HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 review

HP’s ProLiant DL380 is one of the world’s most popular rack servers. In this hands-on review we look at the new Gen8 model which delivers a raft of new features including more power, improved design and total self-sufficiency.

Price
£6,193

With its latest Gen8 ProLiant servers, HP has really pushed the boat out for remote management as they've been designed to virtually manage themselves. Along with freeing up time for administrators, they offer improved I/O, flexible configuration options and, with Intel's new E5-2600 Xeons in the driving seat, a lot more processing power.

In this review we put HP's ProLiant DL380p Gen8 flagship and general all round workhorse on the lab bench. This 2U rack server introduces the new iLO4 embedded controller which comes as standard with HP's Agentless Management, Active Health System (AHS) and Embedded Remote Support features.

These provide enhanced health monitoring plus power and thermal controls and offer an app for smartphone remote management. The iLO4 web interface sees a minor redesign with more information on major components including storage and RAID.

Sea of Sensors 3D

HP's Sea of Sensors 3D provides a wealth of information about all server components.

Sea of Sensors 3D

Server monitoring gets even more sophisticated with HP's Sea of Sensors 3D. Originally introduced in the seventh generation ProLiants, HP has now added around 28 thermal sensors throughout the server and on its own PCI-e and mezzanine cards.

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AHS monitors over 1,600 system parameters and stores up to 1GB of diagnostics data which can be securely downloaded to HP support for faster problem resolution. It links up with HP's new SmartMemory and SmartDrive devices and if it identifies a problem, arranges for replacement memory and hard drives to be ordered in advance.

HP's new Intelligent Provisioning means you don't need to boot the server with the SmartStart DVD to load an OS anymore. We were pleased to see this but it's been a long time coming as Dell introduced a similar feature more than three years ago.

Intelligent Provisioning

HP's new Intelligent Provisioning is very welcome as it streamlines OS installation immensely.

RAID and SmartDrives

Storage capacity hasn't changed since the DL380 G7 as the server still supports up to 16 SFF or eight LLF drives. We had the eight SFF drive model but if you add the second expansion cage you'll also need an extra RAID PCI-e card.

The new DL380e efficiency' models focus more on capacity as they have 12 LFF or 25 SFF drive bays. Other differences to the DL380p performance' models are they support lower cost E5-2400 Xeons and have 12 DIMM slots for a maximum memory capacity of 384GB.

The embedded Smart Array P420i in the DL380p links up with the motherboard's pair of SAS 2 ports and offers a good choice of cache memory. We had the full 2GB FBWC (flash backed write cache) module which comes with a fast charging capacitor.

HP's SmartDrive carriers are rather clever as they are packed with status LEDs so you know exactly what the drives up to. A locate LED on each carrier glows blue whilst the drive is being identified by the host and flashes when it's being updated.

The circular button has a rotating green disk activity ring whilst its multicolour centre LED shows the drive status and warns of impending failures. An LED on the carrier release button glows white to warn that it must not be removed where, for example, another drive in the same RAID-5 array has already failed.

HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8

The new tool-free internal design is virtually cable free and has red and blue touch points to show what can and can't be removed.

Internal design

HP's tool free design is even easier to use as the two PCI risers can be removed with just a flick of the wrist. The new Smart Socket guides also reduce the chances of CPU pin damage during upgrades or maintenance. Components are now colour coded so those with red tabs are hot-swappable whereas those with blue tabs must not be removed until the server is powered down.

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The review system came with dual 2GHz E5-2650 Xeons which have 8 cores and a 20MB L3 cache. Dual CPU systems have six hot-swap fans and we found the review system to be extremely quiet during testing.

The server had two 750W power supplies but HP also offers 460W or 1200W options which all share a common form factor. The E5-2650 Xeons have a low TDP of 95W and this showed up nicely in our power tests.

With Windows Server 2008 R2 in idle we measured a draw of 109W and under maximum load from the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking app, this peaked at 250W. As a comparison, the Dell R720 we reviewed had dual 2.7GHz E5-2680 Xeons with a 130W TDP and these pulled 120W in idle and 358W under load

Power metering

HP's power metering provides graphical views of consumption but you'll need a license upgrade to activate it.

Virtualisation and network features

For virtualisation, the server has both internal USB and SD memory card slots. However, Dell is the winner if you want hypervisor redundancy as its R720 supports dual internal SD card slots.

Network options have been improved as HP's FlexLOM cards slot in at the back of the server. We had the quad Gigabit version but HP also offers a dual 10GbE card or a 10/40Gbps FlexFabric module. These are very easy to remove and replace and have the added advantage of not requiring a PCI-e slot.

Conclusion

The DL380 has always been HP's star player in its rack server line-up and the new Gen8 model strengthens its position even further. Internal design and build quality are exemplary and the new iLO4 delivers the best remote management features currently available.

Verdict

The new ProLiant DL380p Gen8 is capable of taking on a wide range of roles in the datacentre as it has versatility as its middle name. Storage capacity and expansion potential are very good and HP’s iLO4 and its new remote management strategy really make this server stand out.

Chassis: 2U rack

CPU: 2 x 2GHz Xeon E5-2650

Memory: 32GB 1600MHz RDIMM DDR3 memory expandable to 384GB (768GB with LRDIMMs)

Storage: 2 x 600GB HP 10k SAS hot-swap hard disks (max. 16)

RAID: HP embedded Smart Array P420i SAS 2 with 2GB FBWC and capacitor

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 50, 6, 60

Expansion: 6 x PCI-e Gen3 slots

Network: 4 x Gigabit FlexLOM

Other: Internal USB port and SD card slot

Power: 2 x 750W hot-plug supplies

Management: HP iLO4 Standard with 10/100

Warranty: 3yrs on site NBD

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