HP ProLiant ML370 G4 review
Intel’s release of the Nocona Xeon and Lindenhurst chipset has been one of the company’s most significant moves in the past few years. It’s been interesting to see how quickly the key server vendors have gone from a public commitment of support to an actual product. It was no surprise when Supermicro delivered the first rack server example, as this company has always been very quick to react to new technologies and is usually a couple of months ahead of the competition. HP is the next to move in and it does so with the ProLiant ML370 G4, which delivers the typically excellent range of features we’ve come to expect from this manufacturer.
We’d hoped to see Dell’s new PowerEdge 2850 in this issue for a head-to-head with HP, but despite announcing the product back at the beginning of August, Dell still hasn’t offered a review sample more than two months later. Curiously, when PC Pro first looked at the Tumwater implementation of Intel’s new chipset, we had Dell on record as saying it wasn’t planning to support it due to heat issues with the new processors. In reality no vendor has this choice, as the substantially lower prices set by Intel for the Nocona processors make it impossible not to step in line whether you want 64-bit processing support or not.
As the ML370 shows clearly, HP’s build quality just seems to get better with each new server. The 5U rack-mount chassis has room at the front for a six-disk hot-swap cage and the pair of 72.6GB Ultra320 drives included with the review model come mounted in industrial-strength metal carriers. However, total capacity does look a little sad when compared with the immense amount of SATA storage offered by Rackservers.com. Still, expansion options abound as alongside is a bay with room for three 5.25in devices. Power is also very well handled, as the distribution board is mounted underneath the motherboard where it doesn’t waste any space. The system came supplied with a single 775W power supply accessed at the rear, and a second can be added for fault tolerance.
Internal design is exemplary, with all interfaces mounted on the front edge of HP’s motherboard where they’re right next to the devices they’re servicing. The cables can be tucked neatly below the front cages. Surprisingly, cooling is handled by only three hot-swap fans, but they’re more than up to the job, with the additional bonus of low operational noise levels. The right-hand bay also has room for a fourth hot-swap fan if required. The processors are located behind the hard disk bay and covered by a small plastic shroud to help direct airflow. Once again, design and build quality get a round of applause as the processors are held down by a large clamp that’s swiftly released with a lever at the side. This is swung over the top, after which the processor and its substantial passive heatsink can be easily removed.
To the left is a bank of eight DIMM sockets; along with Rackservers.com, HP gives us our first look at DDR2 memory in a server as the ML370 comes with a pair of 512MB modules of DDR2-400 SDRAM. The most obvious physical difference to DDR is the much smaller chips. DDR2 memory uses an FBGA (fine ball grid array) packaging that allows chip densities to be increased significantly. At present, modules are available in 256MB, 512MB and 1GB sizes, but HP should have 2GB modules available by November and the specification also includes 4GB modules. Power consumption has been reduced as DDR2 uses only 1.8V as opposed to DDR’s 2.5V, so the modules won’t be generating as much heat and will be easier to cool.