Storage Q&A: StarWind and StorageSwiss Answer Hyper-V Storage Questions

A company needs to upgrade its IT equipment to keep up with increasing storage demand. The question is, “Will the new technology that’s supposed to save me money actually cost me money?” Joining Storage Switzerland Lead Analyst in our recent webinar “Don’t Let Storage Eat Up Your Hyper V Savings“was StarWind Solutions Engineer Max Kolomyeytsev. This transcript is from the Question & Answer portion of the webinar.

Question: Do you see a time where Hyper-V will be more popular than VMware?

George: I don’t think so. VMware has such a huge market lead at this point. But, I do think that we’ll start to see a very mixed environment, where you see both VMware and Hyper-V used for different tasks or functions. I think there is a highly focused effort of Enterprises to reduce the cost of licensing and clearly Hyper-V is a way to do that. Another key point that still remains is the cloud. It really depends on how well these companies do their cloud integrations and which of those appeal to customers as well. Any thoughts on your side Max?

Max: I would say that each product will find its niche. We may see from VMware – I read that 39% of companies who are planning to deploy virtualization are considering VMware – but we do see that a lot of companies look for Hyper-V in their branch locations. We may see that VMware’s environments are bigger, and maybe more expensive, but we may see much smaller Hyper-V deployments which actually will do more work than the central VMware deployments in the office.

Watch the webinar “Don’t Let Storage Eat Up Your Hyper V Savings” available on-demand.

Question: One of the benefits to server side storage is we can use any server hard drive but is the type of drive important? What type of drives do you suggest using in the server?

George: For me, the good news is we can use server class drive technology, and our cost savings should though come from the fact that we don’t have to invest in a dedicated storage controller and not necessarily a complex dedicated storage network. You shouldn’t go out and get the cheapest possible hard drives you can get your hands on. These need to be pretty good quality and generally performing drives. We have redundancy and all those capabilities, but you want to have good technology here as well. We recommend to look for enterprise class hard drives and SSDs or Flash drives. Max, what do you generally tend to recommend?

Max: The manufacturer’s hardware compatibility list is really key. But it less about our compatibilities, and more about the drive compatibilities of the server manufacturer. So let’s say the two biggest server manufacturers will not tolerate a desktop drive inside the enclosure. It will not be recognized. So standard storage of the server, and the disk drives you would like to use in the server closely depend on the type of performance you’d like to get from the system. If it’s a backup unit, it’s SATA drives, if it’s a virtualization platform then it would be SATA drives acting as a back end and then SSD drives acting as your layer 2 caching, and the RAM acting as your layer 1 caching. If you’re trying to build a design which is close to in memory computing, that means lots of RAM. So StarWind does deduplication of data inside RAM and you have your virtual machines there, and you have your SSDs as tier 2 storage to upload some of the reads and have it as a non-volatile storage layer for your system. As I said, it really depends.

Question: What type of network do you suggest works best? Can I go all the way down to a simple one gig network, or do you recommend a 10 gig or something trunk? What do you recommend?

Max: So I’ve seen three to four virtual machine environments working completely fine on 2 x 1GB links crossovered between the servers. For bigger environments we typically see 10 GB cards in each server and crossover cables between two servers. And this grows up two three servers and without having to add switching. I would say about 10% of our current customers use this configuration in high performance computing and they use 4 1 or 10GB cards directly in connected to each other for synchronization.

Question: We’ve heard a little about StarWind from Max, what is Storage Switzerland’s take on the solution?

George: I’m glad you asked. We think that StarWind should certainly be on the short list of IT planners looking for a Hyper-V storage architecture that can provide the performance needed at a price they can afford. We have a complete product analysis of the solutions available as an attachment to the webinar or you can click here.

Question: What Windows License do I need to install StarWind?

Max: Any Windows license. StarWind can also install on the free Hyper-V server, which is a really good solution. You have a free operating system which supports clustering and Hyper-V. That’s a really good start for virtualization for SMBs. The only up-front investment is the servers. Windows Live for the actual virtual machines, and StarWind licenses which is a really good offer for SMBs.

Question: Can I create a StarWind cluster bigger than two nodes?

Max: Definitely. StarWind supports scaling out beyond 64 nodes. Which, of course, are the current limits of the Hyper-V cluster. StarWind can scale further, so if Microsoft changes the maximum number of nodes StarWind can scale beyond 64 nodes, also providing HA access to the virtual machines.

Question: A two node system is actually not highly available when you need to do maintenance on one node. Can you comment on that statement?

Max: Well, I would say that even in this case a 64 node is not highly available because if you need to do maintenance on 64 nodes, you’re not highly available – you’re in down time. It’s really about how you approach and manage your configuration. Typically a two node environment can be managed by doing maintenance one node at a time. That’s what I’ve typically seen when people are updating systems or changing from one operating system to another. So with just two servers I’ve seen seamless operations and updates performed in under four hours, we’re talking about complete hardware change. So the customer upgraded from old servers to new servers.

George: I also think that part of this is being realistic about the situation we’re placing this in. If we’re talking about a small to medium sized business or a remote office, then yes three nodes may provide a little bit more resiliency. But, you have to balance how much money you’re going to spend versus how much availability do you need. I think that we’re seeing for most environments a two node HA system is going to be more than applicable. And like Max said if you need more nodes, his solution, as well as others, are able to grow to it. What we recommend to at least start at two nodes, and then if you want more, that’s your business’s decision to make. You don’t want to have that decision forced upon you.

Question: StarWind can scale up to 64 nodes, which is great, but opposed to other solutions can you actually mirror-date across more than two nodes? So can I have the same LUN mirrored across two or three or four nodes?

Max: Yes, you definitely can mirror the data between three nodes, and we do have up to 8 nodes mirrored available. However, we only give them on demand because we don’t really see anyone willing to buy it. So three nodes is a quite common scenario nowadays, especially with the fact that with three nodes you can use RAID 0 to maximize your storage density. So you have three copies of your data, you don’t really need RAID 10 or RAID 1 in this system. You can just use RAID 0 and that becomes a very sweet spot for an SSD RAID 0 and a server, which can compete with an All-Flash solution in price, but gives unbeatable performance.

Question: Can I use StarWind as a NAS?

Max: Definitely, you can use StarWind as a basic NAS and then you can use StarWind as a highly availability NAS. Moreover, StarWind now supports working with scale out file server, which gives customers the ability to configure scale out file server back end and then use SMB3 and also SMB Direct which is direct memory access to the file server. Basically it provides very fast access to your file storage using file level protocols instead of block level protocols. It gives you very fast storage, and it’s also very easy to manage.

Question: Can StarWind operate on VMware vSphere?

Max: Definitely, StarWind does offer a free product for VMware vSphere. It may sound odd, but we have a product with limited storage capacity which can work on two VMware servers and provide highly available storage for those two VMware servers. That’s in the old VMware licenses and a limited time offer. I believe we only have it active until September, but for someone who wants to use StarWind in VMware environments they can do it completely for free, especially if they use the free VMware license and they have the free StarWind license.

Note: If you want to catch the entire webinar Don’t Let Storage Eat Up Your Hyper V Savings, it is available on-demand to view it please click here.

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