EXCLUSIVE: Hewlett Packard ProLiant DL785 G5 review

If you're looking for a system to handle serious database or virtualisation duties, this 8-socket Opteron server has what it takes.

Chassis cooling is handled by three large fans at the rear and these are also hot-pluggable. We were pleasantly surprised at the low noise levels of the DL785 as it was actually quieter than a 3U dual-socket Xeon rack server sitting next to it. And neither is it a glutton for power as our in-line power meter measured the review system pulling only 36W when powered off and in standby mode. With the OS idling along we saw an average draw of 336W and with SiSoft Sandra punishing all sixteen cores this climbed to a peak of 598W.

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Internally, everything is very neat and tidy with clear access provided to all components. A vertically mounted SPI (system peripheral interconnect) board handles all device connectivity and comes with an embedded LSI SAS controller chip, which supports up to eight hard disks. If you want to use the other drive cage you'll need to add a second controller card but you're spoilt for choice as to its location as the main board offers eleven PCI-Express slots.

For server management, HP's Systems Management Homepage offers local and remote browser access where you can view installed components and check on their status, monitor areas such as available disk space and reboot the server. The Systems Insight Manager (SIM) software is also included and this provides enhanced browser-based remote management and monitoring, which delivers more information about system operations, extensive alerting facilities and the ability to remotely access other HP servers with an Insight agent installed.

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There's more as HP's standard embedded iLO2 controller provides a dedicated network port and secure remote browser access. As long as you have power you can reset the server, power it off and on and emulate pressing the power button. It also provides tools for monitoring the status of the controller and server and viewing installed components plus full remote control.

For power management, the Power Meter and Power Cap features as available on HP's Xeon servers are conspicuous here by their absence, but you do have the optional Power Regulator. This is OS independent, supports AMD and Intel processors and is controlled via the iLO2 web interface. Power consumption can be controlled dynamically so the processors are throttled back when demand is low. You can also force them to run at their lowest possible speed, highest possible performance or hand over control to the operating system.

The eight-socket Opteron server market is tiny with the only straight competition to HP's new server coming from Sun's Fire x4600. This is looking a tad long in the tooth now and has limited storage potential as it only supports four hot-swap hard disks. In the general multi-socket server market IBM's x3950 is a key competitor, but although it can support up to 64 Xeon cores this is achieved by linking up to four chassis using its ScaleXpander kits.

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With server virtualisation now likely to push demand for larger multi-socket servers, HP's DL785 G5 looks a timely re-entry into this market. It certainly sets a high standard as it delivers a fine specification for the price and teams this up with massive expansion potential, a high storage capacity and quality remote management tools.

Verdict

New forces and demands are driving the eight-socket server market with virtualisation now high on the agenda. There’s currently little competition but HP’s new DL785 G5 will certainly shake things up as it offers the highest levels of internal expansion and storage capacity in a single chassis and the processor count can be easily upgraded.

Chassis: 7U rack

CPU: 4 x 2.2GHz Opteron 8354

Memory: 8GB 667MHz DDR2 expandable to 512GB

Storage: 1 x 72GB HP 2.5in. 10K SAS (max. 16 hard disks)

RAID: HP Smart Array P400i with 256MB cache memory

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 6, JBOD

Expansion: 3 x PCI-e 16X; 3 x PCI-e 8X; 5 x PCI-e 4X

Network: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet

Power: 3 x 1200W hot-plug supplies (max. 6)

Management: Embedded HP iLO2 with 100/100 Ethernet

Software: HP SmartStart and Insight Manager

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