As every business grows, it reaches waypoints on its journey that are marked by critical turning points. For a startup, it might be the first major client coming on board, or a million-dollar deal, or maybe it’s the opening of a second office — most of these junctures happen to every business that lives longer than a few years.
In terms of the technology that underpins businesses, you’ll also find junctures along the road that mark a change. For example, when an organization shifts to a paid tier on freemium platforms, or reaches the point where a single employee who’s been “keeping an eye on the computers” (probably as part of other duties) needs help from — or even the hiring of — a full time IT specialist.
In technology especially, waypoints as a business grows can be kept track of numerically: perhaps when media archives reach 10TB, or when the dollar cost of disaster recovery system becomes less than the overall business cost of a couple of days’ downtime.
However, for many growing organizations, those technology-based turning points often come with hefty price tags: go-to vendors want to start charging enterprise-level fees for services and features that are essential to even modest, medium-sized businesses turning over a lot less than an enterprise’s billions per annum. When it comes to an organization’s data storage, even small startups can very quickly need the kind of data capacity and management that, five years ago were considered “enterprise-like,” but today are run-of-the-mill.
A case in point is when it becomes useful (and eventually mandatory) for there to be some kind of abstraction of overall storage capacities. It usually makes good sense to utilize every available megabyte available across a business, yet in the context of resources not necessarily being physically available where they are needed. Remote offices, edge-installations, even making mass storage available to employees working from home — storage abstraction quickly becomes a way to empower people and services as and when (and where) they are needed.
However, there is a significant mismatch between storage area networking prices from the likes of Microsoft and VMWare and the practical need for SANs in many instances. Extending an existing virtualized server stack with a VSAN on the hypervisor’s native product suddenly looks like a limiting factor: forget plans to equip a new remote office properly; the license costs are just too eye-watering.
There are dozens of solutions to this situation that are eminently possible, but they usually involve either a high degree of self-compile-and-build, or an extensive overhaul of lots of systems to ensure compatibility. The open-source route is perfect for organizations with on-hand specialist staff, but most businesses need to deploy virtualized storage networks quickly and often in places where putting any technicians on the ground might be tricky in the long term.
Over the last few weeks on Tech HQ, we’ve been examining the enterprise-grade technology and (oftentimes) hardware available from vendors offering ready-to-go solutions that don’t come with license models that make big-tech shareholders smile. Here we talked about Starwind‘s HCI systems (hyperconverged infrastructure) solutions that provide the kind of abstracted infrastructure not out of place in a modern data center but deployed on even low-end CCTV and surveillance systems.
In a similar vein, the company’s VSAN is designed to run on over-the-counter hardware (a pair of x86-based boxes as a starting point), yet it provides the type of abstraction of every available scrap of storage wherever it’s needed. That makes the solution perfect for new ROBOs (remote or branch office), edge installations in secondary facilities, and of course, in the company’s server room. A base-level install immediately replicates itself, providing immediate failover, so it’s effectively pre-hardened to outages. It’s also well-ranked as one of the highest performing iSCSI implementations available on the market today, so the entire storage array performs at its best (the platform was explicitly written to optimize for any available SSD/NVMe/flash resources, as well as HDD).
Earlier in this article, we touched on the issue of the need for specialist support staff to create and maintain high-end facilities like VSAN. As with Starwind’s other abstraction technologies, it’s run and maintained from a simple dashboard that makes provisioning over multiple protocols straightforward. It works with existing hypervisors of whatever flavor so that pools can be created and distributed over VMWare, KVM, Microsoft, or Xen virtual servers without any licensing headaches from counting cores/processors or missing out on features because the cost of “better” tiers is just too high.
The ethos of all Starwind’s offerings is simple: enterprise-grade systems for everybody that needs them. And in 2021, where data is accrued at rates that were not foreseen when the big vendors were planning their licensing structures, the Starwind abstraction systems make perfect sense.
You can get started with the company’s free VSAN/NAS, or download the full product for 30 days testing in your lab or sandboxed environment. Once the reliability and speed are apparent, you can progress to a fully licensed model. Many users will also appreciate the very high levels of human support available 24/7 from Starwind staff — all of whom are techs themselves and happy to guide with any installation or configuration issues you might need to discuss.
As a realistic option in a data-centric world, Starwind seems to be one of the few companies with a realistic notion of what today’s growing businesses need from their technology stack and is unique in not wanting to fleece its customers at every available opportunity.