New Compaq ProLiant streamlines storage

With the new DL380, Compaq Computer Corp. has built on its popular ProLiant 1850R, adding speedy 733MHz Pentium III processors, an integrated RAID controller and a faster bus—but very little innovation.
Written by Henry Baltazar, Contributor on

With the new DL380, Compaq Computer Corp. has built on its popular ProLiant 1850R, adding speedy 733MHz Pentium III processors, an integrated RAID controller and a faster bus—but very little innovation.

Nonetheless, IT administrators looking for a powerful, space-saving server for today's data centers will still be pleasantly surprised by the raw performance put out by the ProLiant DL380's new 133MHz bus and Intel Corp.'s newest Pentium processors, which allow it to perform comparably to enterprise-class four-processor servers for less money.

The ProLiant DL380's price—$1,639 for two 733MHz processors, a Gigabit Ethernet adapter, 1GB of RAM, four 9GB drives and the Smart Array 4200 controller—is competitive with other dual-processor servers.

In PC Week Labs' tests, the ProLiant DL380, which will ship in the first quarter, posted impressive numbers on the Ziff-Davis Benchmark Operation's ServerBench 4.01 benchmark (see chart). ServerBench is designed to simulate the way that a server in a high-transaction environment will react to client load.

The ProLiant DL380 reached a peak performance of 1,199 transactions per second, or roughly 70 percent of the peak rate of a ProLiant 7000 with four Xeon 500MHz processors.

The ProLiant DL380 is tar geted primarily toward data center environments, and our tests showed it would excel as a low-end database, Web or e-mail server.

Smaller space, more drives

The ProLiant DL380 is slightly smaller than Dell Computer Corp.'s PowerEdge 4350 dual-processor rack-mount server, yet it holds more internal storage—four hard drives with hot-swap capabilities vs. three hard drives with hot-swap for the PowerEdge. An optional drive cage can be used to add two more hot-swappable hard drive bays to the ProLiant DL380.

The ProLiant DL380 boasts an integrated Smart Array controller with 8MB of cache, but IT managers who plan on loading a large amount of data will need to use external storage arrays to scale beyond 110GB of storage to make up for its space-conscious interior.

The ProLiant DL380 also comes with an external UltraWide SCSI-2 port, but this port is best suited for connecting to a rack-mounted autoloader or similar backup device.

IT managers who aren't ready to go to a Fibre Channel storage area network may opt for Compaq's Smart Array 4200 Controller, which has four external ports and can support up to 56 drives.

The ProLiant DL380 we used in our tests came with 1GB of synchronous dynamic RAM. It can hold a maximum of 4GB, which should be enough for most low-end and midrange applications.

The ProLiant DL380's slim chassis is easily removable via thumbscrews, but we would like to see Compaq include a trap door on the top of the server to allow easy access to the PCI slots. Although it was simple to remove the chassis top, it took a considerable amount of time to close up the server.

The ProLiant DL380 has four PCI slots, three of which are 64-bit. An embedded Fast Ethernet NIC with Wake-On-LAN capabilities is standard, but for tests, we opted for high-end Gigabit Ethernet adapters.

When compared with the ProLiant 1850R, which used a single 33MHz, 32-bit PCI bus to yield PCI throughput of 133MB per second, the ProLiant DL380 boasts a vastly improved PCI bus architecture.

In terms of hardware redundancy, the ProLiant DL380 boasts hot-swappable redundant power supplies, but hot-swappable cooling units are still reserved for Compaq's higher-end servers. c

PC Week Labs Technical Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ zd.com.

PC Week Labs Executive Summary: ProLiant DL380

Although the Compaq ProLiant DL380 doesn't rewrite the book on data center servers, it does pack a powerful punch in a space-conscious rack chassis. It boasts more internal storage capacity than other servers in its class, but IT managers will need to invest in additional external storage to host large databases.

Short-Term business Impact: The Compaq ProLiant DL380 is relatively inexpensive and easy to set up, which should minimize the financial impact of a rollout.

Long-Term business Impact: Limited storage capacity will force IT managers to invest in external storage as the data on their systems continues to increase. The addition of hot-swappable power supplies should reduce downtime over the long haul.

Pros: High performance; small footprint.

Cons: Difficult to remove PCI cards; limited internal storage.


Compaq Computer Corp., Houston; (713) 370-0670; www.compaq.com

Scoring methodology: www.pcweek.com/reviews/meth.html

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