By Patrick H. Corrigan
September 23, 2013
HP’s new ProLiant MicroServer Gen8, which is designed as a first server for a small business or remote office, has the same build quality of HP’s larger x86-based servers. It is small (9.15”H x 9.05”W x 9.65”D), available in a desktop form factor, reasonably quiet (after its initial startup), and attractive — HP supplies custom front bezels in red, blue and black.
HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 with PS1810-8G 1Gbit Ethernet Switch
The ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 can be used as a “headless” server, meaning with Integrated Lights Out (iLO4) it can be completely managed from any computer with a browser or smartphone; it doesn’t need a keyboard, mouse and monitor attached, although you can attach them if you like. With iLO4, the system can be powered on and off, BIOS settings can be changed and updated from another computer. Using virtual CDs, DVDs or USB flash drives, software can be installed without physically touching the server. A major advantage of this degree of remote management, especially for a small office without an IT staff, is that it’s easy for a remote IT department or managed service provider to maintain and manage the server remotely.
The server is available with two CPU options: an Intel Pentium G2020T (dual-core, 2.5 GHz with a 3MB cache) or an Intel Celeron G1610T (dual-core, 2.3 GHz with a 2MB cache). These are both low-power (35W) processors. Two gigabytes of memory is standard, expandable to 16GB. There are two GbE ports for connectivity to the network, five USB 2.0 ports (one is internal) and two USB 3.0 ports. A 9.5mm DVD drive is optional. The unit has four non-hot-swappable drive bays and firmware-based SATA RAID is standard. The standard controller supports RAID 0, 1 and 10. HP supplies an optional SAS hardware RAID controller that can be accommodated by the unit’s PCIe 16x expansion slot.
HP also supplies an optional matching Web-managed 8-port GbE switch that sits above or below the server. The switch provides automatic discovery of ProLiant Gen8 servers on the network and the switch’s management Web page provides a link to each server’s iLO4 management page. The switch supports link aggregation, or the binding of two Ethernet ports for improved server throughput and redundancy.
Further, HP’s ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 supports Microsoft Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Server (RHEL), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and Canonical LTS Ubuntu 12.04 (Linux). The HP firmware RAID controller is not supported with Ubuntu, so it must be installed in Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) mode instead of RAID mode. Linux software-based RAID can be used in this case and the performance should be similar. Other Linux distributions, although not officially supported and certified, will work as well. I installed OpenSUSE version 12.3 in AHCI mode with software-based RAID with no problems.
The base price is similar to that of a four-disk NAS device and the package is not much bigger. HP’s recent addition of at least one non-commercial distribution of Linux, Canonical Ubuntu, makes this server even more attractive to the small business segment.
The ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 is designed to provide reasonable performance at a reasonable price for the small business or remote office, and it definitely succeeds at that. In limited testing, disk write performance, with software RAID 1 and 7200RPM SATA disks, was about 55MBps over GbE. This was a very informal test. I copied about 300GB of images, ranging in size from 1.5MB to 25MB, from a Windows PC, also with a 7200RPM SATA disk. A test with the same data set between two 7200RPM SATA disks in the same computer yielded a result of about 45MBps, and a test with a four-disk NAS device yielded about 49MBps.
MicroServer with front cover open. Note the included Torx tool to the left of the disk drives.
Because of its excellent remote management, the MicroServer Gen8 is a good fit for a small company that relies on an outside managed service provider for system management and maintenance. The base server, without disks, sells for $449 or $529, depending on CPU. (http://www.hp.com).
Warranty and support
The warranty is one year, parts only. All components are considered customer self-replaceable. Telephone support for hardware is included. Replacement components are sent within 24 hours after problem determination. Additional service plans are also available, as well as service from local independent service organizations.
HP has created a server product aimed at the small business or branch office as well as the small office market presently served by small NAS devices. With its reasonable cost and excellent remote management capabilities, this product should be very attractive to IT departments that must support small branch offices, especially those currently using HP’s higher-end servers. It should also be attractive to the smaller reseller/service organizations that provide service and support to small businesses.
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