In the virtualized environment, we can use many great tools for storage resources. These include virtual storage appliances, especially to attach to running virtual machine instances in the environment, like VMware vSphere. Recently, StarWind released a new version of their free SAN & NAS appliance, which is a great tool for learning and even production use cases. Let’s look at the new features in this release and the overall functionality you get with the StarWind SAN & NAS virtual storage appliance.
What is a virtual storage appliance?
First, what is a virtual storage appliance in general? A virtual storage appliance is much what it sounds like. It is a purpose-built virtual machine that provides storage capacity to a VMware ESXi host, Microsoft Hyper-V, or some other virtualization technology without any additional hardware, specifically server hardware.
No additional hardware needed
In other words, without purchasing a Dell EMC storage array, you can have storage presented to a hypervisor host with just a little configuration and no additional bare metal resources, using existing infrastructure.
This can lead to cost savings when using this type of storage product. It can even be engineered with high availability in mind, and performance can be very good as well.
Can be used as a virtual SAN appliance
These are often referred to as virtual SAN appliance instances and SAN appliances since they can be the target for virtual machines running using iSCSI or some other storage protocol to connect to the virtual storage appliance software-defined storage solution.
What is the StarWind SAN & NAS virtual storage appliance?
The StarWind SAN & NAS virtual storage appliance is a virtual storage appliance that provides a quick and easy interface allowing you to provision virtual storage capacity for resources in your environment that need to attach via iSCSI.
Use cases for StarWind SAN & NAS
StarWind positions the SAN & NAS appliance for three separate use cases:
Storage Appliance – you can use your existing server as a storage capacity and creating storage targets in your virtual environment
Shared Storage – Create storage capacity by repurposing server clusters and server hardware to power other infrastructure with storage targets
Backup Target – You can use the SAN & NAS appliance as a backup target to store your backups and enhance your data protection strategy. In this new release, you can use StarWind SAN & NAS as a Veeam Hardened Repository integrations.
The StarWind SAN & NAS virtual storage appliance can be deployed using a Linux-based virtual machine or a bare metal ISO image.
New features in the December 2022 release of StarWind SAN & NAS
You can view the official release notes from StarWind on the SAN & NAS appliance here: Latest release notes of StarWind SAN & NAS (starwindsoftware.com). Note the following new additions with the latest release of the StarWind SAN & NAS appliance and modified components:
Volumes to storage management menu
User management in the web console
Service management in the web console
New wizards for pool management (Manage pool, Add disks, Change layout, Replace disk, Hot spares)
Veeam Hardened Repository integrations
Redesigned storage pool wizards
Updated Text-based User Interface
Latest security updates installed
Deploying the StarWind SAN & NAS appliance
Deploying the StarWind SAN & NAS virtual storage appliance is very easy. StarWind provides the relevant deployment files needed for your respective environment, such as VMware vSphere. Here I am deploying the provided OVF template file to a VMware vSphere environment.
New console look
Once you deploy the appliance, you should see the new console screen display the relevant information for connecting to the web interface. I like the look of the new console displayed on the VM helping you to get the relevant information needed for connecting to the web interface. In addition, the appliance no longer has you connect to a non-standard port for the web interface. Instead, you now browse to the standard 443 SSL port.
Once you browse to the web interface for the first time, you will run through an initial setup wizard that will have you set up an admin user, basic networking, etc. One of the enhancements I like with this release compared to previous releases is you can configure an admin user. Before, the admin user was called user, which was a bit non-intuitive. Also, you couldn’t change this during the setup.
Once you have the initial configuration in place, you will be taken to the StarWind SAN & NAS dashboard which looks great and provides a wealth of information.
One of the web interface’s new features is adding Volumes to the configuration panel. The workflow is exactly as laid out in the web interface from top to bottom on the left-hand menu regarding the order of operations. First, you need to provision a disk, then a virtual storage pool, then a volume, and then you can create a virtual disk to attach to your hosts.
Creating a volume
Below we are creating a volume in the wizard that launches from the web interface.
You can define the purpose of the new volume. The choices are Standard and Backup repository.
Review the summary of configuration options when creating a new volume.
Adding a virtual disk to your hypervisor host
StarWind SAN and NAS makes it easy to add a new virtual disk to your hypervisor host, such as VMware ESXi, by automatically creating a new iSCSI target when you create a new virtual disk.
In VMware ESXi you can simply point your ESXi host to the storage LUN presented as the target to the iSCSI address.
Virtual Storage Appliance FAQs
What is a virtual storage appliance? A virtual storage appliance is often run as a virtual machine in a virtualization environment and allows provisioning storage for hypervisor hosts and other use cases, such as for backup, lab environments, and shared storage capacity.
What is StarWind SAN & NAS? The StarWind SAN & NAS solution is a free solution available for download, allowing you to create quick and easy storage targets for virtualization and backups in just minutes. You can install the solution as a virtual machine or install it on bare metal with an ISO image.
Is StarWind SAN & NAS free? Yes, you can download the StarWind SAN and NAS appliance for free. You do need to sign up with a valid email address and the key and download links are emailed to you.
StarWind SAN & NAS posts
Take a look at my previous posts covering the StarWind SAN & NAS solution here:
- Free Virtual SAN Storage Software with StarWind
- Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI Storage Using StarWind Free SAN & NAS
- NVMe-oF RAID Data Protection in StarWind Backup Appliance
The StarWind SAN & NAS appliance is a great solution that satisfies many interesting use cases, including reusing old hardware, creating backup repositories, and for lab environments. I have personally found the StarWind SAN & NAS appliance to be one of the easiest virtual storage appliances to spin up that you can find when working with iSCSI in the lab.