HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen9 review
The perfect first server, with a fine blend of storage, management and upgrade options at a great price
Growth and evolution can be a challenge for small businesses, but HPE's ProLiant ML30 Gen9 is a server that will keep up. With entry-models starting at less than 500, it's affordable too. We tested an HPE Performance model, which came with a fast 3.5GHz Xeon E3-1240 v5 processor, partnered by 8GB of DDR4 that can be boosted to 64GB. The base models are supplied with a 3GHz Xeon E3-1220 v5 and 4GB of RAM.
Pre-configured units start with an unpopulated four-bay LFF hotplug drive cage hidden behind the lockable bezel. You'll be able to tailor storage precisely to your requirements, since HPE offers an excellent choice of drives spanning high-performance 12Gbits/sec SAS 3, mid-line SATA and low-cost SATA plus SSDs. If you want more choice, HPE's configure-to-order options include four-bay non-hotplug (NHP) and hotplug cages, and stretch up to an eight-bay hotplug SFF cage.
It's worth mentioning that HPE's hotplug carriers aren't just about the sockets: they're packed with status LEDs. Although these are partially obscured by the bezel, they show you at-a-glance how healthy your drives are, when they're being accessed and, in the case of a RAID array, which volumes can't be safely removed with the server running.
On the subject of RAID, your options begin with the embedded Dynamic Smart Array B140i, which offers stripes, mirrors and RAID5 arrays, and supports both four- and eight-bay cages. It can only handle SATA drives, however: if you want SAS drives then you'll have to upgrade to an HPE Smart Array H240 or H241 PCI Express card, with the former costing around 130.
There's plenty of room to expand in other directions too. Along with dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, the motherboard has four available PCI Express slots. There are also two free 5.25in bays above the hard disk cage but if, like us, you choose the dual 460W hotplug PSU option, the lower of these bays is unavailable due to the length of the PSU receptacle.
One notable strength of the ML30 is its top-tier remote management capabilities. The motherboard sports HPE's standard-setting iLO4 chip, which shares access with the first Gigabit port and provides the best web portal on the market. It's crammed with useful information on server status, along with direct links to HPE support.
The price also includes an iLO4 Standard licence, which enables remote power controls but to get full OS remote control and power metering you'll need an Essentials upgrade. The Intelligent Provisioning feature of the iLO4 chip is a winner: it helped us get Windows Server 2012 R2 loaded up with the correct drivers inside 20 minutes.
You can even make use of HPE's free System Management HomePage tool: this provides a basic web interface with useful details on critical hardware components. HPE's Insight Control software offers complete network systems management, but it costs extra and is best suited to larger businesses with multiple systems and servers.
While it isn't the most power-efficient server we've seen, the ML30 Gen9 won't wreck your electricity bill: with a single 460W PSU and a pair of 1TB SATA data drives, we measured an idle power draw of 35W, peaking at 92W with the CPU under load. This server will also appeal to those who value peace and quiet: the SPLnFFT iOS app measured a barely audible 36.2dB with our iPad 1m away.
The ML30 Gen9 is a great choice for SMBs with an eye on the future. The low starting price makes it very good value, it's endowed with the best remote management tools in town, and it offers plenty of upgrade space to keep in step with demand.
The ML30 Gen9 is a great choice for SMBs with an eye on the future. The low starting price makes it very good value, it’s endowed with the best remote management tools in town, and it offers plenty of upgrade space to keep in step with demand.
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