There's something reassuring about HP ProLiant servers and the way they're built — something that's more than evident in the new DL360 G7, which features a superbly engineered chassis designed to take full advantage of the 1U of rack space in which it sits.
Easy-to-fit rails guide the chassis into the rack, where one or two hot-swap power supplies can be slotted in at the rear to keep it running. Our review system had a redundant pair of 460W PSUs, although 750W and 1200W units can be specified to match different processor, memory and storage setups. The DL360 G7 also employs HP Common Slot Power Supply technology, which means that — assuming the correct rating — power units can be swapped with other servers from the ProLiant range.
Everything that goes inside the DL360 G7 fits together superbly, with easy access via a large lift-off lid. Underneath is a redesigned one-piece air baffle that also lifts out, revealing a largely cable-free and highly integrated motherboard built around Intel's 5520 chipset.
As with previous versions of the DL360, there are sockets for two processors — but don't expect to find the high-end Xeon E7 here or the Sandy Bridge Xeon E3, which can only be used in 1P servers. In fact, our sockets were filled with something in between — a pair of 6-core Xeon X5650s. The 'X' denoting a top-of-the-range specification in terms of performance and energy requirements, the 2.66GHz X5650 having a 95W thermal envelope.
However, there's a lot of CPU choice here, including slightly more conservative 'E'-class processors plus 'L'-rated economy chips such as the quad-core L5630, for example, which may deliver less processing punch but only requires 40W to do so — an important consideration for many buyers.
Cheaper Xeon 5500s can be ordered if preferred, or a single processor specified — but that's likely to be something of a false economy. Indeed, the majority of buyers are expected to opt for two CPUs from the outset, the second processor requiring the addition of an extra cooling module, making four in total.
Each of the cooling modules contains a pair of dual-rotor fans and can be hot-plugged into place. They're also thermostatically controlled and proved remarkably quiet in operation. Indeed, the new DL360 G7 is one of the quietest 2P servers we've examined, with the new baffle directing the airflow smoothly over both processors in the middle of the motherboard and the 18 DIMM slots arranged either side.
Up to 384GB of ECC-protected DDR3 memory can be accommodated, although our review system shiped with 12GB to go with the dual processors, on six 2GB 1,333MHz RDIMM modules.
Unusually for a 1U product, the DL360 G7 can accommodate lots of storage: there's room for either four or — as on our review system — eight hard disks in 2.5in. hot-plug bays located across the front of the unit. You can choose to go with either SATA, SAS or (if you're feeling rich) SSD drives.
The DL360 G7's maximum internal capacity using the preferred dual-ported SAS technology is 7.2TB, although our review system was more modestly equipped with three 300GB SAS drives spinning at 10,000rpm. These are cabled to the on-board Smart Array P410i RAID controller, which is located in its own special slot and equipped, on our system, with 1GB of battery-backed cache.
The number of networking ports is doubled on the new G7 model, with four Gigabit Ethernet ports as standard and room to add more if needed. In fact, you can fit two PCI Express cards inside the server thanks to a riser with a PCI-e connector on either side — one for a full-size adapter and one for a low-profile card.
There's an internal USB port and an SD Card slot to hold an embedded VMware or XenServer hypervisor, plus three external USB ports — two at the back and one at the front.
As on other ProLiant servers, the GL360 G7 features HP's 'Sea of Sensors' technology where up to 32 thermal sensors are located on the motherboard to monitor component temperatures. These are backed by intelligence to adjust fan, processor and memory activity and thus optimise performance while minimising energy consumption.
The new GL360 also ships with the latest implementation of HP's Integrated Lights-Out management controller (iLO 3), complete with its own dedicated processor, memory and network interface. By default you only get a basic implementation, which doesn't do very much. Upgrade to an advanced licence and you can monitor and graph energy consumption and set a cap on how much power can be drawn. You also get a remote console and virtual media capabilities, both of which are hugely quicker than those on its iLO 2 predecessor.
HP's latest Integrated Lights-Out management controller, iLO 3, can be accessed via a browser
No special software is needed to connect to and use the iLO 3 controller, just a PC equipped with a browser, but HP Insight Control management software is included and can be added to as required to extend the functionality. There's also a small slide-out diagnostic panel on the front of the server that can be used for local troubleshooting, plus a pretty comprehensive ROM-based setup utility. On the downside, however, HP hasn't come up with anything to match Dell's innovative Lifecycle Controller, which does away with the need for bootable media for both server setup and OS deployment.
HP's new ProLiant DL360 G7 is a very impressive server that will fit equally well into a small-business equipment rack or a large corporate datacentre. Its predecessors are among the most versatile servers on the market, capable of handling everything from general file and print sharing, through web applications to high-performance computing, virtualisation and cloud hosting. The latest G7 implementation only adds to those capabilities, enabling the ProLiant DL360 to do even more than before.