Competition Alert! StarWind Software is raffling a license of their iSCSI SAN product. The winner will receive a license for StarWind Enterprise worth USD$995. More information can be found at the end of the article.

Like many technologies in the IT industry, storage is one of those areas of cost in which you can guarantee that your needs will never decrease. We all read stories about the latest advances in speed, reliability and capacity, while marvelling at the ever-decreasing per-GB price. We squeeze the finance department for some extra money, insisting that this next storage purchase will meet the organisation’s needs for at least five years. Two years later, we’re back asking for more money.

StarWind_Enterprise_Main

Enterprise storage has long since moved on from the old paradigm of disks in servers. Now it’s all about expandable arrays, high-speed controllers, complex communications and dedicated management software. Along with expensive consultants to make it all work. While this sort of storage infrastructure is undoubtedly the best in its class, it’s also beyond the financial reach of many SMBs, and couldn’t possibly be justified, in terms of benefit to the company or ROI. But that doesn’t mean that SMBs have to miss out on enterprise-class storage features like high availability or automatic failover from one storage device to another in the case of failure on the primary storage appliance. Enter StarWind.

StarWind iSCSI SAN 5.0 ^

StarWind’s iSCSI SAN software turns any physical server into a scalable, flexible and highly-available SAN, providing suitable storage for Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware virtualization solutions, shared storage for server clusters and XenServer, highly-available IP-based storage for iSCSI-aware servers, or a combination of any of the above.

The application footprint is very lightweight and StarWind does not require the local system to be a dedicated storage host, so the server can continue to run other Windows Server roles, like print, web or Hyper-V. Installation is incredibly straightforward and the whole system can be operational in under an hour.

StarWind_Enterprise_Register

StarWind’s great flexibility is in that it makes use of the physical resources available to the server via the Windows Server OS, so you can continue to improve performance and storage provisioning by adding more/faster dedicated network connections, RAM and local storage. The default storage medium is a locally-stored image file (IMG format) but StarWind is also able to serve out physical hard drives including externally-connected devices, CD/DVD devices and tape storage.

StarWind iSCSI SAN 5.0 editions ^

StarWind comes in a variety of flavours, each supporting various feature sets. The entry-level StarWind Server offers basic connectivity and storage features but is available for USD$395, which is a very accessible price point for most small businesses, and at USD$995 StarWind Enterprise expands the functionality with a raft of features including image snapshots and Continuous Data Protection (CDP).

At the upper end of the spectrum, StarWind Enterprise Unlimited offers remote replication and mirroring of storage resources, and as the license is installable on two servers, customers don’t need to purchase two licenses to enable this feature. In addition to this, StarWind Enterprise HA and Enterprise HA Unlimited offer automatic failover/failback functionality, which allows served iSCSI storage to be made highly-available, removing the single point of failure and maximising server uptime.

In the next part of this review I’ll provide some feedback from the experience of running StarWind in a live environment.

If you want to take part in the competition for a chance to win a copy of StarWind Enterprise worth USD$995, send an email to:

contests-at-4sysops-com

with the subject line:

StarWind

The deadline of this contest is June 17, 2010.

4 Comments
  1. Christoph 12 years ago

    This is very interestingproduct indeed. How is the performance compared to an average dedicated/native iSCSI target hosting the VDIs?

  2. Author
    James Bannan 12 years ago

    Hi Christoph – it’s a bit difficult to do a direct comparison. Often, dedicated storage devices use 10K or 15K disks so provide very good disk I/O, but you could spec out a StarWind server with equivalent dedicated disks as well (probably more expensive though).

    The application overhead is very minimal, and to be honest I haven’t encountered a performance bottleneck so far. I use the system for highly-available file and print systems, but don’t use it for hosting applications with high disk read/write needs, like SQL.

  3. Constantin Videnski 12 years ago

    That`s good question. StarWind uses all available resources, so all you need to achieve maximum performance is fast drives and 1Gb network.

  4. Allen C 12 years ago

    We baselined this product, along with a pile of other low-cost iSCSI solutions. Installation was easy, functionality was great, and the throughput on a server w/Gb NICs, 10K SCSI drives in RAID6 was upwards of 250Mb/s (on an old Dell 4600) I’d imagine a newer, faster server would be even better–but performance at this level is good enough to run 10+ servers in an enterprise ESX environment. Good stuff.

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