HP ProLiant DL385 review

£2852
Price when reviewed

Of all the blue-chip server manufacturers, HP has consistently delivered the most comprehensive support in the industry for AMD’s Opteron processor. True, it has only offered rack-mount products, but its quad 800-series processor-based ProLiant DL585 is a standard setter. This earned a well-deserved Recommended award for its top-notch combination of build quality, design and specification. The new ProLiant DL385 comes in a slimmer 2U chassis with support for dual 200-series Opterons, but offers the same level of features and quality as its bigger brother.

HP ProLiant DL385 review

As we’ve come to expect from HP, the chassis is extremely well built. Storage potential is nothing to sniff at either, as there’s room for up to six hot-swap drives all fitted in sturdy hot-swap carriers. The price for the review system includes a trio of 72.8GB Ultra320 SCSI drives, but HP also offers 300GB models, allowing total capacity to be increased to a useful 1.8TB. Storage fault tolerance comes as standard, as the motherboard sports an integrated HP Smart Array 6i controller providing a pair of Ultra320 SCSI channels linked to the hard disk hot-swap backplane. This can easily be re-cabled to operate in simplex or duplex modes. The latter allows the RAID controller to manage two drives on one channel and four on the other. The controller supports basic RAID0, 1, 5 and JBOD arrays and a separate socket on the motherboard is provided for an optional battery backup and cache module. The 128MB and 256MB versions cost about £155 and £345 respectively, making either a worthwhile addition.

The DL385 looks just as good from the inside, with all components neatly laid out to maximise cooling. Tool-free maintenance is also the order of the day and cabling has been reduced to an absolute minimum. A bank of four hot-swap fans is located behind the drive bays and the assembly has room for two more to be added. These are easily removed and replaced, and a couple of levers at each end allow the entire assembly to be lifted out if required. The processor sockets are located behind, with the single 2.6GHz Opteron 252 included in the review system mounted beneath a large passive heatsink. Processor removal and replacement is easy since the DL385 uses precisely the same simple clamp and lever mechanisms as employed by the DL585. A second hot-swap fan assembly sits at the rear of the chassis and accepts one fan for each processor as they’re installed. Banks of four DIMM sockets are located next to each Opteron socket and each can only be used if the accompanying processor is installed. Along with a decent storage capacity, expansion options are good, as a riser cage provides three PCI Express slots. Extra thought has gone into access, as the side panel opposite can be flipped down allowing cards to be fitted without removing the cage.

HP’s SmartStart gets you off the starting blocks with ease. It guides you through loading your chosen OS along with the necessary drivers and HP utilities. SmartStart also automatically installs HP’s web services, allowing remote access to the server for general monitoring. The bundled Systems Insight Manager provides enhanced browser-based remote management and monitoring, and offers high levels of information about system operations and extensive alerting facilities. You can also remotely access any HP server with an Insight agent installed. There’s a raft of optional extras on offer, too. You can add tools for vulnerability and patch management, BIOS and driver version control plus performance monitoring and alerting.

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