StarWind iSCSI SAN Software: Build Your Own SAN Review
Server virtualization is growing at over 100% per year according to a recent IDC report. A key impetus of this growth in virtualization initiatives in IT departments around the world is the need to ensure that servers are continuously operating even in the event of failure, disaster or even a human error. Other ostensible benefits of server virtualization include:
- improved IT management
- reduced expenses
- and improved server utilization
At the foundation of each successful vSphere or Hyper-V implementation is networked storage or “shared storage” (i.e. SAN). It’s required to enable IT administrators to provision virtual machines and to move them between physical hosts for workload balancing and to restart unresponsive VMs from a functional host in the case of system failure which essentially makes “high availability” possible.
Traditionally, network storage has been too expensive to buy and too complex to manage for anyone aside from big companies with large IT budgets. But using SAN software created a paradigm shift. With SAN software, you can easily and inexpensively turn an industry-standard Intel or AMD server into shared storage to transfer storage data from your VMware vSphere or Hyper-V servers to the centralized storage. This SAN software technology works like the typical “firmware” inside a high-end storage appliance but just without the actual metal box that comes pre-packaged in a UPS Ground box. Instead, you just get the SAN software and run it on any powerful server, for instance with 8TB of hard disk drives inside, and with a flip of that proverbial switch, you have a fully-functional SAN that is highly reliable and highly available, robust, powerful and easy to install and manage.
StarWind Advanced SAN Software
Back in 2003, StarWind started to develop this SAN “firmware” which would alleviate the pains of purchasing a complex, proprietary and very expensive SAN. With the new SAN software platform from StarWind, customers were finally able to eliminate the expenses and complexities of the traditional, proprietary SANs that were available at that time only from the big storage vendors. Today, StarWind is a leading provider of this advanced SAN software that is mainly used to build shared storage appliances for VMware ESX and now vSphere as well as Hyper-V and this combination of StarWind and server virtualization platforms creates a powerful infrastructure that is highly available, fault-tolerant and easy to protect and manage. There is proven synergy between StarWind and VMware with over 30,000+ users in over 100+ countries.
Here is the short list of benefits of using StarWind to build highly available storage out of standard Intel-architecture servers for use with VMware and Hyper-V:
- Transform a standard, Intel-architecture server into a fault-tolerant SAN with High Availability
- Build your own shared storage to take advantage of Live Migration with Hyper-V or VMotion and VMware HA with VMware vSphere
- Build a high-end SAN without the high costs associated with proprietary vendor products
- Ensure Business Continuity with Synchronous Mirroring, Remote Replication and CDP/Snapshots of the virtual machines
- Why Your Virtual Server Environment Needs Shared Storage
Enterprise-class storage is at the foundation of any successful virtualized IT infrastructure. Many of the key benefits of server virtualization require networked storage in order to reduce the effort ordinarily required to move VMs between physical servers for load balancing, to achieve high availability of applications running in VMs and to ensure maximum use of resources when deploying virtual machines.
Centralized networked storage is a key requirement for successfully harnessing high availability and business continuity features such as VMotion, VMware HA, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). And ultimately, there is more redundancy when placing your VMDK files on a SAN.
A shared storage, or a SAN, will help a VMware vSphere to access any VMDK because it is stored centrally on the network. It permits simple re-hosting of the virtual machine and eliminates copying individual virtual machine files, applications, and data from one server to another.
StarWind ISCSI SAN Software Lowers Cost and Reduces Complexity
iSCSI reflects the inevitable trend toward solving network problems with industry standard, off-the-shelf hardware and Ethernet networking gear. This results in lower-cost, easier-to-manage networking platforms. And, because they use familiar hardware rather than proprietary hardware, they require much less training to operate. Fibre Channel SANs are inflexible by comparison. They are hard to configure and manage because data paths between hosts on the storage array are statically set when the host is added to the SAN. The topology for a Fibre Channel SAN is hard coded, making changes within the infrastructure difficult and forcing downtime while changes are made.
StarWind uses iSCSI protocol to carry storage data. It provides all the functionality of any legacy FC SAN, but eliminates an FC SAN’s traditional complexities, including a steep learning curve and the need for expensive new networking gear. It is only with the iSCSI technology that substantial cost reductions
and simplified management are possible. In fact, iSCSI technology achieves a much lower TCO than can be achieved with Fibre Channel because it uses existing Ethernet networks to store data .
One of the main advantages of iSCSI is the speed. iSCSI storage is Ethernet-based, so IT Administrators only need basic IP networking knowledge, as opposed to more specialized FC networking skills. There is a common misconception that FC offers better performance than iSCSI, but with correct sizing to determine the speed and number of disks required to achieve the required IOPs (i/o’s per second) to sustain optimal application performance, iSCSI has proven to be more than up to the job of even the most demanding applications.
Build a SAN on Your Existing Network in Under 30 Minutes
Virtually any size company can realize all of server virtualization benefits with a SAN. With a StarWind SAN, you access unlimited terabytes of storage through the purchase of downloadable software that can be installed on any x86 or x64 server and existing network infrastructure in less than 30 minutes. StarWind is simple, reliable and scales rapidly to growing demands. And the biggest benefit of all, StarWind SAN software runs on any standard enterprise-class x86 or x64 storage server (e.g. from blades to rack servers)allowing you to choose from any standard hardware that meets performance, scalability and budget requirements. More importantly, the use of standard servers makes it easy to upgrade to new hardware, faster memory, Nehalem processors, PCI Express RAID controllers or 10 GigE networking that will all improve the performance of the storage appliance built with StarWind.
StarWind’s true active-active high availability (HA) architecture provides continuous and non-disruptive access to storage in the event of failure by synchronously mirroring data between two active storage appliances, or nodes, in real time. This technology eliminates a single point of failure. If a disk, power or even an entire storage node fails, the redundant storage node will take over and will continue actively operating without any disruption, ensuring that storage is available and accessible on the network.
Compared with other ISCSI SAN solutions, StarWind gives IT professionals the freedom to choose from any standard server hardware to build their own SAN or networked storage cost-effectively and easily without any interoperability issues or the high prices of proprietary storage solutions. That means that unlike hardware-based solutions such as LeftHand and EqualLogic, there is no new equipment to buy. And Starwind will save 40% over the cost of a similar DataCore SANmelody product in a 2TB High Availability product with 2 Active-Active nodes and as much as 87% over a 32TB configuration.