HP ProLiant DL380 G5 review

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When HP launched its fifth generation of ProLiant servers last year, we brought you exclusive reviews of three of the choice models from the range. Among these was the DL380 G5 (web ID: 97777), which HP still claims is the world’s most popular rack server. So what’s been improved since then?

HP ProLiant DL380 G5 review

Naturally, quad-core Xeons are on the menu, with the review system sporting a pair of 2.33GHz Xeon 5345 modules. These are located over to the left of the motherboard, specifically so they can reap the benefits of the large air grille in the front panel. Each module is topped off with a solid passive heatsink, which is held in place by a large clamp and lever assembly, making it easy to remove and replace them. Alongside the processors is a bank of eight DIMM sockets, allowing the server to be upgraded to a maximum of 32GB of FB-DIMM memory.

Your storage choices revolve around 2.5in SFF SATA or SAS hard disks, and the front panel sports a large bay with room for eight hot-swap drives. The server doesn’t offer any embedded storage controller or RAID functions, as these are all handled by HP’s Smart Array PCI-E SAS card. This is mounted in one of the two PCI-E slots on the motherboard and both SAS channels are wired through to the drive backplane. Cache memory has been boosted to a massive 512MB and the review system also includes a battery backup pack. Some thought has gone into the implementation of the RAID card, as the plastic air shroud on the memory sockets has channels in it, allowing the interface cables to be neatly routed to the front. The shroud even has a recess in the top for the battery pack to clip into.

There’s room to expand, too. Along with the spare PCI-E slot on the motherboard, the server has a large riser cage at the back with a further three PCI-E slots available, and HP also offers one with PCI-X slots. HP’s cooling arrangement is excellent; the processors and memory are looked after by a bank of eight hot-swap fans, while the drive cage and expansion slots get a further four. Despite the number of fans, we found noise levels are low enough to make the DL380 one of the quietest 2U rack servers around.

If you want the best remote server management then HP should be at the top of your list. Apart from the entry-level models, all ProLiant servers come as standard with HP’s iLO2 (integrated lights out) embedded controller and dedicated Fast Ethernet management port. This provides secure remote web access to the server regardless of its status. As long as you have power, you can reset the server, power it off and on and emulate pressing the power button. It also provides tools for monitoring the status of the controller and server and viewing installed components, but full remote control remains an optional extra.

HP’s Systems Insight Manager (SIM) software suite provides enhanced browser-based remote server management and monitoring. It delivers comprehensive levels of information about system operations and extensive alerting facilities, and allows you to remotely access any HP server with an Insight agent installed. There are new features aplenty, as SIM now comes with a startup wizard that sorts out key functions such as WEBM, SNMP, auto-discovery, email and event handling.

Server virtualisation is high on HP’s agenda and the main SIM interface now includes options to discover and manage virtual machines as well as physical servers. Not only that, but ProLiant servers now come with a 60-day evaluation kit that includes VMware’s ESX Server, VirtualCenter and Consolidated Backup. HP hasn’t forgotten the green issue or the fact that many datacentres have reached their power limitations, as it offers the optional Power Meter, Power Regulator and Power Cap features. Power Regulator is OS independent, supports AMD and Intel processors, and is controlled via the iLO web interface. Power consumption can be controlled dynamically, so the processors are throttled back when demand is low. You can also force them to run at their lowest possible speed, highest possible performance or hand over control to the operating system.

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