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HP ProLiant DL160 G5 review

Verdict

Limited remote-management features, but good value for SMBs looking for a low-cost, general-purpose rack server

Review Date: 3 Oct 2008

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £919 (£1,057 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

HP's new ProLiant DL100 series rack servers aim to serve a two-fold purpose, as they target SMBs looking for a low-cost all-rounder and enterprises wanting cost-effective HPC nodes. In this exclusive review of the DL160 G5, we take a look to see what it has to offer smaller businesses on a tight budget.

This compact 1U rack server is up to the high standard of build quality we expect from HP, as the chassis is very solid. There isn't a lot to see - the review model came equipped with a basic 160GB SATA hard disk fitted in a cold swap carrier with room for three more across the front. Adding drives is fairly straightforward, as the narrow panel in front of the removable lid can be unscrewed to provide access to the carriers plus interface and power cables.

Note that there isn't any room at the front for optical or floppy drives, so you'll need to source USB devices to install an OS. HP also offers a model with hot-swap SATA/SAS hard disks, which requires an extra hot-plug backplane to be installed. On the review system, the drives are connected directly to
the motherboard and use the basic embedded RAID controller that supports mirrors, stripes and single drives. No Windows storage-management tools are provided; arrays are configured from the BIOS menu and standard management tools are also absent, so you can't monitor the drives and arrays.

Internally, everything looks neat and tidy, with good access to all components. For the price, you get a single 2.66GHz quad-core Xeon and there's room for a second processor alongside it. A basic 1GB of FB-DIMM memory is included, and the eight DIMM sockets at the rear allow this to be expanded to 64GB.

The processor is topped off with large passive heatsink, and a clear plastic shroud ensures the air goes where it should. Cooling is well handled: a bank of six fans (albeit not hot-swappable) stretch across the entire chassis. We were expecting this arrangement to generate a lot of noise, but after power up they settled down to a reasonably
low level. Just don't sit the DL160 next to your desk.

You can add up to two expansion cards, as the chassis butterfly riser has a PCI Express slot on each side and accepts both a full-height and a low-profile card. The DL160 can be remotely managed, but instead of the embedded iLO2 chip used by the majority of HP's ProLiant servers, you get a Lights Out 100i chip on the motherboard. This still provides remote web browser access but with a reduced feature set.

It has its own dedicated Fast Ethernet management port and offers a simple web interface from where you can take remote control. You can reset the server, power it off and do a hard reset. The hardware inventory screen isn't up to much - all it displays is that a processor is present.

The status of critical components can be viewed over the 100i web interface, and the PEF (platform event filtering) feature allows you to select individual components and assign actions to them. If, for example, a fan fails you can automatically switch off the server, reset it or just send an alert. If you want more from your remote management, HP offers an upgrade which supports virtual media for booting the server from another system. An advanced pack takes all these features and activates the KVM over IP function already embedded in the 100i chip, allowing the server's OS to be remotely viewed and controlled.

The CD supplied with the DL160 contains a bunch of drivers for Windows and Linux systems, and can also be used to boot the server where it offers HP's Insight Diagnostics toolbox for viewing the hardware components and running tests on selected items. You don't get HP's SmartStart tool for streamlining OS deployment, but this didn't prove a problem: we had Windows Server 2003 R2 installed inside an hour.

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