Tag Archives: StarWind

The StarWind Cloud VTL for AWS and Veeam

When companies are approaching a data protection strategy something dubbed the “3-2-1 rule” often comes up in conversation.  In its essence, the 3-2-1 rule is designed as a process to ensure that  you always have data availability should you need it.  That’s 3 copies of your data, on 2 different media types/sets,  with one being located offsite.  Now, when looking at taking this rule and applying it to our data protection design the subject of tape is usually discussed as it facilitates that second type of media we need to satisfy the “2” portion.  Tape has had a  play in  data protection for a long time but the mundane tasks of removing a tape and inserting another just doesn’t fit well inside of our modern datacenters.  When its time to restore we are then left with the frustration of finding the proper tapes and then the slow performance of moving data off of that tape back into production.  That’s why companies like StarWind initially built what is called the Virtual Tape Library (VTL).   The StarWind VTL mimics that of a physical tape library, however instead of requiring the manual intervention of removing and loading tapes it simply writes the data to disk.

The StarWind VTL is nothing new – in fact its’ been around since 2009.  But just  this past month at VeeamON StarWind announced yet another version of their  VTL, only this time, instead of just writing the data to local disk they now have  the option additionally sync those virtual tapes to the cloud.  The software, called StarWind Cloud VTL for AWS and Veeam couldn’t come at a more opportune time as only a week before the announcement “WannaCry” was worming its way through Europe, encrypting both production  and  backup data – leaving those companies without some sort of offsite air-gapped backup without a  whole lot of option.


So how does it work?

The StarWind Cloud VTL for AWS and Veeam is 100% software based – therefore no extra hardware or appliances are need to be racked and stacked in your datacenter at all.  In fact, for convenience and cost reasons StarWind Cloud VTL can even be installed  directly along side with your Veeam Backup and Replication Backup server.  If you have ever installed any other StarWind products then the Cloud VTL setup will look very similar, utilizing a very easy to use wizard type installation.

Once installed, the configuration (as shown below) is really just adding our virtual tape device (drive) and however many number of virtual tapes we want.  As we can see, StarWind actually mimics the HPE MSL8096 Tape Library – therefore we may need to pull down any appropriate device drivers in order to support it.  Once installed we are left essentially with an iSCSI target that points to our VTL, which in tern maps to local disk.

Library-Location StarWind-HPEMimic

Cloud-Replication So by now you might be thinking “Hey, these tapes are mapped to disk not cloud” and you  are absolutely correct in that thought.  StarWind Cloud VTL implements what they call a Disk to Disk to Cloud process – meaning data is first copied to disk (StarWind) from disk (Production) and then further replicated to Cloud (Amazon S3/Glacier).  This scenario allows for the actual Veeam tape job to complete much faster as it’s simply streaming to local disk- after which, the data is replicated to Amazon.  To set this up we simply need to click on the ‘Cloud Replication’ option (shown right) within the StarWind management console and provide our access and region information for our S3 bucket.

Above I hinted at yet  another feature of the StarWind  Cloud VTL with the mention of Glacier.  As shown below we can see a few options as it pertains to our retention – the most interesting being the ability to migrate our tape data out of S3 and into the cheaper, more archive suitable Glacier service after a certain period of time.  This tiering feature allows us to keep costs down by essentially staging and de-staging our backup data depending on age to a lower tier, lower performance storage while keeping our most  recent restore points on a more reliable, higher performance cloud storage service.


We can also see that we have options surrounding when to purge the local on-site tape data as well as how long to  wait after the virtual tape has been ejected locally before we start the replication to S3.

That’s really it as far as the StarWind setup is concerned.  The only thing left to do now is setup our the VTL as a tape server with  VBR.  Now before we can do this we will first need to establish a connection to our VTL.  This, just as is done through  StarWind Virtual SAN is simply just an iSCSI target that is mounted with the standard Windows iSCSI tools.  As mentioned previously, the VTL mimics a HPE MSL8096 so be sure those drivers are downloaded and installed to ensure the VTL can be discovered.

For the VBR  configuration we simply add our StarWind VTL we have setup into our backup infrastructure as a  “Tape Server”.  After doing so we should be able to see all of our virtual tapes that we have created and can simply setup our tape jobs or File to Tape jobs just as we always have within Veeam – only this time, our tapes are basically being  replicated to S3.

In the end I think StarWind is on to something here!  This is their first go at cloud replication and I’m sure there is much more to come.   In fact we have already seen the addition of Microsoft Azure blob storage into the StarWind Cloud VTL portfolio so things are moving quickly.  The idea of still achieving the ultimate goal of the 3-2-1 rule while not having to physically mess around with tape is appealing – not to mention that by utilizing cloud we can get that offsite scalable storage tier without all the need to manage or update or even procure the hardware.  Personally I can see Veeam shops jumping on this.  It certainly makes that ideal environment of having some uber fast backup repository for your most recent backups on-stie and leaving StarWind and AWS with the job of migrating and managing the more “cold” archival type data up to the cloud.  Remember you  don’t want to be “that” IT shop that can’t recover from the next piece of ransomware that comes down the pipe.  If you would like to give StarWind Cloud VTL for Amazon and  Veeam a shot you  can pick yourself up a  free 30 day trial here.

Want to try VVOLs? How about StarWind?

One of the biggest features that was included within vSphere 6.0 has to be that of Virtual Volumes (VVOLs).  VMware had been talking up VVOLs as far back as VMworld 2011, since then pushing out 4 new releases of vSphere – but it wasn’t until February of 2015 when VMware announced vSphere 6 that they could finally say that VVOL support has arrived.starwind-vvols

The hype around VVOLs is validated – To put it bluntly they simplify the life of the vSphere Administrator.  Instead of engaging the storage team to deploy LUNs and datastores the vSphere Administrator can simply now apply a storage policy to a VM, specifying capabilities and requirements around snapshotting, dedupcation, raid level etc – the policy then talks to the storage array and places the VM on the disks that can fulfill that policy.  On the flip side, the storage administrators no longer have tune different LUNs and disk groups to meet requirements set forth by the virtualization team – they simply allocate storage which can be consumed by VVOLs.

VVOLs really has only two main requirements

  • You need to be running vSphere 6.0 or higher
  • Your storage array needs to have built in the support for VVOLs

Even though there are only two requirements one could say that they are pretty big ones – Firstly you may not have upgraded to vSphere 6 yet in production, thus eliminating the ability to deploy VVOLs.  For those with home labs – although they may already be running vSphere 6, they may not have access to an array which supports VVOLs – so that is out as well.

This is where StarWind Virtual SAN comes into play.  Although it wasn’t’ till 2011 when they rebranded to the Virtual SAN name, StarWind had been providing their software based iSCSI shared-storage solution for quite some time.  The software runs on Windows, and supports a lot of the features that you might find in comparable physical arrays.  Features such as Caching, High Availability, Fault Tolerance, Scaling characteristics, deduplication, compression, replication and snapshots are all built into StarWinds Virtual SAN offering.  Another feature (which is currently in Technical Preview) as you may have already guessed is VVOL support!  This means we don’t need expensive arrays in order to try out VVOLs, we can simply use a Windows server with some attached local storage and StarWinds’ Virtual SAN.

How to get started with StarWind VVOLs

The first thing you will need to do is download the technical preview of the StarWind VSA, or Virtual Storage Appliance.  The VSA is the easiest and quickest way to get StarWind Virtual SAN up and running as it contains the complete installation (180 day trial) of Windows Server, pre-loaded and configured with StarWind Virtual SAN.  All you need to do is deploy it and attach it to your proper networks.  You can download the latest version of the VSA (with VVOL support) here.  Due to Microsoft licensing you will find that the VSA comes as a preconfigured VM for Microsoft Hyper-V, however if you want to use it with vSphere (as I did) it also handily comes packaged with the StarWind V2V converter which will allow you to convert the vhdx files into vmdks for deployment to ESXi.

Since StarWind utilizes iSCSI as it’s transport method you must set up iSCSI initiators on your ESXi hosts.  If you already have configured hardware or software initiators you can go ahead and use them, just ensure network on the VSA is on the same subnet.   If you haven’t I’ll explain the process below…

The first thing we will need to do in order to connect our hosts to the VSA through iSCSI is to setup some basic networking.  Follow the ‘Add Host Networking’ wizard using the following options…

  • Connection Type – VMkernel Network Adapter
  • Target – New Standard Switch
  • Physical NICs – any free physical NIC that is connected to the storage network
  • None of the services will need to be enabled
  • Give your VMkernel a proper IP and subnet in order to reach the StarWind VSA storage network

Once the networking is setup we need to enable your software iSCSI imitator on your host.  From the Manage-Storage tab within the vSphere Web Client click the ‘+’ icon while on the Storage Adapters section to add the iSCSI initiator.   From that same screen select your newly added iSCSI adapter and then select the Network Port Binding tab.  Here is where we will bind our imitator to the vSwtich we created earlier.  Click the ‘+’ icon and bind the adapter to the proper VMkernel network as shown below…


Once completed we can go ahead and add the StarWind VSA as a target within our initiator – again, this is done in the storage adapter section, but on the ‘Targets’ tab as shown below…


Give the host adapters a quick storage rescan to allow them to connect to the StarWind VSA.  Once the StarWind VSA and the ESXi hosts have been configured its finally time to dive into the setup for VVOLs.  VVOLs relies on VASA 2.0 in order to allow for communication between vCenter and the Storage Arrays.  Thankfully configuring this is as simple as passing a url and some credentials to vCenter.

But before we get too deep there are some commands we may need to run depending on how your environment is setup – You may need to rebind the MAC on the StarWind VSA to its corresponding certificate.  For instance, if you are planning on connecting the StarWind VSA via IP address (such as I did below) then you should run the following command on your StarWind VSA to reset the VASA certificate.

wmic -namespace:\\root\starwind path STARWIND_ClusterService call ResetVASA BindToInterfaceMAC=<MAC ADDRESS>

Keep in the mind the MAC address that you want to place in the above command would be the MAC address of your VSA’s management interface.

With that out of the way it’s time to register our StarWind VSA as a storage provider within vCenter.  From the Manage tab with the target vCenter server in context, select the Storage Providers section and then “Register a new Storage Provider”.  From here we need to provide the StarWind VASA URL (https://<IP_OF_StarWind>:9991/vasa/) and the default username and password (root/starwind) as shown below…


With our Storage Provider registered and our target server identified we now have a couple of the building blocks in place in order to use VVOLs – the last thing we need to do is configure VVOL datastore – essentially a container that we place our VM disks on within vCenter, which will in turn instruct the array to create its own VVOLs.  Adding a VVOL datastore is similar to the process as adding a regular vmfs datastore, only selecting VVOL as the storage type as shown below.

From there the only other requirement is selecting the StarWind array as the backing storage container.  If all of the steps were performed properly you should see it appear as a valid backing storage container as shown below…


Once this is done we can start playing around with VVOLs and the StarWind implementation of them.  For instance, by creating a new VM and selecting our VVOL datastore as the storage we can see that instead of the traditional files being placed within an image file inside of Starwind, that new image files are created – one for the configuration of the VM, and another for the disk of the VM (see below)


The creation of the ImageFiles is done by StarWind and it is automatically processed providing you pick your VVOL datastore as your storage target.  Shown below we can see how things change once we power on our VM, again, another image file is created, this one holding the storage for the swap file.  When the VM is powered off this ImageFile will be automatically deleted.


At this point we can confirm that VVOLs are indeed working the way we expected them to – instead of a VM residing inside files on top of a LUN, the components of the VMs are essentially each their own LUN.  This is some great technology that will definitely change the way we deploy storage; however we aren’t done yet – we still need to look at a little concept called VM Storage Policies.

VM Storage Policies is a concept that basically allows us to define policies – these policies in turn dictate how we utilize different features and components that the array provides.  These policies are then attached to VM disks, and will automatically place the disks of the VM on the proper chunk of storage depending on the policy requirements.  Take the below image for example, we can define a new policy that will define whether we would like the disk to be deduplicated, thin provisioned, replicated, as well as the array caching requirements.  These capabilities are all provided and performed by the StarWind VSA.


To create a VM Storage Policy it’s a matter of clicking ‘Policies and Profiles’ –> VM Storage Policies and selecting to ‘Create a new VM storage policy’.  We then define our rule-sets based on the characteristics of storage we want.  Creating the policy is only half the work however – we still need to assign the policy to our VM.


As you can see above this is done within the ‘Add New VM’ wizard.  When on the ‘Select Storage’ step instead of simply selecting our VVOL datastore as we have done previously we assign a VM Storage Policy to the VM.  In the example above we selected ‘Gold’ and we can see that our VVOL datastore that we created earlier is indeed compatible with that policy – meaning it meets the requirements that we defined within the policy’s rulesets.  Also, as shown below we can assign different storage policies on a per disk basis within the VM.  This allows us to support use cases such as a backup drive.  Maybe we have one storage policy dictating faster disks to host our OS VVOLs, and another that defines slower disks such as Nearline for our backup drives.  Either way we can mix and match policies per VM.


So as you can see you don’t need to purchase expensive hardware if you are just trying to get a look and feel for VMware and VVOLs.  The technical preview of the StarWind VSA will give you most, if not all the functionality you need to get a feel for how things are going to work, using existing local storage you already have in place.  Certainly StarWind is not done with their VVOL implementations either, they are constantly providing updates to the Technical Preview for you to check out – watch for things such as snapshot support, etc coming in the near future.  For now, get a head of the game and get the technical preview up and running for yourself so you can see what all the VVOL hype is about!

StarWind Software HCA brings hyperconvergence to the SMB

Virtualization drastically changed the way we deploy applications and servers within our datacenters – eliminating racks upon racks of single purpose servers and replacing them with compute clusters and shared storage.  In terms of IT, the timespan that virtualization has been mainstream has been short, but even in the small amount of time that it has been in our datacenters we have seen evolutions in the underlying infrastructure that supports virtualization.  We’ve seen converged systems enter the marketplace, bundling the server clusters and storage together under one support SKU.  From there we’ve went one level further with hyperconvergence, eliminating all of the complexity and troubles of having separate pieces of infrastructure for compute and storage.  Hyperconvergence has certainly made a foot hold on the industry, but for the most part the target customer for these types of deployments have been aimed at small, medium and large ENTERPRISE, not business.  Hyperconvergence is a perfect fit for the SMB, however up until now has been out of reach in terms of price for companies needing a small deployment for 50-100 VMs…

Enter StarWind

logo_strwStarWind has been around since 2003 and are most famous for their flagship product StarWind Virtual SAN – a shared storage solution running on Windows and providing capacity to both VMware and Hyper-V clusters.  StarWind have supported a 2 node, highly available storage setup for VMware with their Virtual SAN for a few years and have had success doing so.  However now they have taken that one step further by providing a hyperconverged solution including the hardware, computer, storage, network, and management under one simple solution called the StarWind HyperConverged Appliance (HCA)

Note: This review was sponsored by StarWind Software, meaning I did receive compensation for the words on this page! That said the words on this page are mine and mine alone and not StarWinds 🙂


The hardware

Before we get too much into the software driving the HCA let’s first take a step back and checkout some of the unique ways StarWind is providing hardware.  The commodity servers underneath the StarWind HyperConverged Appliance (HCA) are key to how they are able to offer their powerful solution, yet keep costs at a minimum and target SMB’s and ROBOs.  We have a few options when it comes to hardware and the StarWind HCA – we can buy new, refurbished, or quite simply, bring our own hardware.

You will see the phrase “best in breed” a lot within this review as that is the path that StarWind has chosen to take while putting together the pieces of their HCA.  StarWind is a software company, not a hardware company so they’ve opted to chose Dell as their preferred provider for the infrastructure beneath the HCA.  As we all know Dell brings tremendous solutions to their customers, providing infrastructure that can be scaled to meet the needs of the “mom and pop” shop all the way through to the large enterprise.  Not to mention they have one of the biggest distributions in the world for providing hardware and servicing warranty and parts replacements.


Whether you chose to buy new or refurbished (StarWind has partnered with xByte and Arrow) there are some commonalities between the solutions.  First off, customers have the option to purchase up to 5 years of 4 hour pro support on any hardware purchased (even refurbished) so you can ensure that you are covered in terms of hardware failures.  Also, whether it’s new or refurbished hardware, the StarWind HCA comes in three different flavors, ranging from small to large depending on your needs.

Model S – The HCA Model S is the entry level system which is mainly designed and targeted at SMBs and ROBOs.  This unit, a Dell T320 is a tower format – perfect for those remote/small offices that don’t have proper data centers or racks already installed.  The Model S does not require additional network switching and can be connected directly into existing switches – while all storage traffic is routed through a directly connected 10GbE back end.  The Model S starts with a 2-node starter set, and scales out to a maximum of 16 nodes.


Model L – HCA Model L takes the next step and provides a mid-level system for SMBs, providing the ability to pack more CPU, Memory, and storage into each node and moving up into a rack architecture (Dell R620).  Again, the 2 node starter set utilizes existing switching and scales to a maximum of 64 nodes.


Model XL – Finally, the Model XL provides yet even bigger hardware configurations and faster CPU’s.  As with the Model L this solution comes in a rack mount architecture (Del R720) and is designed for SMBs with high performance computing demands, VDI deployments, or mid-size enterprise ROBOs.  The Model XL provides us with maximum storage density and allows us utilize a dedicated 10 or 40 GbE back end for storage traffic.  Just like the other models the starter set comes with 2 nodes, with the Model XL having the capability to scale to 64 nodes total.


As we can see above there is a wide range of compute, memory, storage and networking configurations available with the HCA which can meet the needs of almost any SMB/ROBO deployment out there.  All models are equipped with a direct connected 10GB backend to handle the storage replications and are sold on a node by node basis, or in a 2-node starter set to get you up and running quickly.

One advantage to the StarWind solution is that you aren’t locked in to specific model types once you purchase them.  In fact, StarWind has published many “typical configurations” that meet the needs of various use-cases for the SMB.

Two Model L Nodes – Typical setup for an SMB looking to run a File Server, Exchange environment, SQL Server, etc.

Three Model L Nodes – Same as the previous configuration, but with an additional node added to provide more compute and storage to run additional workloads.

Three Model L Nodes + Two Model XL Nodes – Configuration for an SMB looking to run File Server, Exchange, SQL Server, etc with the addition for a 150 seat VDI deployment.

Three Model L Nodes + Two Model XL Nodes + Six Model S Nodes – This would be a typical setup for those organizations looking to deploy a central solution with support for three remote offices.  Each remote office would have a 2-node Model S cluster to support local services.  The 3 Model L and 2 Model XL nodes would be deployed at a central office to provide support for File Server, Exchange, SQL, VDI, etc as well as acting as a replication target for the remote locations.

Bring your own hardware

If the solutions provided by StarWind don’t quite meet your requirements, or if you simply want to leverage a past investment, customers also have the option to use their own hardware for the StarWind HCA.  By purchasing just the software, services and support, a small business is able to keep costs down while getting more bang for their buck on their previous hardware investments by utilizing infrastructure they may already have in place.  Obviously there are concerns in terms of warranty and support when going with this model, but the key is there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to how the customer can deploy the StarWind HCA.

The software

Let’s face it, the underlying hardware is quickly becoming a commodity in today’s world and focus has quickly moved to the functionality of the software.  StarWind recognizes this and has taken a stance to deploy their HCA in a “best of breed” type scenario.  To best understand the this we can look no further than the diagram below, which outlines each piece of software included within StarWinds VMware offering…



The StarWind HCA comes at a minimum with 2 servers running vSphere 6 yet can scale to 64 nodes easily by simply dropping in more hosts.  As far as management goes the vCenter Server Appliance is licensed and preconfigured within the StarWind HCA in order to allow organizations to manage their environment with a  product they may already be familiar with – no need to learn new interfaces or attend respective training.  It should be noted that this review is focused around VMware, but the StarWind HCA does support Microsoft Hyper-V as well.


Hyperconvergence takes our traditional storage arrays, those big metal, external, shared storage solutions and collapses them down into the local storage, which in turn performs some magic and presents these local disks back out to the cluster as shared storage.  StarWind has built their company based on providing shared storage to clusters and their shared storage product, StarWind Virtual SAN is the backbone to providing availability within their HCA deployment, thus, we will spend most of our time focusing on this.

StarWind Virtual SAN is an installable product that runs on Microsoft Windows.  With a two-node deployment of the StarWind Hyperconverged Appliance you will see two instances of StarWind Virtual SAN, with each VM living on its’ own node.  From there, the local storage is claimed by the corresponding Virtual SAN VM, and presented back out to the ESXi hosts in terms of an iSCSI datastore.  The real power of Virtual SAN however comes in the form of availability as the product comes preconfigured in a highly available model.  It does this by utilizing NICs within the ESXi hosts to synchronously mirror the datastore from one Virtual SAN instance to what they call a Replication Partner, which is essentially the StarWind Virtual SAN instance on the other host.  On the ESXi host end of things, the software iSCSI initiator is used and binds multiple paths to the iSCSI target together, with each path pointing to a different StarWind Virtual SAN instance.  When looking at it from a physical mapping we see StarWind utilize 2 NICs on each ESXi host for their synchronization/replication traffic, as well as 1 NIC for their heartbeating/failover mechanisms.


Aside from availability StarWind Virtual SAN offers a lot more as well – too much really to go over in this post but could possible use a post of its own.  In terms of my favorites check out the following list.

  • Server-Side Cache – RAM and flash-based devices are utilized to provide performance in terms of write-back caching, which in turn reduces I/O latency and eliminates a lot of useless network traffic.  These caches, well, they are also synchronized between hosts so we aren’t left in a situation that could result in data loss.
  • Scale – StarWind can scale in multiple ways including both up and out.  We can scale up by simply increasing the number of drives and spindles that we have within each node.  Scaling out is achieved by adding another node complete with StarWind Virtual SAN which in turn gives us capacity, as well as CPU and Memory to our cluster.
  • Deduplication and Compression – Most physical arrays are deploying this in some fashion these days and even though StarWind Virtual SAN is software-based we can still get the capacity and I/O advantages that are offered through built-in inline deduplication and compression.
  • Snapshots – LUN based snapshots are provided within StarWind Virtual SAN and cold data can also be redirected to a less expensive, secondary storage tier if need be.
  • Future integration with VVOLs now in tech preview.

Data Protection

veam Be it the StarWind HCA is doing a great job at providing availability for your production data locally there are still times where corruption, or user-generated events happen and a backup need be called upon to save the day.  StarWind doesn’t have a backup solution of their own so in a true “best of breed” mentality they have went out and selected Veeam as their preferred partner to provide data protection within the HCA solution.   If customers opt to purchase Veeam with the StarWind HCA, it means that Veeam Backup & Replication (currently v8) will come pre-installed and fully configured along with all the other software – the only thing that the customer has left to do is add some backup storage and setup the backup jobs.


Another huge benefit of going with the StarWind HCA comes in terms of support.  Although the StarWind HCA contains various pieces from different vendors (StarWind, VMware, Veeam, Dell) all of the support and maintenance is processed under one SKU, leaving the customer with only one number to dial when needing some help.  This eliminates all of the “he said, she said” and finger-pointing that sometimes happen when dealing with multiple vendors support on their own.  All support is handled by StarWind Software, and is provided 24/7, 365 days a year.

What does it look like in the end?

When you purchase a StarWind 2 node HCA you can expect to see something similar to the following diagram


First up, 2 nodes, preinstalled with ESXi and fully configured.  On top of those we have a StarWind Virtual SAN node on each host, which claims all of the local storage and presents it back to the corresponding ESXi hosts in a fully replicated, highly available manner.  The key to the whole solution is that when the units are shipped to you they are completely configured and ready to go, with 4 preconfigured VMs (vCenter, StarWind Virtual SAN x2, and Veeam) – all you have to do is start deploying virtual machines and supporting your business.


As far as networking goes it will all be preconfigured for us, with the exception of the domain network (management/production) which would be specific to your business.  We can see that we have dedicated links for the heartbeating mechanisms (the magic behind Virtual SANs failover mechanism as well as dedicated links to handle the storage replication – the magic behind availability.

So what do I think…

StarWind has been in the software SAN game for a long time and it’s nice to see them start to provide a complete solution including the hardware and configuration as well.  Hyperconvergence is a great solution, which fits perfectly into the SMB space – however solutions today seem to be priced outside of what an SMB can afford.  StarWind has placed their hyperconverged solution at a price in which the SMB can handle – and provided a complete solution, including the hardware, software, hypervisor, and data protection – all under one support umbrella.  This is StarWinds first generation of their HCA so I’m excited to see where they go from here – I’ve already been told that they are previewing support for features such as VMware’s VVOLs so work is still being done.  In fact, it seams to me that a lot of the features we see on traditional hardware based arrays are also being supported on StarWinds software based Virtual SAN.  The StarWind HCA is a very easy solution to use – essentially it’s just vSphere and requires no configuration from the clients end.  In the end my overall experience with the StarWind HCA has been a good one!    StarWind HCA not only brings simplicity with their appliance, but also choice!  Customers can chose to utilize new or refurbished hardware, or simply roll their own install.  They can chose to include Veeam within their HCA deployment or go some other route!  They can chose to scale up or scale out depending on their needs  Choice and simplicity is key when it comes to providing a solution to SMB as they don’t normally have the IT resources, budget or time to spend on training and deployment.  The StarWind HCA is certainly a viable option for those small businesses that fit that description, looking to deploy an easy to use, highly available hyperconverged solution that can grow and shrink as they do at a fraction of the cost of other solutions out there today.

If you would like to learn more about StarWinds HCA you can do so here – also, they offer a fully functioning trial version and also a free version of StarWind Virtual SAN – the backbone of the HCA.  Also, if you are a StarWind HCA or a StarWind Virtual SAN user I’d love to hear your thoughts – simply use the comment boxes below for any questions, concerns, comments, etc..

What does VMTurbo, Starwind, Unitrends and the Habs have in common? Friday shorts that’s what!

And another installment of Friday Shorts – a spot for me to share some awesomeness I’ve found on the interwebs, upcoming events and info from some awesome blog sponsors, and just random thoughts around events and news that might not quite fit within the niche of this blog – basically a mashup of my brain!

First up – free passes to VMworld

VMTurboLogoSmVMworld is sneaking up faster than you think!  Have you got your conference pass yet?  If not why not help ease the pain on your company by letting VMTurbo pick up the conference pass for you?  Along with ensuring performance and maximizing efficiency in your data center the folks at VMTurbo are doing their best put a full VMworld US conference pass in the hands of three people – you can sign up here and the drawings for the three passes take place on May 29th, June 19th, and July 10th!  Good luck!

More freebies from Unitrends

unitrendsSo VMTurbo has you covered for the conference pass how’s about getting a little money to help cover the travel costs from Unitrends (trust me you will need it – the prices of hotels are crazy this year in San Fran).  Just this week Unitrends released Unitrends Free – a completely free, full featured backup solution for up to 1TB of data – I reviewed it here if you missed it!  Anyways, asides from putting a completely free backup product into your lab or data center Unitrends has a gig going right now where you can win a $1500 Visa Giftcard, just for downloading and registering FREE software.  You have till the end of June on this one so best get signed up!

Upcoming Starwind webinar

starwind_softwareStarwind Software, a long time mwpreston.net sponsor and creator of Starwind Virtual SAN have a webinar coming up on May 20 titled Snapshots vs Replication – chosing the right data protection strategy, presented by Chris Evans. If your interested I definitely recommend checking it out as making the choice between snapshots and replication and/or both are key in developing a fool proof data protection strategy!  Also, if you haven’t checked out Starwind Virtual SAN I would take a look at it as well.  I’ve used their free version in the lab numerous times for different projects!

EMC virtual VNX

EMC-LogoConference season is among us and with that comes a slew of releases and announcements.  One that caught my attention coming out of EMCworld was the release of a community edition of the VNXe software.  Shipped as an OVA you can simply load it into your environment and get the functionality and software stack of a VNXe, but without the dedicated storage hardware and controllers.  I love messing around with all different types of storage and VSA’s in the lab so I’ll for sure be looking at this a little closer!

Au reviour les habitants

priceAnd last but not least, and certainly the saddest news of the week is the second round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs for my beloved habs!  Honestly the bleu, blanc, et rouge had a great season, picking up 110 points and finishing 2nd overall in the eastern conference.  Their goalie, Carey Price had a career year – picking up nominations for both the Hart (League MVP) and Vezina (Best Goalie), and more than likely will take both these trophies home this summer.  That said expectations around hockey in Montreal are high and a second round exit overshadows all the success that they had!  Anyways we know Carey probably doesn’t care about those two trophies and is now out of the running for the only one he wanted.  All that said the Habs have a great core, and they are young – so hopefully we see improvements for years to come – they will need to pick up another top 6 forward though if they want to go anywhere in the post season!  At the end, they are now on the links and hopefully that means a little more time for me to work on this blog 🙂  Au revoir! Ole!

A slew of announcements from Starwind Software

November 15th was a pretty big day for the teams over at StarWind Software.  Three press releases came out from the company yesterday dealing not only with their iSCSI SAN solution but they are now a player in the backup space.  First off the recently released iSCSI SAN with High Availability is now available for the low low price of FREE!  There are some restrictions on the amount of data within the free edition however it’s still a great piece of technology to pull down and try!  Full press release is here.

Next up is the backup announcements.  A new version of their Storage Software and a Enhanced Backup for Windows Server Hyper-V is out now.  Again, another press release here.  Also last but certainly not least is the Backup Solution for VMware has now also been launched with full support for vSphere 5.1 – once more, press release here.

Big congrats to the teams over at StarWinds on a crazy launch day 🙂

Happy Birthday mwpreston dot net

As you’ve probably already guessed from the name of this post mwpreston dot net is finally in the books as being one year old. Honestly this is a fairly big accomplishment for me. It’s been a long ride since those first few blog posts (Hey, Who’s the new guy? and VMworld 2011 and the community that surrounds it)  Before starting this blog I have tried on numerous occasions to start others, all sort of falling by the wayside and ending up with me just giving up! So what was my key to obtaining success with this one? I’m not really sure, I think just sticking with it and comitting the time to try to get at the very least one post a week out there. Finally I started to get some readers, then the sponsors came and its been a great ride since then!

So what has the first year entailed for this blog? Well, for starters I’ve had some great sponsors (Veeam, PHD Virtual, AppAssure, Starwind and BitRefinery) come on board. This definitely helps cover costs of hosting and gear that it takes to produce the content. I’m very grateful to have them on the site! Secondly this blog played a pivotal role in my reciving the vExpert designation for 2012. I can’t tell you how much that award means to me. To be recognized by the company who’s technology you have so much passion for is amazing and humbling. And lastly (but most certainly definetly not even close to least) this blog has given myself the avenue to share back any knowledge I can with the community that I love and have learned so much from! A community that has brought me from your standard sysadmin, to a VCP, to a VMworld attendee to a vExpert! Its truly awesome to be able to share, engage, and participate within this group!

And to close out this wonderful birthday I have a few tidbits of stats to share…

That’s really all I have for now. Although some of the numbers are low I’ve very proud of the success I’ve had thus far and very grateful for my readers and their comments they have left.  Thank you all so much for reading and Ill do my best to continue to blog as much and as often as I can.

New StarWind Whitepaper – Why Is 3-Way Synchronous Mirroring Better Than 2-Way?

StarWind Software, a global leader in storage management and SAN software for small and midsize companies (or in the community terms – the company with the iSCSI SAN) has released a new whitepaper titled ;’Why Is 3-Way Synchronous Mirroring Better Than 2-Way?’

This white paper describes the difference between 3-and 2-way synchronous mirroring – capabilities that are both available in the StarWind iSCSI SAN & NAS solution. The document outlines the advantages of the 3-node high availability storage cluster that provides cost efficiency, increased reliability, and higher performance compared to 2-node HA.  You can go and grab a copy of it here.  While your there, you might as well grab yourself a copy of their FREE iSCSI SAN and try it out to see if it has a fit for you.

StarWind Software and Windows Server 2012 SOFS – No need for extra hardware!

One of the new features coming out inside of Windows Server 2012 is the ability to create what's called a Scaled Out File Server.    The Scale-Out File server is basically and active/active cluster solution in which all file servers can serve SMB client requests, so long as the scaled-out file shares are hosted on shared storage.  StarWind Software for years have been providing a software solution for shared storage, eliminating the need for expensive SAN or unreliable NAS hardware. Starwind has issued a press release stating their involvement with the Scaled Out File Server and how they can basically take the directly attached storage from the nodes, and simply turn that into shared storage for your clustered environment, eliminating the need to purchase additional hardware to support the new Microsoft feature.  Certainly this could be a great option for a SMB looking to provide some high availability without breaking the bank!  You can check out the full press release here.

More StarWind News – and more free lisenses!!!!

Are you a VMware vExpert, VMware Certified Instructor (VCI), Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), Citrix Technology Professional (CTP) or a Citrix Certified Instructor (CCI)?  If so you are in luck!!!  StarWind Software, the makers of the innovative iSCSI SAN software announced that they are now giving away NFR license keys of their High Availability SAN solutions to the groups listed above.  No way you say, yes way, you can head on over to this form to claim your copy of the StarWind iSCSI SAN, StarWind Native SAN for Hyper-V as well as the new VM Backup solution that they have.

It's great to see companies like this recognize the time that individuals from those communities put into 'spreading the word' and make it easier for all of us to gain access to the technologies that we need access to.  It makes everything so much easier when you arn't dealing with multiple trial licenses and expirey dates.  You can check out the official press release here.

One note, you only have until the end of September to get over there and get your keys, so go sign up, and if the form is too tricky for you simply send a message over to Roman Shovkun roman.shovkun@starwindsoftware.com (CSO of StarWind).

StarWind Software Solution Receives U.S. Army Certificate of Networthiness (CoN)

Now I've never worked for the army/military and I really have no experience with them, but I'm sure that it takes a lot for them to give their stamp of approval on a product or solution.  Also, there must be strict security, compliance, and sustainability requirements that vendors and solutions must meet in order to receive such an honour.  Well, I'm proud to say that one of my sponsors, StarWind Software has met just that and recieved the Certificate of Netwothiness from the US Army.  You can check out the full press release here and while your there you might better go and grab yourself a copy of their free iSCSI SAN.  That's right, you can get the same security, comparability, and sustainability in your organization knowing that the US Army has put their support behind it, and you can get it for free.  Congrats StarWind.

Dedup for your Dedup with #Veeam and #StarWind

Veeam does a great job at running deduplication to save valuable and expensive disk space for your backup storage however it does this per job, meaning all of the VMs within a job will be deduped with each other.  Now, I don't know anyone that has all of their VMs grouped within one single job, most the time their are multiple jobs each containing multiple VMs.  In the latter case you could be saving even more space (and money) if you could only apply deduplication to span across multiple Veeam backup jobs, and now, you can…enter StarWind Software and Global Deduplication. 

StarWind and Veeam have teamed up yet again to provide you as a Veeam customer the ability to save valuable space and money by applying deduplication across your Veeam Backup jobs, and they are doing this for the low low price of free…It's called Global deduplication for Veeam Backup and Replication and you can get it here.

By utilizing StarWind's iSCSI SAN technology and Veeam's Backup and Replication v6 you can setup your backup repositories inside of Veeam to reside on an iSCSI target provided by StarWind.  This will give you the best of both worlds.  Dedup inside the job from Veeam and more dedup across the repository by StarWind.  Did I mention that this solution was also cross-tested, certified, and fully supported by Veeam and StarWind?  Did I also mention that this solution is FREE to all Veeam customers?
Hopefully in the future I will have some time to put this solution together in my lab and do a few tests to see just how much space you can save and when i do I will most certainly post my results here.  For the time being, you can check out a couple of documents; 3 reasons to deploy Global dedup and the Solutions Overview which show some fantastic results and savings (up to 90%!!!!).  Also, I'd love to hear from anyone who has taken advantage of this offer and see just what their results were, leave your comments, questions, results below in the comments area…
On a side note, if you are not a Veeam customer you can still check out StarWind's iSCSI SAN for free by going to their product site, registering and downloading.  Also, if you are a vExpert, VCP, VCI, MCP, MCTS, or a MVP you can go and grab yourself a couple of NFR sockets worth of Veeam Backup and Replication for free by filling out the applicable form (VMware / Hyper-V)   No excuses not to try these technologies out now…