we have is in the cluster. So about 95 percent of our servers are on their host and I would probably continue forward with that in the future. If we outgrew these boxes, I would just throw another one into the cluster. I would definitely go forward with StarWind as long as the benchmarking works out and things continue to go like they have been. I would continue to expand our environment with them.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their customer support has been pretty good. They've done a really good job of supporting the product and even helping me with some things that weren't directly related to the product that I was doing on the host. They helped me get some different things configured.

I am familiar with the ProActive Premium Support feature. They talked to me about it but I haven't used it or gone ahead with it yet. It is something I am still considering. The way they sold it to me was that it supports stuff outside of things relating to the high-availability cluster itself. It's almost like consulting services in a way, where they'll help you with other things like domain controllers and keeping your servers up to date and that kind of stuff. I'm the CEO here but I act as the main IT person as well. I try to build everything out so I have very little hands-on. So for some of that kind of service I'm probably going to either hire someone cheaper to do updates, an onsite person, or go with a service like that where they maintain things and update the servers, because it's time-consuming.

StarWind's support plan was very reasonable. But the support that came with the host was actually very good. They're very responsive and I've dealt with numerous people from StarWind. I don't have issues with it at all because I have many friends who have very heavy accents, but some of them have heavy accents which, once in a while, makes it a little bit hard to understand them. But they're all super-knowledgeable on the product. They're all very smart and well-trained. I have been impressed with their customer service across the board.

They always respond very quickly when I send an email. They have support that monitors the boxes. If I'm doing something where I take a box down, they're proactively emailing me: "Oh, do you know your box just went down?" Most of the time it's been on purpose, because I'm doing so much work on the boxes, but they're very proactive at monitoring things for you.

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

We didn't have a previous solution. This TMW system, deploying it, is the first that I've had. It's my first attempt at streamlining everything from a systems perspective. I had some physical servers that I was using for different things, like a QuickBooks Server and print server, a domain controller, and some basic things like that. I didn't have anything that was high-availability.

StarWind was one that in my research had come up again and again. It was like, "Hey, look at these guys and what they're doing, and their pricing is reasonable for a mid-sized to small business." I found them in several different forums at several places and decided to give them a call. I was really impressed with everything that I'd seen from them.

How was the initial setup?

High-availability is a little bit complex in general. They made it as easy as it could be. I worked with their tech support and they walked me through everything. I felt that it was pretty simple, overall.

Technically, in terms of the deployment, we got the two hosts in, racked them, got them hooked up to the network. That took a couple of days. Then they came on. They had Windows Server 2016 already installed on both boxes, so I activated the data center version. From there, I got on the phone with them and they walked me through the rest of it. That took a couple of hours for configuring stuff and making sure everything was good. From their side, it was pretty quick. The boxes arrived pretty quickly after I ordered them. Overall, it was pretty fast. It didn't take long to get them going.

From there, I had to build out my VMs on top of the host and do all the installs for the software product that we're putting together.

In terms of deployment and maintenance, it's just one person. I'm the only one doing it right now.

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

I honestly feel that there's no one else in the market doing what they're doing for the price point that they're doing it at. That's why I asked them about investing in their company. I think that the options they're providing and the software that they have is sort of revolutionary for the price point. It's making it possible for small businesses and medium-sized businesses to be able to have high-availability at a cheap price.

The total cost was $24,400. I believe it was just a one-time fee. They did a per-hour plan for their services, which was for the data migration. If you had a current environment, domain controller, deployment, B-center deployment, stress-testing, performance-testing, all that kind of stuff was figured into a block of 48 hours. If you were to go above and beyond that 48 hours, I'm sure there is an additional hourly fee.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I looked at other options like the vSAN from VMware, but the prices for our size of company were just too cost-prohibitive. Cost was the main, deciding factor. I compared them apples to apples and Hyper-V was equivalent to VMware especially for the price differences. I talked to several guys in the field. Some were all Hyper-V and some were all VMware. But when I asked them, "Why do you choose this one over this one and that one over that one?" they would give excuses but none of them were really legit anymore.

Some of them had excuses about Hyper-V which had been corrected in later versions. When I really got down to the nuts and bolts, there weren't significant differences, for what I needed, between those two platforms. When I looked at vSAN, it was just so far out of our price range that I said to myself, "Well, there's no way. I'm not going to go high-availability if that's the only option," because it was so cost-prohibitive for us.

I couldn't find a lot of other options, though I might've just overlooked them. I couldn't find a lot of other solutions that were virtualized in the drives. And I didn't want to have a SAN because I didn't want the single point of failure of a single SAN.

What other advice do I have?

I feel like it's a pretty solid solution. I actually asked them if they're publicly traded because I was going to buy stock in their company.

I would really encourage people to check out StarWind. I come from a software development background, so a lot of virtualization and some of the related areas are very new for me. I've learned a lot and taught myself a lot. I have a lot of buddies in this field, in virtualization, networking, and server management, etc. I've been really suggesting to them that they take a look at it and see what they think. I've been really impressed with it so far, given the pricing.

I could give over a lot of lessons I've learned from other vendors but, honestly, with StarWind, I can't say I have any lessons learned, other than that there are some vendors out there who do take care of their customers.

We're not in a production environment, we're still very much in a test environment. But last night I did do some testing as we get more of a load on the boxes. I want to see how well they perform once I have a heavy load on them. So I totally shut down one of my hosts last night. I loaded up a VM - I was sitting on the VM that was on the host and I was going to shut down. I was doing some work on that VM and then I restarted the host while I was working on the VM that was on that host because I wanted to see what the user's impact would be when it rolled over to the other host. I couldn't tell a difference - and I was sitting on the box - that anything had happened. I watched the Cluster Manager and I could see the VMs migrating over to the host that was still online. So it seems to work very well. Once I get it up all the way, once we're in production, I want to really stress-test the thing and see how well it holds up. Obviously, one user is not a very good test case. Once we get more people on it, I want to see how it holds up.

I've discussed options with them if we need to increase performance, like switching over to RAID 10 versus a RAID 5 and a couple of things like that. There are several options for upping performance if we need to. But my approach was to get everything for this TMS system up and running because it's about six or seven servers, all for this one system. And then we'll see, once we start utilizing it, how performance is. We'll start doing benchmarking and then try to get things better from there.

In terms of system performance, because I've never run this system on anything else before, I really can't say if there is an improvement with it. I am going to try and do a lot of benchmarking, when I get done with the company that I'm working with to install the software, to see how it's running. Obviously it's replicating data across two different hosts and it's replicating with the hard drives and the RAM. There is a performance hit of some kind there but how great that is or if it's going to be noticeable at all, I don't know yet. Everything that I've seen when loading up the app is that it seems to perform pretty well. But again, it's not under enough of a stress test to really say for sure.

I would give StarWind HCA a nine out of ten. I haven't tested it enough to give it a ten. But so far, everything that I've seen on my side has met or exceeded what I was expecting.

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.
KS
Systems Administrator at Hospice of the Western Reserve
Real User
Gives us full redundancy - compute and the storage - we could lose a full node and still keep everything up and running

Pros and Cons

  • "The biggest thing we were looking for was redundancy, with both the compute and the storage, so that way we could lose a full node and still keep everything up and running, and not have to worry about it... StarWind was able to provide a solution for what we wanted, - to provide for redundancy."
  • "We haven't had to use the ProActive Premium Support feature much yet. But they contacted me one time because there was a glitch on one server, a networking issue... I have not seen the problem since."

What is our primary use case?

We are using the system to run our various virtual machines in a Hyper-V cluster. They run services such as SQL Servers, our Skype for Business phone system, some financial applications, various domain services, and SharePoint servers, among other miscellaneous systems.

We use StarWind’s HyperConverged Appliance in one of our server rooms and plan on upgrading more legacy equipment at another location next year. We have it set up as a Microsoft Hyper-V private cloud.

How has it helped my organization?

The old solution we had worked. It was starting to show its age and it consisted of several more pieces of equipment than the StarWind HyperConverged Appliances.

It has saved us time because there are fewer devices to update. We no longer have to worry about updating our hardware SANs, which would actually cause a brief outage, even though the upgrades are advertised as non-disruptive. We just update the StarWind software every once in a while with no downtime.

In terms of overall systems performance, the latency has been reduced. Instead of having to go through two iSCSI connections, the way we had things layered before, everything is direct. We purchased the all-flash HyperConverged Appliance to replace our SANs that had spinning disks. That has definitely reduced the storage latency. We have noticed a substantial performance improvement with our database applications, compared to our previous storage.

StarWind has definitely saved us money. The other solutions we were looking at were priced much higher than this and they didn't necessarily have full redundancy. The other companies provided solutions without enough resources to lose a node and still keep everything up and running. Most of those solutions also required dedicated 10 Gig switching. We are also saving money on the normal support renewal costs since we don’t have separate SAN devices or need dedicated 10 Gig switching.

What is most valuable?

The biggest thing we were looking for was redundancy, with both the compute and the storage, so that way we could lose a full node and still keep everything up and running, and not have to worry about it.

Another of the most important features we were looking for, since we're short on time, was something that we could deploy quickly and easily. They were offering what they call a "turnkey solution." We could just buy it, they would preconfigure it, we would throw it in our environment and do some very minimal configuration on the phone with them, and we would be up and running. Then we just needed to start moving our virtual machines over, using Hyper-V’s shared-nothing live migration feature.

The solution's hardware footprint is great. We have three 1U servers, a total of 3U, and that's replacing a full rack of equipment.

We haven't had to use the ProActive Premium Support feature much yet. But they contacted me one time because there was network glitch on one server. We hadn't actually started migrating virtual machines over to it yet, but they contacted me within ten minutes of the issue happening, as I was still trying to figure it out. I have not seen the problem since. The ProActive Premium Support was another factor that we evaluated when we made the decision to purchase this solution, to make everything easier with less work for us.

For how long have I used the solution?

We ordered it at the beginning of the year. It came in around the end of January or early February and we spent the next couple of months slowly moving our virtual machines to the new cluster. So we've been using it for about half a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been great. We haven't had any problems at all.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

StarWind’s virtual SAN is limited to synchronizing storage between two or three nodes, which is perfect for us. To scale further, they use a grid architecture, but I don't think that will be necessary for us.

We have about 1,100 users and eight offices. There are two locations where we have servers. We installed this at our headquarters location. Next year, we're going to be upgrading our equipment in another location with more of StarWind’s HyperConverged Appliances.

We're in the process of decreasing our on-premises footprint. Our main initiative is to move everything into Microsoft Azure, but there are several things that need to stay here on-prem. That's what the hyper-converged system is for.

How are customer service and technical support?

So far, the little that I've worked with tech support, they seem to be pretty great.

We also bought a backup server from them that we're using Veeam software on. While we are learning the Veeam software, it has thrown several alerts. StarWind support is always very quick alerting us of the backup failure so we can remediate the issue.

If we had the option to do this again, we would have purchased the Veeam software through StarWind. If we had purchased the Veeam software through them, they would have helped us set it up, configure it, troubleshoot it, etc. Since we purchased the Veeam licenses elsewhere, we just work directly with Veeam support.

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

Our previous Hyper-V cluster was a classic architecture cluster with separate iSCSI SANs. It consisted of five Dell EMC servers and four Dell EMC EqualLogic SANs that took some trial and error, along with many support calls to multiple companies, to get running properly. That took quite a while to set up after finding problems with the initial deployment and hidden limitations with the hardware.

One of our initial requirements was to have the data on two separate pieces of hardware, which the EqualLogic SANs support with their SyncRep feature, but the performance was so terrible with that feature activated that we couldn’t even run one virtual machine on the system. We were forced to find a different option, at minimal cost, to fulfill this requirement. We actually ended up buying StarWind's Virtual SAN solution years ago, and layered that on top of the Dell EqualLogic SANs to provide the redundancy that they were unable to provide, out-of-the-box, at a reasonable rate of performance. StarWind’s Virtual SAN software was able to keep synchronized copies of the data on two separate pieces of hardware and the performance was great.

When we first built our previous cluster, we had looked at a hyper-converged option, but that architecture was still very new and we weren’t quite comfortable with it. Since then, the industry has moved towards hyper-converged and there are many more options available. When it came time to refresh the hardware, we wanted a hyper-converged solution to save on expense and complexity. We looked at several vendors before making a decision. We made sure to look at StarWind’s options because we had been using their vSAN for years. It seems like the perfect solution.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was very quick. After purchasing the hardware, before it was shipped there was a form to fill out to specify IP addresses, server OS version, and some other settings so that StarWind could set up the hardware and have it nearly configured when it arrived at our location. There was an initial quick-start guide that I had to go through after it arrived. It was about ten steps and included cabling the hardware, logging in, setting a password, and joining it to the domain. Then there was about an hour-long call with StarWind Support to do the final configuration of creating the cluster. They configured a couple of things and sent us on our way to start moving virtual machines over.

Altogether, there was about an hour or so of pre-call stuff, and then maybe a little more than an hour on the phone. The software and the operating system came pre-installed. There were just a couple of configuration checks and things that they needed to do to finalize everything.

It was mostly just me involved in the setup. I had some help installing it physically, but it only takes one person to do the install.

What about the implementation team?

StarWind provided the Dell EMC servers. We purchased not only the software but the three Dell EMC servers which have the locally attached storage. They helped us with the initial hardware configuration and adding it to our network.

StarWind gets the hardware shipped to them directly from Dell EMC. They installed Windows Server, their software, and all the drivers. Then they shipped it to us. After it arrived here, we just racked it, cabled it up, turned it on, and finished the minimal configuration with their help. After running through the initial setup, we added it to System Center Virtual Machine Manager and started moving virtual machines to the new hardware.

What was our ROI?

We haven't done the calculations as far as time and support costs go. That's probably something we'll look to develop after we've had it running for a year, versus what we spent in the past.

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

Other than the standard licensing fee for StarWind HCA, there are the server costs and the server support. We purchased all of this thorough StarWind on one invoice.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Dell EMC VxRail, Nutanix, HPE Simplivity, and another option. In terms of the differences between these solutions and StarWind, price was a huge factor, as well as flexibility and the additional hardware requirements.

Most of the other solutions we looked at required 10 Gig switches to interconnect all of them, whereas the StarWind solution interconnects directly between the nodes and doesn't require a 10 Gig switch. That probably saved us $10,000 to $20,000 right there.

Nutanix and VxRail were in the final running. We looked at quotes for those and, from what the vendors were telling us, they seemed to be pretty good appliances. But it came down to our price point. StarWind was able to provide a solution for what we wanted - to provide for redundancy. With the other ones, if we were to lose one node due to a hard drive failure or bad memory stick, we wouldn't have enough RAM on the other devices to run everything. We could have asked for additional RAM to be quoted, but they were already at our budget limit.

The other thing we were trying to do, within our budget, was to get a better backup solution in place. We were using System Center Data Protection Manager and we were running into so many issues that it required daily babysitting. We had evaluated Veeam earlier in the year and it just works without any trouble. While working with StarWind to spec out our new environment, they told us about their backup appliance running on Dell EMC hardware. It seemed like the perfect option and getting everything from one vendor makes support much easier. Getting a better backup solution in place was a huge goal of ours and has since freed up a ton of our time.

What other advice do I have?

The biggest lesson that we've learned from using it is to let somebody else do all the hard work of finding the right configuration and putting together the hardware. It will save you a lot of time and get you up and running a lot quicker. With our previous solution, there was a lot of trial and error and learning. The StarWind solution was basically: plug it in, configure it for a few hours, and start moving virtual machines onto it.

It seems like a great product. It does what it's supposed to do and it does it very quickly. Besides making it free, I don't know what they can do to improve it. My advice would be to go for it. StarWind does actually have a free, full-featured version of their vSAN software that just lacks technical support. My company requires that we maintain technical support on this equipment, so that wasn’t an option. You can download their free vSAN software so you can get a feel for it and see how it works in your environment.

They have a product called StarWind Command Center which offers a lot more visibility into everything that's going on but we haven't explored that. The vSAN software gives us basic performance statistics for CPU, storage IOP usage, and bandwidth usage. It seems to have everything that we need.

Generally, it requires zero maintenance. As long as we don't get any email alerts saying something is going wrong, we don't really touch it. As with anything, you have the normal Windows Server updates which require a server reboot, and occasional updates to the StarWind Virtual SAN software, which only requires a service restart and no storage downtime.

The solution hasn't helped increase redundancy or failover capabilities because we had layered the StarWind Virtual SAN on top of our old environment. It will help next year when we place our Hyper-V cluster in a different location which doesn't have that layer of redundancy.

Based on our experience, StarWind HCA has been a ten out of ten.

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.
PieterGrootendorst
Technical Consultant at GMA
MSP
A cost-effective solution that provides flexibility and performance

Pros and Cons

  • "The initial setup is straightforward once you know what you're doing."
  • "This product is not one hundred percent enterprise-ready, so it is more suitable for SMB."

What is most valuable?

I've found its flexibility and performance to be the most valuable.

What needs improvement?

This product is not one hundred percent enterprise-ready, so it is more suitable for SMB.

The price could always be reduced.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for about four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We never have any problems with stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of adding processes or new user licenses, we've never had to do that, but from the documentation and speaking with support, it is relatively easy.

How are customer service and technical support?

I only had to call technical support once, and they were very responsive and quick. Overall, I've been satisfied with them.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is straightforward once you know what you're doing. It's a solution that people should be able to install it on their own.

What other advice do I have?

When I researched they came the most cost-effective. If you're in a small to medium business, I certainly advise any users to evaluate it. At the moment I haven't any reason or cause for improvement because it does what it does as it says on the tin, and it just works.

I can see for a large enterprise that it could cause problems because it's not one hundred percent enterprise-ready, but for small and medium companies, when you have a smaller system, it does what it says.

I think the more you add to it the more complicated it gets and then it'll make it more difficult for a small company to manage it. It does exactly what I need it to do, so I don't need any more features or anything more. I'm used to the user interface so it doesn't have any tricks or any hidden things that I can't find so for me it's ideal.

I would give the solution a rating of nine out of ten.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller.
Ben Poole
User
Real User
Streamlining our infrastructure at a good price has helped to keep costs down

Pros and Cons

  • "We no longer need multiple staff members performing small, mundane tasks."
  • "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."

What is our primary use case?

We are currently using StarWind HCA to build out a flexible, distributed storage system. We had a myriad of file, application, and database servers that ranged from physical to virtual. StarWind helped us consolidate and make the necessary physical to virtual server moves (P2V), and the entire process was very pleasant.

This system also allows us to achieve high availability (HA) across the entire IT infrastructure that we are responsible for, which was a major driving decision. This was all completed at an affordable price point for an SMB, which was also a key element for an NPO.

How has it helped my organization?

The solution has allowed us to focus on streamlining our IT Infrastructure. We no longer need multiple staff members performing small, mundane tasks. We have ProActive support and alerting that takes care of our day to day infrastructure management. We were able to consolidate a number of servers and truly cut down on our overall storage costs.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features are consolidated storage, low cost and overhead compared to previous solutions. As an NPO, we are always concerned with new technology and the associated costs. The solutions from StarWind were not only a major increase in performance, but they were very affordable for us.

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

One year.

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

Previously we used a mix of physical and virtualized servers. This was antiquated and inadequate for our organization, so we gave StarWind a try.

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

For organizations such as ours (NPO), the Microsoft Hyper-V route was too affordable to pass on. Some of our team prefers VMware, but Hyper-V has been pretty good for us with StarWind.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated other options before choosing this solution, including some time we spent working with Scale HC3, and a little with SimpliVity.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
David Roberge
User
Real User
We had to replace an aging and complex infrastructure. We did so with the hyper-converged appliances from StarWind.

What is our primary use case?

We had to replace an aging and complex infrastructure. We did so with the hyper-converged appliances from StarWind.

How has it helped my organization?

The cost to support and maintain every part of the aging infrastructure was pretty high. Also, the SANs were being rather complex to maintain and the time to resolution on tickets was pretty long with the vendor.

StarWind offers an hyper-converged solution that is very well priced and offers remote monitoring and support, resolving both the cost and support issues we had with the previous multivendor solution.

What is most valuable?

The ease of management through one console for the storage of all of our datacenters worldwide: Going from managing multiple SANs with each of their own consoles and software versions to having a single console to handle all of the company's storage simplified things a lot for us.

Another thing worth mentioning that isn't really a feature: The support provided by StarWind is among the best we've ever gotten for any solution. During the implementation of one of our datacenters, our team took an action that made all storage on a cluster unavailable. StarWind got notified of that situation by the cluster. They contacted us, provided us with a fix and also gave us a procedure for the next time we need to perform this type of maintenance.

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
reviewer1026594
User
Real User
There was no need to buy additional hardware; everything came in the box

What is our primary use case?

We had non-virtualized and old infrastructure that needed to be upgraded. We use HCA for all of our servers.

How has it helped my organization?

We successfully migrated to a virtualized environment, storage performance was increased, and now we had a redundant, failure-tolerant infrastructure. With ProSAFE support, we are sure that our infrastructure is safe and we don't need highly specialized personnel to monitor our infrastructure 24/7.

StarWind HCA delivered us a complete solution that works out of the box. We received everything we needed to get it up and running.

What is most valuable?

StarWind HCA delivered us a complete solution that works out of the box. There was no need to buy additional hardware; everything came in a box. Also, the software was preinstalled.

What needs improvement?

Better overall monitoring software. Maybe integration with Windows Admin Center was a good direction to go with on monitoring software.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Ho-Ching Yung
IT Director/Senior Software Developer at Hillis-Carnes Engineering
Real User
We no longer have to manage storage via multiple local server disks

What is our primary use case?

We used to have four Dell EMC PowerEdge hosts running various versions of Microsoft Hyper-V with no redundancy.

We are also running out of storage space and have been dealing with an increasing complexity of Windows Server licensing.

We investigated and received proposals from three vendors (Dell EMC, Scale Computing and StarWind). Ultimately, the main decision point was cost. StarWind is the only vendor that only needs two nodes to set up the cluster. Not only have we saved on the extra node, but we also don't have to license another Windows Server Datacenter edition.

Our StarWind HCA has been in production over 12 months, and we have had no issues or single downtime so far.

How has it helped my organization?

It has achieved our goals of centralizing storage management because of the StarWind Virtual SAN, added fault tolerance, and simplified Microsoft server licensing, by using the Datacenter edition.

What is most valuable?

  • StarWind Virtual SAN. We no longer have to manage storage via multiple local server disks.
  • Added fault tolerance helps everybody sleep easier at night knowing we can lose an entire node without affecting production.

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had any issue since putting it in production 12 months ago.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's good for what we do — an SMC with hybrid cloud.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support has been quick, has a very quick response, and they also provocatively monitor the appliance's status.

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

No.

How was the initial setup?

Fairly straightforward because StarWind handles most of the setup. We did handle the network setup because we added redundancy at the switch level.

What about the implementation team?

A combination of vendor team and in-house team. Their level of expertise is good.

What was our ROI?

We reduced manpower on managing servers and storage. It helps us by not having to hire an extra IT person.

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

It's the only vendor that allow two nodes, all other vendors I researched at that time (late 2017) requires at least three nodes.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Yes, we evaluated Dell EMC VxRail and Scale HC3.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
reviewer977253
User at a non-profit with 501-1,000 employees
Real User
We managed to achieve uninterrupted IT infrastructure work and peace of mind.

What is our primary use case?

Before implementing the StarWind solution, we had standalone servers with Hyper-V on top. With this IT infrastructure, there was no fast and easy way to restore virtual machines (VMs) from backup if a Hyper-V host failed. The process and time it took to restore the VMs from backup were long and tedious. Moreover, there were no constant availability of applications and the necessary protection of the agency’s data. We required a solution with the help of which it would be possible to build a highly available (HA) and fault-tolerant (FT) IT environment at a price affordable for a ROBO’s budget.

How has it helped my organization?

We chose StarWind HyperConverged Appliance because it could be easily integrated into the existing IT infrastructure. Being a 100% software-defined hyperconverged platform, StarWind HCA leveled the possibility of hardware or software issues in the case of the Hyper-V host failing. All the critical VMs have been migrated to StarWind HCA, and if a failure of Hyper-V host occurs, automatic failover of VMs to the other node without any service interruptions is observed. Thanks to synchronous failover clustering, a non-stop application availability and unbeatable data security were ensured. We managed to build a fault-tolerant and highly available IT environment with a reliable and cost-effective solution. We also took advantage of StarWind ProActive Support AI. Support administrators kept continuous track of the system's status and informed about critical issues. So, with StarWind HCA we managed to achieve uninterrupted IT infrastructure work and peace of mind.

What is most valuable?

  • Proactive monitoring and support
  • The ability to achieve high availability.  

What needs improvement?

None so far.  StarWind has met our needs, exceeded our expectation, and increased our system up-time and availability.  

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

How are customer service and technical support?

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

How was the initial setup?

What about the implementation team?

What was our ROI?

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

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

What other advice do I have?

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
reviewer968163
IT Operations Manager
Real User
Updates are much less painful, and the proactive support is fantastic

What is our primary use case?

We are a small school with 700 users. We replaced an eight-year-old HP system (two HP DL360 G7s and an HP StorageWorks X1600) with a two-node HCA cluster.

How has it helped my organization?

Our two goals were to improve performance and add fault tolerance. Even before implementation, the StarWind team analyzed our current workload to determine which HCA would be appropriate for us. This allowed us to make a decision based on data rather than instinct.

Performance has been excellent, and we have really noticed a big improvement from our old system. Our other goal, improving fault tolerance, was immediately realized with the installation of the second HCA node. We have been running flawlessly since day one with zero downtime. The second node also allows us to perform maintenance without having to take servers offline.

What is most valuable?

The management interface is really easy to use. Updates are much less painful, and the proactive support is fantastic. 

What needs improvement?

We are happy with the product, and my only suggestion would be a better process for an unplanned power outage.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have been pleased so far. Zero downtime. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It meets the needs of smaller organizations. I think they are upfront that the HCA solution is not tailored towards large organizations.

How are customer service and technical support?

They have proactive support which prior to using StarWind, was a new concept for us. It's incredible. We spend less time troubleshooting and more time on other important tasks. 

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

We used an HP StorageWorks X1600 for our shared storage with two HP DL360 G7s as our hosts. We switched due to performance issues (slow backups) and to increase fault tolerance since we only had one shared storage device.

How was the initial setup?

So simple. The StarWind team does most of the initial configuration, and we finished on site. We were up and running in two days.  

What about the implementation team?

75% vendor team and 25% in-house. Expertise was top notch which is to be expected since it's their product.

What was our ROI?

N/A.

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

Do your research. You will find that nothing compares to the value you get with the HCA appliance. If you have a limited budget, the decision is an easy one.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Yes. We evaluated Nutanix, HPE, Dell, NetApp, Scale.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Andrew Wolf
Civil Engineer at CrossRoad Engineers, PC
Real User
This solution came preconfigured. All we needed to do was plug it in and move our VMs.

Pros and Cons

  • "This solution came preconfigured. All we needed to do was plug it in and move our VMs."
  • "We have found the live migration to be the most valuable feature. It allows us to seamlessly maintain our servers, as well as have peace of mind if something goes wrong."
  • "Customer service has been excellent. Any questions we have had have been answered quickly."
  • "A desired feature or service is the ability to have a hardware subscription plan that ensures routine hardware updates in conjunction with the hyper-converged software."

What is our primary use case?

Our small business was looking for a reliable and cost effective solution to ensure maximum uptime. We went from a single server to a virtualized hyper-converged infrastructure to allow routine maintenance at our convenience and have peace of mind that a failover system was in place.

How has it helped my organization?

This solution came preconfigured. All we needed to do was plug it in and move our VMs. The migration was seamless and we have had no issues. This solution has allowed us to take advantage of newer technologies, maintain our servers with ease, and reduce downtime.

What is most valuable?

We have found the live migration to be the most valuable feature. It allows us to seamlessly maintain our servers, as well as have peace of mind if something goes wrong. There is a failover machine ready to go.

What needs improvement?

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.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

None at this time.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

None at this time.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer service has been excellent. Any questions we have had have been answered quickly.

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

We didn't previously use a hyper-converged solution. We used Veeam to take care of any potential failovers manually. We still utilize Veeam, but we wanted to add a hyper-converged product to free up some time devoted to manual maintenance.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. All was a breeze.

What about the implementation team?

I installed this system myself.

What was our ROI?

We have not evaluated it at this time.

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

Its cost was reasonable.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did not evaluate any other options.

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