- ✓Standardisation with other HP server products
- ✓Four Gigabit Ethernet ports
- ✓Up to sixteen internal disks
- ✓Very quiet
- ✓Comprehensive management tools, including power-capping facilities
- ✕Management options can be a little confusing for new customers
With a market share in excess of 50 percent, HP leads the way when it comes to industry-standard servers, and its 2U ProLiant DL380 is the world's favourite rack-mount solution. So it comes as no surprise to find HP in the vanguard of Xeon 5500 deployment, with its server charge led by a sixth generation of the venerable DL380 platform.
At first glance the new 2U ProLiant DL380 G6 server doesn't seem much altered, with the usual high-quality build standard and tool-free access. The front panel is re-arranged but not hugely, with easy access to storage, a couple of USB ports and a small display panel (the Systems Insight Display) to quickly identify failing components. A pull-out identity tag is also provided, like those on the Dell's and Fujitsu's rack-mount servers.
Inside the casing, however, it's all change with a totally new motherboard to take a pair of dual- or quad-core Xeon 5500 processors plus 18 DIMM slots in two banks of nine either side. You can buy the server with just one processor and upgrade later, but according to HP this approach is now rare, most customers opting for two CPUs from the outset.
When it comes to storage, there's the usual choice of either 3.5in. or 2.5in. disks with support for both SAS and SATA technologies, plus a couple of solid-state drives. Go for the 3.5in. disks and six can be fitted inside the chassis; eight slots are available in the base chassis if you use 2.5in. drives. A second set of eight 2.5in bays can then be added, bringing the total to 16 altogether, either connected to the same Smart Array P410i controller as the others or to a second adapter if preferred.
A ProLiant DL380 G6 with an HP RDX removable disk drive (for backup) fitted.
Interestingly the P410i is unchanged from previous models, so customers wishing to upgrade should be able to migrate data disks and RAID sets quite easily. Pre-failure analysis means disks and other components can be replaced before they expire; it's also possible to add battery-backed cache to the standard controller, which comes without any memory to start with.
Another nice feature is power supply standardisation. Two redundant power supplies can be fitted, with a choice of 450W, 750W or 1,200W units that can be swapped with those from other servers in the ProLiant range.
Cooling is handled by a set of six hot-swap fan units (four if only one processor is fitted), arranged across the middle of the chassis. Each unit has two fans inside for redundancy, and HP has also implemented what it calls a 'sea of sensors', to continually monitor temperature and precisely control fan speed. There are some 36 sensors altogether, and the result is a cool-running and impressively quiet server.
PCI expansion is accommodated using risers beneath a large metal plate at the rear of the chassis. A single riser with three PCI Express slots is fitted to start with, to which you can add a second. Typically used to plug in storage HBAs (Host Bus Adapters) or additional Ethernet adapters, the DL380 G6 comes with four Gigabit Ethernet ports as standard, managed by a pair of Broadcom controllers on the motherboard.
As with Dell's PowerEdge R710, HP can supply an embedded hypervisor on an SD card to plug into a connector inside its server. Currently the company supports VMWare and Citrix XenServer, with Hyper-V expected when version 2 with live migration is fully released. An internal USB slot is also available which can also be used to boot a hypervisor, or to host security and other software.
Management is handled by the same Integrated Lights-Out processor (iLO 2) as on previous ProLiant servers. With its own dedicated 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, this offers basic remote console facilities that can be upgraded using the iLO Advanced Pack, which adds a graphical remote console and virtual media. The Advanced Pack also adds support for dynamic power capping, which allows you to set limits on the power the server is allowed to draw.
Systems Insight Manager, a free web-based application, provides a platform to discover and manage both servers and other network devices. To this you can add optional Insight Control suites to remotely monitor system health and performance, plus HP's Insight Dynamics VSE suite to manage virtual as well as physical servers, convert from one to another, balance workloads and so on. Plug-ins and modules to work with third-party management tools are also available.