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Is Storage Spaces Direct a viable alternative to hyper-convergence?

Windows Storage Spaces Direct can act like a hyper-converged system, but it's more do-it-yourself hyper-convergence, and may not offer all that you need in an HCI product.

Although Windows Storage Spaces has existed for quite some time, Microsoft introduced its new Storage Spaces Direct feature in Windows Server 2016. Since that time, Storage Spaces Direct has often been compared to -- and, in some cases, referred to as -- hyper-converged infrastructure.

Windows Server 2016 Storage Spaces Direct allows commodity storage to be used in situations that might otherwise require a pricey storage array. There are two different ways Storage Spaces Direct can be deployed.

The first deployment choice is what Microsoft calls the converged option. This deployment type allows for the creation of a failover cluster in which the cluster nodes are connected to a scale-out file server, which is accessible through the SMB3 protocol. In the case of Hyper-V, the virtual machines reside on the scale-out server rather than on the actual Hyper-V servers.

The other deployment choice for Windows Server 2016 Storage Spaces Direct is the hyper-converged option. When this type of deployment is used, each node has its own compute resources -- in this case, Hyper-V -- and its own storage resources. The local storage is configured to act as a Cluster Shared Volume, and there is no need for a scale-out file server or any other type of external storage.

In some ways, Windows Server 2016 Storage Spaces Direct can be a viable alternative to a more traditional hyper-converged infrastructure deployment. After all, each Windows Server node contains compute and storage resources, just as an off-the-shelf hyper-converged system would. As such, a Windows Server deployment that uses Storage Spaces Direct should theoretically be able to do anything a prepackaged hyper-converged system can.

In this Microsoft Mechanics video,
Elden Christensen, principal
program manager for Windows
Server, discusses the benefits of
Storage Spaces Direct and hyper-
converged deployment options.

Even so, it is important to note that the use of Windows Storage Spaces lacks some of the advantages of off-the-shelf hyper-converged products, which are based around matched hardware certified to work with the included hypervisor and management tools. Because the system is sold under a single SKU, there is a single point of contact for technical support.

Conversely, Windows Server and Storage Spaces Direct can be configured to act like a hyper-converged system, but must be thought of as do-it-yourself hyper-convergence because of the lack of vendor integration and component certification.

Next Steps

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