Tag: Microserver

The new HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 – a great virtualization home lab server

I’ve always liked the small size of the HP MicroServer which makes it perfect for use in a virtualization home lab, but one area that I felt it was lacking was with the CPU. The original MicroServer came with a AMD Athlon II NEO N36L 1.3 Ghz dual-core processor which was pretty weak to use with virtualization and was more suited for small ultra-notebook PC’s that require small form factors and low power consumption. HP came out with enhanced N40L model a bit later but it was just a small bump up to the AMD Turion II Neo N40L/1.5GHz and later on to the N54L/2.2 Ghz dual-core processor. I have both the N36L & N40L MicroServers in my home lab and really like them except for the under-powered CPU.

Well HP just announced a new MicroServer model that they are calling Gen8 which is in line with their current Proliant server model generation 8. The new model not only looks way cool, it also comes in 2 different CPU configurations which give it a big boost in CPU power. Unfortunately while the GHz of the CPU makes a big jump, it’s still only available in dual-core. The two new processor options are:

Having a Pentium processor is a big jump over the Celeron and it comes with more L3 cache. Unfortunately though neither processor supports hyper-threading which would show as more cores to a vSphere host. Despite this its still a nice bump that makes the MicroServer even better for a virtualization home lab server. Note they switched from AMD to Intel processors with the Gen 8 models.

Lets start with a the cosmetic stuff on the new MicroServer, it has a radical new look (shown on the right below) which is consistent with it’s big brother Proliant servers, I personally think it looks pretty bad-ass cool.


Note the new slim DVD drive  opening on the Gen8 instead of the full size opening on the previous model. One thing to note is that while the new new Gen8 models are all depicted with a DVD drive, it does not come standard and must be purchased separately and installed. The Gen8 model is also a bit shorter and less deep and slightly wider than the old model. On the old model the HP logo would light up blue when powered on to serve as the health light and it looks like on the new model there is a blue bar at the bottom that lights up instead. There are also only 2 USB ports on the front now instead of 4. The old model also had keys (which I always misplace) to open the front to gain access to the drives and components, it looks like on the new model they did away with that and have a little handle to open it. On the back side they have moved the power supply and fan up a bit, removed one of the PCIe ports (only 1 now), removed the eSATA port, added 2 USB ports (2 of them 3.0) and added a 1GB NIC port. This is a nice change especially the addition of the second NIC which makes for more vSwitch options with vSphere. I have always added a 2-port NIC to my MicroServers as they only had 1 previously so it’s nice that it comes with 2.

Inside the unit still has 4 non-hot plug drive trays and supports up to 12TB of SATA disk (4 x 3TB). The storage controller is the HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i Controller which only supports RAID levels 0, 1 and 10. Also only 2 of the bays support 6.0Gb/s SATA drives, the other 2 support 3.0Gb/s SATA drives. There are still only 2 memory slots that support a maximum of 16GB (DDR3), this is another big enhancement as the previous model only supported 8GB maximum memory which limited it to how many VMs you could run on it. The Gen8 model also comes with a new internal microSD slot so you could boot ESXi from it if you wanted to, both the old & new still have an internal USB port as well. The server comes with the HP iLO Management Engine which is standard on all Proliant servers and is accessed through one of the NICs that does split-duty, but you have to license it to use many of the advanced features like the remote console. To license it costs a minimum of $129 for the iLO Essentials with 1 yr support which is a bit much for a home lab server that is under $500.

Speaking of cost  which has always made the MicroServer attractive for home labs, the G1610T model starts at $449 and the G2020T starts at $529, the two models are identical besides the processor and they both come standard with 2GB of memory and no hard drives. I wish they would not include memory in it and make it optional as well and lower the price. If you want to go to 8G or 16Gb of memory (who doesn’t) you have to take out the 2GB DIMM that comes with it and toss it and put in 4GB or 8GB DIMMs. Here are some of the add-on options and pricing on the HP SMB Store website:

  • HP 8GB (1x8GB) Dual Rank x8 PC3- 12800E (DDR3-1600) Unbuffered CAS-11 Memory Kit  [Add $139.00]
  • HP 4GB (1x4GB) Dual Rank x8 PC3-12800E (DDR3-1600) Unbuffered CAS-11 Memory Kit  [Add $75.00]
  • HP 500GB 6G Non-Hot Plug 3.5 SATA 7200rpm MDL Hard Drive  [Add $239.00]
  • HP 1TB 6G Non-Hot Plug 3.5 SATA 7200rpm MDL Hard Drive  [Add $269.00]
  • HP 2TB 6G Non-Hot Plug 3.5 SATA 7200rpm MDL Hard Drive  [Add $459.00]
  • HP 3TB 6G Non-Hot Plug 3.5 SATA 7200rpm MDL Hard Drive  [Add $615.00]
  • HP SATA DVD-RW drive [Add $129.00]
  • HP NC112T PCI Express Gigabit Server Adapter [Add $59.00]
  • HP 4GB microSD [Add $79.00]
  • HP 32GB microSD [Add $219.00]
  • HP iLO Essentials including 1yr 24×7 support [$129.00]

With all the add-ons the server cost can quickly grow to over $1000, not ideal for a home lab server. I’d recommend heading to New Egg & Micro Center and getting parts to upgrade the server. You can get a Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB DDR3-1600 Memory Kit for $69 or a Kingston HyperX Red 16GB DDR3-1600 Memory Kit for $119.00 which is half the cost.

All in all I really like the improvements they have made with the new model and it makes an ideal virtualization home lab server that you are typically building on a tight budget. HP if you want to send me one I’d love to do a full review on it. Listed below are some links for more information and a comparison of the old MicroServer G7 N54L and the new Gen8 G2020T model so you can see the differences and what has changed.

Comparison of the old MicroServer G7 N54L and the new Gen8 G2020T model:

FeatureOld MicroServer G7 (N54L)New MicroServer Gen8 (G2020T)
ProcessorAMD Turion II Model Neo N54L (2.20 GHz, 15W, 2MB)Intel Pentium G2020T (2.5GHz/2-core/3MB/35W)
Cache2x 1MB Level 2 cache3MB (1 x 3MB) L3 Cache
ChipsetAMD RS785E/SB820MIntel C204 Chipset
Memory2 slots - 8GB max - DDR3 1333MHz2 slots - 16GB max - DDR3 1600MHz/1333MHz
NetworkHP Ethernet 1Gb 1-port NC107i AdapterHP Ethernet 1Gb 2-port 332i Adapter
Expansion Slot2 - PCIe 2.0 x16 & x1 Low Profile1 - PCIe 2.0 x16 Low Profile
Storage ControllerIntegrated SATA controller with embedded RAID (0, 1)HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i Controller (RAID 0, 1, 10)
Storage Capacity (Internal)8.0TB (4 x 2TB) SATA12.0TB (4 x 3TB) SATA
Power SupplyOne (1) 150 Watts Non-Hot PlugOne (1) 150 Watts Non-Hot Plug
USB ports2.0 Ports - 2 rear, 4 front panel, 1 internal2.0 Ports - 2 front, 2 rear, 1 internal) 3.0 Ports - 2 rear
microSDNoneOne - internal
Dimensions (H x W x D) 10.5 x 8.3 x 10.2 in9.15 x 9.05 x 9.65 in
Weight (Min/Max)13.18 lb/21.16 lb15.13 lb/21.60 lb
Acoustic Noise24.4 dBA (Fully Loaded/Operating)21.0 dBA (Fully Loaded/Operating)

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HP’s new itty-bitty Microserver, the little server that couldn’t

hp-microserverHP just released a new low-cost server which they have dubbed the “Microserver” due to its small size. The server doesn’t seem to belong their ML line of servers and seems to be a standalone server with a name instead of a model which is more geared towards consumers and small businesses. Here are the basic specifications of the server:

  • AMD Athlon II NEO N36L 1.3 Ghz dual-core processor
  • 1GB (1x1GB) Standard/8GB Maximum DDR3 Unbuffered ECC memory (only 2 DIMM slots)
  • Embedded AMD SATA controller with RAID 0/1, Embedded AMD eSATA controller
  • HP 160GB 3G SATA Non-Hot Plug 7,200rpm 3.5″ ETY Hard Drive (total of LFF 4 drive bays)
  • Embedded HP NC107i PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet Server Adapter
  • HP 200w Non-Hot Plug, Non-Redundant Power Supply
  • 2 expansion slots Slot – 1 PCIe Gen 2×16, 1 PCIe Gen 2×1
  • (7) USB 2.0 ports: 4 front , 2 rear, 1 internal

The list price for this base configuration is $329 but to use this server as a vSphere host you are going to have to upgrade it. There in lies the first problem, only 2 memory slots, the server comes with only a single 1GB DIMM populating the one slot, to get to 4GB of memory you would have to remove it and 2 – 2GB DIMMs, the cost for this is $160. Having only 4GB of RAM in a virtual host is just not enough so to get the server to its maximum supported 8GB capacity you would have to add 2 – 4GB DIMMs, the cost for this is $700 due to the extremely high cost of denser RAM. Now you’re up to over $1,000 for this server as each 4GB DIMM costs more than the server itself. The next problem is the CPU, the AMD Athlon NEO 1.3 Ghz processor is pretty weak to be used for a virtualization. The AMD NEO processor family was designed for ultrathin notebooks and has a very small form factor and low power consumption. As a result while it is a dual-core CPU, 64-bit and includes the AMD-V feature which is required by vSphere the performance is just not going to be good enough for a virtual host running many VMs. There is also the question of if you could even use it with vSphere which may not include the driver for whatever storage controller is being used. HP’s website does not give the model # of it so its pretty much a mystery right now. The embedded NIC is the NC107i which is the same one used in other servers like the ML110 G6 which is supported by vSphere. One would guess they would use the same storage controller as the ML110 G6 which is the B110i which is also supported by vSphere and if thats the case you could at least install and run vSphere on it.

I love everything else about the server, especially its micro form factor case, I’m OK with only 2 expansion slots as you could easily add 2 dual port NICs to it for a total of 5 which would be sufficient for a vSphere host. The one downside it both slots are PCIe which require only PCIe cards which are double that of PCI/PCI-X cards, a dual-port PCIe Intel NIC goes for about $130. While its a neat little server with a small form factor that would be great for home labs I just can’t see using it for virtualization running ESX or ESXi. However I can see it being used as a nice little storage server, you could fill the four drive bays with 1TB drives for less than $300 and install OpenFiler on it and have yourself a nice little storage server to use with vSphere. But to use it for a virtual host just isn’t practical or affordable, I really wish HP would make a whole line of these servers and over more options and expandability. The server does have the TPM security chip slot like other HP servers and also a special slot for a out of band management board called the Microserver Remote Access card (purchased separately) which are enterprise class features. If they would only give this server 2 more DIMM slots and provide more CPU choices this server would be perfect for a small virtualization home lab or business. This server seems geared towards running non-virtualized lightweight applications on it which doesn’t make sense when everyone is going virtual these days.

So if you’re looking for an affordable vSphere home lab or small business server I’d have to recommend you look at the ML110 G6 server instead. The list cost is not that much more, it starts at $469 and it comes with more DIMM slots (4), more PCI slots (4) and more CPU options such as the Intel Core i3-530 (dual core), Intel Xeon X3430 (quad core) and the Intel Xeon X3440 (quad core w/HT). Also be aware that the Microserver does not come with a DVD drive standard which is an additional $49 option, the ML110 G6 does include a DVD drive. The ML110 G6 is a great little server, it’s taller than the Microserver but just as quiet and has low power consumption. I have two of them at home and they are perfect for a vSphere lab, with 4 DIMM slots you can use affordable 2GB DIMMs and get a total of 8GB of memory. In addition the X3440 CPU has hyperthreading which gives you 8 cores to use with a vSphere host. The HP Microserver is a cool concept and reminds me of the Shuttle servers but the small size comes at a cost with HP’s version and it just isn’t a great candidate to use as a vSphere host.

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