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StarWind HyperConverged Appliance Overview

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Published: February 17, 2016

Value Proposition

For SMB, ROBO and Enterprises, who look to bring in quick deployment and operation simplicity to virtualization workloads and reduce related expenses, our solution is StarWind HyperConverged Appliance (HCA). It unifies commodity servers, disks and flash, hypervisor of choice and associated software into a single manageable layer. StarWind HCA supports scale-up by adding disks and flash, and scale-out by adding ready nodes.

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance targets those, who are building their virtualization infrastructure from scratch. In case there is an existing set of servers, we offer a “software only version”, which is essentially our years proven StarWind Virtual SAN. Basically, it’s the fuel powering StarWind HCA.

StarWind HCA consolidates best-of-breed hardware and
software components into a single manageable layer


Unlike typical hyperconverged solutions, StarWind HCA has a minimalistic hardware footprint, with initial Highly-Available setup of 2 servers. Switches are not required, flash is optional, as well as 10-100 GbE. As a matter of fact, the appliance will easily go with 1 GbE, if required. With less hardware to purchase and maintain, StarWind HCA is easier to manage, and expenses are dramatically reduced. Besides, there are no “hidden costs”, typically present in other hyperconverged solutions in the form of additional hardware or software requirements. Employing all the technologies of StarWind VSAN, StarWind HyperConverged Appliance achieves Enterprise-class performance and features at SMB and ROBO cost.

Unlike “classic” approach, where compute and storage layers are separated: hypervisor running on commodity servers and storage on traditional hardware SAN or NAS, StarWind HCA is hyperconverged. It merges both layers together in a single appliance, requiring less effort from the on-site IT team and using less hardware for the same task. Therefore, hyperconverged appliance is easier to manage and definitely less expensive to buy and maintain. To make things even more convenient, the whole appliance is covered by a single “support umbrella” from StarWind, so there is no finger-pointing from vendor to vendor in a support case. It also delivers better performance and more features than “compute and storage separated” architecture.

Unlike Software Defined Storage solutions, where hardware and software are both chosen and assembled on Do-It-Yourself basis, StarWind HCA is a turnkey solution ready for immediate work. It is, basically, a single purchase for the entire virtualization infrastructure, without any time wasted by onsite IT team on DIY tinkering with hardware and software. All the components from several vendors are already pre-built into appliance, pre-configured and covered by a single “support umbrella” with StarWind as your “one throat to choke” in terms of support.




As the name implies, StarWind HyperConverged Appliance adopts hyperconverged architecture, combining compute and storage resources into one scalable layer. It is exceptionally easy to manage and very cost-efficient, reducing all virtualization expenses, including energy consumption. For these reasons, Hyperconvergence is “the way to go” for SMB and ROBO with their limited budgets and understaffed IT teams.

Converged (“Compute and Storage separated”)

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance is, obviously, hyperconverged. However, it can become a part of Converged architecture, serving storage outside the appliance. It uses industry-standard uplink protocols: SMB3, NFS and iSCSI, so it easily integrates into any virtualization infrastructure.

VM-Centric Storage and StarWind Log-Structured File System (LSFS)

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance employs StarWind VSAN Log-structuring feature to handle virtualization workload. It battles the common virtualization-associated issues that cause performance degradation, like “I/O blender”. Thus, Log-structuring makes the minimalistic resources enough resources for even Enterprise routine, not to mention everyday SMB and ROBO tasks.

Server-Side Cache

StarWind HCA uses multi-tiered RAM and flash caching for exceptional performance, reducing I/O latency to an absolute minimum. Utilizing StarWind VSAN, it achieves high performance with conventional SATA SSD, RAM and MLC flash. Caches are distributed between the nodes, achieving fast and reliable write back policy without employing uber-expensive proprietary hardware.

Snapshots and Automated Storage Tiering

StarWind HCA employs StarWind VSAN inter-node tiering technology, which is essentially a performance-preserving and flash-saving mechanism. It offloads the rarely-used “cold” data from expensive primary storage to inexpensive secondary tier, stopping performance degradation and prolonging flash life.

Deduplication and Compression

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance uses space reduction technologies for better performance and capacity utilization. Deduplication and compression reduce the actual amount of data to be transferred, written, read or processed, thus removing the unnecessary workload from HDD, flash and wire.

Hardware Agnostic and Commodity Hardware

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance uses commercial off-the-shelf hardware, which is part of the reason for its cost-efficiency. There is no overpriced proprietary stuff, typically associated with turnkey solutions that make the customer pay extra for custom rails, etc. StarWind HCA is built on affordable commodity hardware that comes in a discount bundle, dramatically reducing the price of purchase and maintenance.

Fault Tolerance and High Availability

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance achieves fault-tolerance and high availability with a minimalistic two-node setup. It utilizes StarWind VSAN to “mirror” storage and caches between the nodes. As a result, the appliance can withstand failures of individual disks, memory modules or even an entire node
without compromising uptime.

Scale-Up and Scale-Out

StarWind HCA scales according to the business needs, adopting both scale-out and scale-up architectures. Ready HCA nodes or individual flash and disks can be added to handle the growing workload without “overkill” overprovisioning and spending more money than is actually required.

Asynchronous Replication

StarWind HyperConverged Appliance comes with an industry-leading backup solution – Veeam Backup and Replication. It will ensure the safety of mission-critical data and minimize the risk of data corruption even in case of disasters. There is also the option to use public or private cloud as the DR site, for example – Azure.

Virtual Storage Appliance

There is a version of StarWind Virtual SAN, designed for fast deployment from a pre-configured VMware or Hyper-V compatible VM appliance. In case one can find a suitable application for this version in StarWind HCA, it is not prohibited. However, the Virtual Storage Appliance is meant to install on existing hardware set for testing purposes, rather than full-fledged production platform, mainly because it needs some tinkering by StarWind engineers to achieve maximum possible performance.

Virtual Tape Library (VTL)

StarWind HCA comes with a disabled VTL option for obvious reasons. However, in case the customer decides to use the appliance in his tape backup infrastructure, he can always enable it back. There are absolutely no restrictions on this matter.

HCA Models

When “one size first all”, it really never fits anyone. Therefore, StarWind HyperConverged Appliance comes in three models: