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Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Buyer's Guide

Download the Software Defined Storage (SDS) Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: September 2022

What is Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct?

Storage Spaces Direct uses industry-standard servers with local-attached drives to create highly available, highly scalable software-defined storage at a fraction of the cost of traditional SAN or NAS arrays. Its converged or hyper-converged architecture radically simplifies procurement and deployment, while features like caching, storage tiers, and erasure coding, together with the latest hardware innovation like RDMA networking and NVMe drives, deliver unrivaled efficiency and performance.

Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct was previously known as MS Storage Spaces Direct.

Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct Customers

Acuutech, Quest Technology Management, Bradley, Mead & Hunt

Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct Video

Archived Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct Reviews (more than two years old)

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Lawrence Tse - PeerSpot reviewer
Founder, Professional Services Director, Lead Architect at Falcon Consulting
Real User
Top 10
A great solution for fostering the natural expansion of the traditional hybrid culture
Pros and Cons
  • "The flash ability, in terms of tiering and caching, is amazing"
  • "Documentation management could be improved"

What is our primary use case?

There are specific use cases. For the time being, most of our customers use this solution to foster the natural expansion of the traditional hybrid culture. There are two versions: they can use the hybrid form and sometimes they use the development VMware form. The goal is to optimize the cost for the data expanse, to expand the expenses. That's why the VMware customers have trouble with VMware, because of the expansive high maintenance fees.

Primarily, our customers use this solution for site recovery. They are using the STD platform to form a hybrid-converged infrastructure.

What is most valuable?

The flash ability, in terms of tiering and caching, is amazing. 

Traditionally, when you use other storage solutions, when you tier, you need to get a license. There are some limitations to tiering with this solution. You have got the caching media, for example. For Microsoft, as long as the hardware is still certified or in the server, you can use it. Most vendors, including Dell, IBM, and Fuji Shield include plenty of hardware that you can use which is certified for Microsoft Windows. 

What needs improvement?

Most of the VMware customers I have been engaging with say they have experienced engagement problems. VMware is trying to sell off the VMware enterprise cost and the whole solution is being sold down to a customer, whereas, usually they would try to intentionally avoid talking about the related Windows license. 

It's not very eye-catching but it's still sizable and we have implemented several Storage Spaces Direct projects for our customers. Currently, we're working hard to replace some of the special storage and hopefully even replace the harder converged storage, etc.

Documentation management could be improved. 

The reason why this product is not being widely accepted by the public is that it doesn't include intuitive streamline, which makes it far from complete.

Storage Spaces Direct is powerful and the performance is amazing, but if you need to deliver a high price-performance ratio and visible performance, you need to have expertise in tuning. Many people will not be able to enjoy this opportunity because it's not included in the training. In this case, you need to have a system integrator.  

A Complete management UI using a web-based interface would be a beneficial feature. They should also use a direct API — currently, they are only using partial API. Often, our customers need to work with other web-based solutions, so they require full API. I am writing my own API for this reason, and our customers are ok with that, but full API would be a very helpful feature that would lead to much more customer satisfaction.

Microsoft should provide support for other channels. Microsoft OS supports other channels, but when they become the S2D storage solution, it's very easy to customize the quality. Technically, you can switch channels and replace your storage, but you will need to store away all of the fiber channel equipment, the hardware, and the cables, which can be very expensive.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct for at least three and a half years.

We have been implementing Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct for several customers. And personally, I'm the architect of Microsoft at my location.

I am the chief architect of this project. I am also the architect of the internal production house. We are in charge of implementing Storage Spaces Direct into the solution.

Buyer's Guide
Software Defined Storage (SDS)
September 2022
Find out what your peers are saying about Microsoft, Nutanix, StarWind and others in Software Defined Storage (SDS). Updated: September 2022.
634,325 professionals have used our research since 2012.

How was the initial setup?

In order to implement Storage Spaces Direct, you need to have a very comprehensive understanding of storage. High-speed storage networks require fine-tuning in order to function optimally. For this reason, all storage, aisles, and tiering need to be finely-tuned.

Technical companies and vendors that only have Microsoft training, will only implement the software side, ignoring the hardware side. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's a one-off price. Storage Space Direct is a bundled feature of the Windows server. There are no on-going costs and of course, you can purchase the software through it and enjoy the free upgrades. There are no underlying hidden costs, etc. because it is all included in Windows.

What other advice do I have?

This solution has an on-premise clouding bridge, but actively, there is no cloud version. 

Overall, on a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of nine. For me, it's very difficult to deal with marketing, I need to handle it for Microsoft. When we try to engage with customers, they are not interested because Microsoft doesn't have the corresponding credit, and due to this, we lose customers. If I am going to be confident enough to promote this Microsoft solution, I need my customer to have 100% trust in me. I am not comfortable promoting this solution to new customers. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
PeerSpot user
Enterprise Architect/Manager at a transportation company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Scalable, but only if you go with more than two nodes
Pros and Cons
  • "It's mainly about the storage expansion, like in hyper-converged solutions."
  • "It is scalable, but only beyond two nodes. If I go for two nodes it's not scalable. I need to build a complete cluster from the beginning if I'm going for two nodes."

What is most valuable?

It's mainly about the storage expansion, like in hyper-converged solutions.

What needs improvement?

There is room for improvement in their network capabilities. Right now, if I'm going with the on-prem Storage Spaces Direct then I need to have a toll switch. They have a requirement: If I'm going for more nodes, they need to have raw traffic — which means FCoE traffic — that can only be through a toll switch. All other OEMs that have hyper-converged do not require a toll switch; I can just plug into a core or distribution.

The main reason that people are moving away from the existing, traditional, converged solution is to replace that toll switch.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct for about the last two years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There haven't been many crashes because I'm not running a big database on it. There are specific, small applications running over the software. For an on-prem campus, it has been fine.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is scalable, but only beyond two nodes. If I go for two nodes it's not scalable. I need to build a complete cluster from the beginning if I'm going for two nodes.

How are customer service and technical support?

Whenever there is a requirement or a challenge, or if there is something specific regarding the requirements, the team usually contacts Microsoft. The technical support depends upon the contract you have with Microsoft. If you have a premium-level contract, you can even go up to the developer.

What other advice do I have?

You need to evaluate what your requirements are because the market is moving on with the cloud. You need to look at which cloud you are going with. If you're going with Microsoft cloud, it's good to go with the Storage Spaces Direct. But you need to see how it compares in the market right now. Look at the industry reviews that have already been done. If you look at industry reports, Storage Spaces Direct is not at the highest, leading level right now. Nutanix or VxRail are the market leaders for hyper-converged right now, overall. You need to see their roadmap and how they are going to proceed in the next two to three years.

What I see from Microsoft is the Azure Stack coming on-prem, and that will be a refreshment for Storage Spaces Direct.

The biggest lesson I have learned from using the solution is don't go with the two-node solution.

I would rate it at six out of 10. It depends upon our use cases; where I'm using it. I initially went with a two-node and I had to break the cluster and build it completely from scratch to expand it.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
Buyer's Guide
Software Defined Storage (SDS)
September 2022
Find out what your peers are saying about Microsoft, Nutanix, StarWind and others in Software Defined Storage (SDS). Updated: September 2022.
634,325 professionals have used our research since 2012.
Noel Teng - PeerSpot reviewer
Technology Specialist at myIAN
Real User
Has good caching capabilities using storage-class memory but the online documentation needs improvement
Pros and Cons
  • "The most valuable feature are the caching capabilities using the storage class memory."
  • "I think the online documentation needs a lot of work and so do the sizing tools."

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for this solution is mostly for various consolidations. The most common use case is for ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) and consolidation like EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), knowledge bases, SQL server, and other databases. I require a very high IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) for clients and this is what the solution provides.  

What is most valuable?

I think probably the most important feature in this product is the caching capabilities using the storage-class memory.  

What needs improvement?

Actually the technology is heading in the right direction so it is a little difficult to criticize the product itself for what we use it for. I think the online documentation needs a lot of work and so do the sizing tools. Considering what this tool is for, these tools are a very important part of the product.  

I know what some of the features are that will be coming out because I do have the opportunity to check in with some of the people on the product team. Like for example, it will support thresh clusters, which means that I can have two nodes in one location and two nodes in another location belonging to the same cluster.  

One more feature beyond that is the ability to converse with the cloud. This adds some processing abilities that are amazing. This type of solution is also something that many of the other competitors cannot say that they have. They just don't have the same capabilities in terms of the reach with the services that Microsoft currently has in the cloud. Microsoft's reach in the cloud is really very extensive.  

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct since 2016.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In terms of reliability, it depends on how the customer looks after it. Especially if they are using the Ready Nodes and the Lenovo product they should have no problems with the stability of their solutions. But like anything else, obviously, the admins and the server folks need to be trained on it. I would not take for granted that just because this windows server is easy and that they have familiarity with it already that they do not need training and it will be perfectly easy to use. Like any technology solution, they do need training.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Microsoft Storage Spaces is very scalable. You can go up to 16 nodes in one cluster. Then you can group the clusters together using something called cluster sets. You can build clusters as you want using various generations of hardware. So scalability-wise this product is amazing. And also you can add drives into existing notes and also on top of that you can add directly-attached storage to nodes that can expand just the storage without increasing the compute.  

So the scalability is some of the architectural advantage of this solution.  

How are customer service and technical support?

We do not have to contact Microsoft technical support because of the way the solutions are implemented. If you buy the Dell Ready Nodes or you buy the Lenovo solution, you can contact Dell and Lenovo directly. You do not actually need to contact Microsoft. Both Dell and Lenovo have a contract with Microsoft so that they get the support directly from Microsoft without the customer having to talk to Microsoft directly at all. These companies own that solution — both the hardware and the software.  

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We do use multiple brands depending on client needs so our situation is not so much that we switch or adopt something and leave something else behind as the client might. From brand to brand there are differences and advantages.  

The Dell product focuses on this thing called Ready Nodes. They are not really very prescriptive about what models of drive or caching devices that you should use with it, which is very good. But at the same time not very flexible because the product is so prescriptive in other ways. This makes decisions easier but limits some opportunities.  

HP is very, very flexible. But maybe they need to be a bit more prescriptive. Sometimes if customers have too many choices, they have more probability of making the wrong decision and they end up buying the wrong solutions or solutions that are not optimal for their situation.  

Lenovo has something that is really the equivalent to Ready Nodes. So from that perspective, you can say that Dell and Lenovo have probably the easiest way of helping users make choices when buying the solution.  

How was the initial setup?

In the initial set up, if you have the right hardware, the setup is actually very straightforward. There are a lot of step-by-steps available online that you can follow, so it is not an issue getting it set up. I think that the problem is there are not enough details. We can use many different types of hardware and the different types of hardware have different specific requirements. Like for example, with the HBA (Host Bus Adapter) card, different brands use different models. Dell has their own line with the HB330, HP uses its own brand of HBA and RAID controller cards. Lenovo, of course, uses their own brand of cards as well — Qlogic. So different brands have slightly different requirements and as a result, the setup is probably not a friendly as probably could be.  

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Cost-wise the product is one of the more affordable within the category of products.  

What other advice do I have?

Anyone considering this solution should make sure that they test the features that they are specifically looking for to be confident that the solution has all the capabilities that they need. This is the advice I always give all participants in the events and the training that I conduct.  

Users need to be comfortable with a solution that they are choosing and they have to make their choices for good reasons. You need to be exposed to it and do not just jump into any solution without being trained on it and learning more about it. Do not make excuses just for a chance to buy any solution made by any brand. That, of course, includes Storage Spaces Direct right.  

On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct as a seven-out-of-ten in general as a product.  

The reason for this rating is that there are both good things and some things that can be improved. From a cost perspective, Storage Spaces Direct is probably one of the most affordable. In terms of reliability, scalability, performance, security and so forth, it is definitely very good. The areas that I think they need to do better with are definitely in the area of the sizing tool, the documentation, and training for the customers. I feel they do not have enough training for the customers or for the partners who are also learning the solution and need to have a broad understanding.  

When considering a product, it is not the technology alone that people should evaluate. They should evaluate the whole package if you want to get the right solution. They should learn about the people that they have to work and interact with when using the technology. Not everyone gets to go to Ignite in the US to learn directly from the product team. Many people have to depend on learning from the locals in their own country and the exposure of these local experts to higher-level training is still very limited.  

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
PeerSpot user
System Engineer at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
Real User
A robust solution that is straightforward to set up and has no single point of failure
Pros and Cons
  • "The most valuable feature is that there is no single point of failure."
  • "More optimization could be done in terms of mirroring."

What is our primary use case?

We are a system integrator and we work with many storage solutions, including Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is that there is no single point of failure. There are many individual places that can fail, but you do not have general failures.

What needs improvement?

With this solution, you have to invest much more in hardware than is required with some other solutions. An example is that costly SSD drives are needed for caching.

The overall cost of this solution needs to be reduced. 

More optimization could be done in terms of mirroring. In order to have 20 terabytes of usable storage, you have to buy about sixty. 

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using the demo version of this solution for a few weeks.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had any problems with stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I would say that it is scalable.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We have used and implemented many different storage solutions, depending on the client.

For example, for smaller implementations, we have used iSCSI. It is much cheaper, is easier to manage, and has fewer points where problems can occur.

Another example is that we use Cisco HyperFlex for some clients.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is more or less straightforward. It's not too complex. 

I am a Linux administrator and have a lot of experience with the command-line interface, so it was easy for me. However, for Microsoft administrators, it may be more difficult because there is no GUI.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

With the data center licensing and everything that is connected to that, this solution is relatively costly.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

So far, for our implementations, this solution has not been suitable for us.

What other advice do I have?

Croatia is relatively small and we don't have many big companies. The most common implementation has 10 or 20 terabytes of storage, but you don't need high performance for all of it. Often, you only need the best performance for running a database that is perhaps one terabyte in size.

The ideal thing would be to have this solution work with Windows standard licensing. For larger installations, it will be very good to have access to all of the Windows data center features. On the other hand, if you only have four or five virtual machines running in a hyper-converged cluster then you don't gain much from the data center licensing. It would be very useable with the standard license.

Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct definitely has its advantages, especially with robustness and scalability. The main reason that we have not implemented this solution or put it into production is because of the pricing.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
PeerSpot user
reviewer984885 - PeerSpot reviewer
Infrastructure Lead at a government with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
There were many situations I put myself in while testing, and the data was never at risk

What is our primary use case?

Full production. This is now our primary storage and hypervisor (hyper-converged) solution for our primary cluster.

How has it helped my organization?

The performance is immediately noticeable by end users of all our on-premise applications. The cost (we were a Hyper-V customer anyway) was significantly less than anything comparable.

What is most valuable?

Resiliency. There were many situations I put myself in while testing, and the data was never at risk.

What needs improvement?

RDMA ease of deployment. The performance benefits only came with all the new technology, and not only was RDMA a big requirement, but it was also the most challenging to be fully confident in 100%. We used RoCEv2 and switched to iWaRP a year later.

To expand on our challenges, we have the hosts connected via multiple 40GB connections to Cisco 9396 switches with vPC. We had a lot of experience with Fiber Channel in the past, but using ethernet for storage was a change that we didn't have a lot of practical experience with. MS strongly recommends using RDMA and we decided to use RoCEv2. After it was all setup we could see the performance counters confirmed that RDMA was being used, but that doesn't mean that DCB is working 100% correctly. There isn't a lot of great articles published on PFC and DCB configuration end-to-end because it depends on your NICs, Host OS, Switches, etc. Piecing learnings from Mellonix, MS and Cisco documents we believed we had it configured correctly, but we never had 100% confidence that we had and it is very difficult to find a partner willing to put a stamp of certification confirming they believed it was 100% configured correctly (Cisco vPC, DCB/DCBx, LLDP, PFC, SMB multichannel, RDMA, etc. all in the mix). When we experienced some unexplained issues that pointed to intermittent network issues which some errors suggested could be related to RDMA, it was difficult to troubleshoot. When we switched to LACP with vPC (which doesn't work with RDMA/RoCE and so we disabled it) the issues didn't reoccur, but the performance became much less consistent. When we switched to iWarp, the performance was reliably good again and the issues didn't reoccur. It's difficult to be sure where the issue was, my gut says it was PFC configuration on the Cisco switches and with iWarp DCB doesn't need to be 100% because it uses TCP rather then PFC to tolerate certain network conditions. I think we would have seen similar issues with vSAN, but I can't be certain...it may be more tolerant of the edge cases.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We had challenges with stability in the first few months while testing S2D, just as we were migrating production to it. It was frustrating at times, there were learning curves, and when you run your storage over the network, you need to be fully confident in every aspect of your cluster's network configuration. I believe we would have had similar challenges with vSAN or any other storage solution using our network as the host/storage interconnect. After working with it and learning it more, I have much more confidence in the stability of the product, and with Storage Spaces Ready Nodes from vendors (which didn't exist when we bought and built), it is much easier to become confident quickly.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The only challenge with scalability is that after you add hosts to the cluster, you'll want to create a new volume and live-migrate your workloads to it, then delete your old volume. Hopefully, this can be automated with the "optimize-volume" in the future.

How are customer service and technical support?

I did have to call support, and Microsoft's frontline support is not adequate if you rely on this for your business. Microsoft Premier support is worth it if you are a medium to large business, or running mission-critical services from this infrastructure.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used Dell Compellent as our storage previously.

How was the initial setup?

The documentation when we built (as soon as Server 2016 was RTM) was not as good as it is now, but it was still relatively straightforward with the exception of Cisco/Mellanox RDMA interoperability.

What about the implementation team?

In-house (me).

What was our ROI?

Two years. We were paying huge support fees for storage with our SAN. We manage it all ourselves now.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

If you still use VMware as your hypervisor, you should consider Hyper-V. Since 2012 R2, it is as good as VMware, and with S2D it is much more cost effective.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We didn't test any other options, but we did research and evaluate other options (Nutanix, Nimble, vSAN, etc.).

What other advice do I have?

Stop using mechanical spinning disks; it costs more in the long run for all the performance challenges. Consider iWarp if you don't already have advanced experience with successful RoCE (DCB, PFC) deployments.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
PeerSpot user
reviewer984885 - PeerSpot reviewer
reviewer984885Infrastructure Lead at a government with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User

It's been another successful year of production use. It's been rock solid and Windows Admin Center with Server 2019 (aka Azure Stack HCI) has really bridged many of the gaps I experienced in the beginning of S2D.

Buyer's Guide
Download our free Software Defined Storage (SDS) Report and find out what your peers are saying about Microsoft, Nutanix, StarWind, and more!
Updated: September 2022
Buyer's Guide
Download our free Software Defined Storage (SDS) Report and find out what your peers are saying about Microsoft, Nutanix, StarWind, and more!