HP’s ProLiant servers continue to grow in popularity, with a recent report from analyst Gartner showing that this product family contributed significantly to HP firmly holding the top spot in global server shipments during 2007. It’s easy to see why, since both rack and tower ProLiants offer a fine combination of features at affordable prices – and on review we have the latest ML350 G5, which boldly claims to be one of the most flexible tower servers in the world.
Build quality is up to the expected standard, with the server’s chassis and panels quite capable of handling the rigours of a busy office. Physical security is particularly good, as the front door protects all expansion and drive bays plus the Power and Reset buttons. The whole thing can be locked shut too.
There’s certainly plenty of choice in the storage department, as the server
is endowed with a Smart Array 200i embedded controller that supports SAS or SATA hard disks. You have two choices of hot-swap drive cage: the review system here is kitted out with the six-bay SATA model, but you can go for the eight-bay 2.5in SAS drive version if you prefer. For a general-purpose SMB server we’d recommend going for high capacity, low-cost SATA drives, since you’re unlikely to see any significant performance benefits from more expensive SAS drives.
The five 5.25in expansion bays up above the hard disks do seem excessive, as even with a DVD drive in the lower one we struggled to think of four more devices we’d want to fit in the remaining bays. Fujitsu Siemens has been more inventive with the A-Listed Primergy TX300 S4, as the server has fewer expansion bays and enough room for two hot-swap cages, each supporting up to six 2.5in SFF hard disks.
Internally, everything looks neat and tidy, with cabling kept to a minimum.
A pair of processor sockets are located just behind the upper expansion bays, one with a decent 2.5GHz quad-core Xeon in our review system. Eight memory banks are positioned towards the rear and the price here includes the base configuration of 1GB, which can be upped to 16GB. A minor disappointment is the small plastic shroud used to direct air across the DIMM sockets, which is firmly fixed to the upper rear cooling fan – the whole assembly must be unclipped to gain access to them.
Office staff will love the server’s near silent running. There’s a pair
of large cooling fans at the rear, and the single processor in the review unit has an active heatsink, but we had to switch almost everything else off in the lab before we could even hear this system. Adding a second processor will increase noise output, but either way it won’t create any disturbance
in a normal office environment. The network connection is handled by
a single, embedded Gigabit port, and there’s more room to expand since the motherboard offers three PCI Express and three PCI-X slots.
If a key requirement for your tower server is good remote management you need look no further, as the ML350 G5 is endowed with HP’s excellent iLO2 (integrated lights out) chip. This offers a dedicated Fast Ethernet management port and its tidy web interface provides plenty of control. You can reset the server, power it off and on and emulate pressing the power button, plus iLO2 provides tools for monitoring the status of the controller and server and viewing installed components.
Even power management is on the menu, as you get a 60-day evaluation
of HP’s latest Power Meter, Power Cap and Power Regulator options. The Power Meter offers graphs and tables showing consumption in watts or BTU/hr, while the Power Cap feature is used to put limits on consumption. The Power Regulator supports both AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon MP and DP processors, and dynamically controls power consumption by throttling back the processors when demand is low. Alternatively, you can set them to run at lowest speed or highest performance, or hand control over to the OS where it can use Intel’s Demand Based Switching or AMD’s PowerNow instead.
The management bonanza doesn’t stop here either, as you have HP’s bootable SmartStart CD-ROM to get you off the starting blocks. This simplifies server installation by gathering together user and system information, loading drivers for all devices and automating OS installation. Next up is HP’s Systems Management Homepage, which provides a status report on all server components plus colour-coded alerts. And then there’s HP’s Systems Insight Manager software suite. Any HP server with an Insight agent can be accessed remotely, and with it you get a detailed report on system operations.
The ML350 G5 has great expansion potential, although the glut of 5.25in bays does substantially reduce storage capacity. Nevertheless, this is a very quiet and well-built server that offers good value and some quality remote-management features.
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing