HP ProLiant DL80 Gen9 review

SMBs with big storage plans should pay attention, as HP has a present for you. Along with a high capacity, its new ProLiant DL80 Gen9 rack server is jam-packed with features and, best of all, delivers Intel’s core-heavy Xeon E5-2600 v3 at a tempting price.

As with all its Gen9 servers, HP takes a different approach to system design. Although not as versatile as the flagship DL380 Gen9, the DL80 is highly scalable,allowing businesses to pay for only what they need now, with a view to upgrading in future.

The system on review – identified as 778640-B21 – is the entry model of the family, sneaking in at less than a grand. This includes a 1.6GHz Intel Xeon E5-2603 v3 CPU with six cores, and in that spirit of upgradability, a second socket is ready and waiting. HP also offers nine other models if you need more speed and cores.

The high-speed CPU is kept company by high-speed DDR4 memory, although HP has cut costs by providing only eight DIMM slots. Our review system came with a single 4GB stick but, with dual CPUs installed, it supports up to 256GB – easily enough for storage-centric apps.

Storage choices are also enticing: this 2U chassis can handle up to 12 hard disks. Our entry-level system has four cold-swap drive bays, upgradeable to eight with HP’s Enablement Kit.

RAID starts with the embedded Dynamic Smart Array B140i controller, which provides dual four-port SATA connectors on the motherboard. We could create stripes, mirrors and RAID5 arrays, and manage it easily using HP’s Smart Storage Administrator utility.

HP offers configure-to-order (CTO) models if you want eight or 12 hot-swap drive bays and SmartDrive carriers, and there’s also a big choice of SATA and 12Gbits/sec SAS Smart Array controllers. However, you can’t upgrade from eight to 12 bays: you must order the higher-capacity model at the outset.

All versions have dual Gigabit ports, and HP offers an excellent range of network upgrades, including 10GbE, Fibre Channel and more. Even with a single CPU in residence, we had five PCI Express slots available. With two CPUs installed, we could add riser cards to increase the slot count to seven, and there’s room over the PSU bay for a GPU card. The standard 500W cold-swap PSU won’t be enough for a GPU, but you can upgrade to 800W redundant PSUs.

The E5-2603 v3 and its low 85W TDP makes the DL80 a real power miser

The E5-2603 v3 and its low 85W TDP makes the DL80 a real power miser. In idle, we clocked the review system drawing 45W and peaking under load at only 71W – amazingly, that’s 9W less than Dell’s Xeon E3 v3-equipped R220.

Server management doesn’t get any better, either: HP’s iLO4 controller provides a wealth of information about server operations, as well as access to remote support. We could control the server’s power remotely, but you’ll need an Advanced licence to control the OS.

OS installation took less than an hour using the embedded Active Intelligent Provisioning tool, with the System Management HomePage browser interface on hand to provide basic local monitoring HP’s Insight Control handles general system management, and we used HP’s iOS Insight Online app with our Passport account to view registered systems, monitor support cases and check support contracts.

You’ll need to choose carefully, as there are so many options and models, but HP’s DL80 Gen9 is an ideal choice for a rack server that can grow with you. Its scalable design makes it a solid long-term investment, while the power of the Xeon E5-2600 v3 and low price earn it a place on our A-List.

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