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Q&A: Interview with StarWind Software, Talking Virtual SAN and Hyper-Converged

StarWind Software Inc. is a leading provider of software-based, hypervisor-centric virtual machine storage.  I've been following the company since 2004 when I first launched VMblog; but the company has been around since 2003.  StarWind's flagship product is an iSCSI SAN software that turns any industry-standard Windows Server into a fault-tolerant, fail-safe iSCSI SAN.  It's designed for use as networked storage and has been qualified to support VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments.  

To find out more, and to provide readers with a bit of insight into what the company is doing, I reached out to their product manager, Max Kolomyeytsev.

VMblog:  The industry buzz has been around virtualization and cloud computing for some time now.  One of the new industry terms making its rounds is hyper-converged.  What does this mean to StarWind, and how does your solution fit in?

Max Kolomyeytsev:  Actually, it was our idea in the first place. We came up with hyper-converged infrastructure for virtual shared storages and basically made the first working sample. We see the hyper-converged as our main scenario, although StarWind Virtual SAN also works in a lot of compute and storage separated scenarios. 

VMblog:  You guys have been operating on both VMware and Hyper-V hypervisors for a while now.  Are you seeing advancements in the number of Hyper-V deployments?  Or is this still a VMware world?

Kolomyeytsev:  As a matter of fact, Hyper-V and VMware have successfully shared the virtualization market. While the first is positioned as a solution for SMBs, the latter is designed for larger-scale deployments and suits the needs of Enterprises. StarWind Virtual SAN comes in as a convenient adaptation tool, removing most of the restrictions. It allows Enterprises (including ROBO scenarios) and SMBs to deploy the virtual storage of the required scale on desired platform. 

VMblog:  What type of disks does your solution work with or require?  And how much difference does the type of disk make with your solution?

Kolomyeytsev:  Our solution is Hardware agnostic, meaning it can utilize any spindle disks be it SAS or SATA. StarWind Virtual SAN also supports all types of SSDs including PCIe, however, having them in the configuration is not mandatory as it is in the case with vSphere. SAN performance directly depends on the speed of underlying disks so it is logical that faster disks deliver better performance of the system.

VMblog:  Can you explain a few of the benefits to using a Virtual SAN solution over that of a physical SAN or NAS device... beyond the cost savings?

Kolomyeytsev:  With StarWind Virtual SAN, data is always written and read locally so there is no storage IO going through the network links. This way StarWind delivers better performance compared to a hardware SAN with a similar disk set.

Our solution is much more versatile compared to any hardware SAN or NAS. It scales up by simply adding more RAM, CPU, internal or external storage, and scales out seamlessly with zero downtime. Scale out nodes can have flexible hardware configuration. Same applies to forklift upgrades - zero downtime and seamless transition to the new hardware, which is still a lofty goal with a hardware SAN.

VMblog:  And how complicated is your solution to get up and running?  Are special skills required?

Kolomyeytsev:  Any system administrator can setup and manage StarWind Virtual SAN in a matter of minutes. If you've got any experience with Microsoft Windows, you'll find it very easy, because our solution is a native Windows application. SAN/NAS, UNIX or other specialized skills are not required.

VMblog:  I hope you don't mind, but I have to ask.  I like to tell Virtualization Administrators about free tools that should be added into their tool belts, and you guys offer a free tool called V2V Converter.  Can you give us a few details about this tool?

Kolomyeytsev:  StarWind V2V Converter is a convenient tool, which, well, converts VM disks from format to format in order to transfer the VM between different hypervisors. It switches the virtual machine disk between VHD(X), VMDK and IMG formats, by "cloning" the source VM disk file without any risk of damaging it. Quite a useful tool in multiple occasions, because hypervisors usually let you convert VMs to their native format only.

VMblog:  Finally, what's coming up on the horizon for StarWind?  Where do you go from here?

Kolomyeytsev:  Mostly, it's our dark secret. We're pioneers, so what we're about to do is often a new step in the development of storage virtualization. As for the trivial things - we're going to make LSFS even more efficient in terms of coping with the workload of virtualized environment, thus getting the performance even higher. Maybe we'll also tinker with asynchronous replication to ease its implementation and make it even more discrete. As for major goals on the horizon - you'll hear about them in time, we guarantee it.  

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Once again, a special thank you to Max Kolomyeytsev, Product Manager at StarWind Software Inc.


 

Published Friday, January 30, 2015 6:34 AM by David Marshall
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