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Q&A with Artem Berman, CEO of StarWind Software Talking iSCSI SAN and HA

Many of us are familiar with StarWind Software for the work they've been doing with delivering a free iSCSI SAN solution and their software for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization environments.

But if you are new to the game and looking for an iSCSI SAN software solution that turns any industry-standard Windows Server into a fault-tolerant, fail-safe iSCSI SAN, you might want to check out what StarWind Software is doing in this space.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Artem Berman, the CEO of StarWind, and here is part of our conversation:

VMblog:  What are the technology advantages of your storage software comparing to that developed by your competitors?

AB:  The StarWind key advantage is of a double nature: technologically we are on top of the storage virtualization trend, close together with the top-ranked leaders of the technology, providing our customers with many high-end virtualization features, and leaving behind several competitors. The other benefit of StarWind SAN is its moderate price which makes our solution highly affordable for the SMBs.  

You know, virtualization is a huge modern trend, but, in some situations, its implementation takes too much time and efforts. Everybody knows that time is money. The process of virtualization of an IT environment may result in too many expenses on purchase of new hardware and training IT administrators.

StarWind customer policy and technical features are based on the understanding that storage virtualization is essential for small and medium businesses. StarWind software provides enterprise-level features such as High Availability, Synchronous Data Replication, CDP & Snapshots, Dada De-duplication, Thin Provisioning, Failback with Fast Synchronization - and offers you all the possibilities to build your own high availability iSCSI SAN at a very affordable price. 

VMblog:  So from your perspective, why exactly is StarWind HA better?

AB: We put a focus on Synchronous Data Replication as a strong tool to afford a high level of data security. All StarWind HA mechanisms are up-to-date and vectored to provide the most storage reliability.  

For example, StarWind software uses MPIO instead of Virtual IP. This technology improves SAN redundancy allowing multiple paths of communication between the client and data storage.

The "Heartbeat" feature in StarWind HA guarantees data synchronization between each storage node in a dual-node HA configuration.

VMblog:  Which features of your product provide safety of data stored in the SAN in case any SAN failures occur?

AB: The safety of stored data is of absolute priority for a virtualized storage. Every version of StarWind iSCSI SAN software provides necessary features and technologies and we constantly struggle to improve them.

The key StarWind features that ensure the safety of data are:

  • High Availability / Automatic Failover - fault tolerant active-active technology that eliminates a single point of failure
  • Synchronous Data Replication - it is the real-time data replication across a 2-node storage cluster
  • Remote / Asynchronous Replication - that replicates a storage to a safe remote site across a WAN
  • Point-in-time snapshots - with unlimited rollback points and
  • CDP (Continuous Data Protection) - it provides a replication mechanism to ensure a Recovery Point Objective of zero data loss for applications.

VMblog:  And how does StarWind iSCSI SAN behave in case of software or hardware failure?

AB: With automatic failover technology you can configure an Active-Active dual node SAN to ensure fault tolerant storage. In StarWind HA Active-Active Failover system, storage data is load balanced across each storage node and, in the event of failure, all storage traffic that was originally intended for the first (failed) node is routed to a remaining node.  Both storage nodes continuously monitor each other and realize failover without any IT administrator's intervention.

VMblog:  What features does StarWind provide for optimization of disk capacity and increase of storage utilization? 

AB: One of the problems of previous solutions was lack of storage scalability. We are bringing into use a modern approach to the storage. Using the software developed by StarWind you can easily modernize your hardware, enlarge your storage capacity and manage resources.

Thin Provisioning is an important feature that allocates space dynamically for highly efficient disk utilization.

Another key optimization feature is Data Deduplication - a specialized mechanism of data-compression that allows reducing needed storage capacity due to the elimination of duplicated data. Data Deduplication is still the test feature, but it will obtain its full implementation in the next version of StarWind.

VMblog:  How can one manage and administer the huge storage built with StarWind software?  Is it overly complicated for someone to get started?

AB: My answer is short - "As easy as ABC!" 

There is no need to learn new technologies - we use familiar iSCSI protocol instead of expensive and complicated Fibre Channel connections.

StarWind GUI is user-friendly and lets an IT administrator manage the entire storage easily and transparently. The management applications GUI has been focused to provide an additional clarity to the user experience. The StarWind event log monitors the state of the iSCSI SAN and advanced event notification provides alerts by e-mail, records to the logs and to text files.

VMblog:  So what is your vision of your product for the near future?   

AB: StarWind Software's mission is to provide SMBs with reliable tools for storage virtualization. We'll keep doing it with all possible efforts. 

And, of course, StarWind will extend the partners' network. We have recently started a new Partners Program and are happy to invite people for the future partnership. Let's bring virtualization together!

Published Thursday, June 30, 2011 9:00 AM by David Marshall
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