HP's 4U ProLiant DL585 is packed with Opteron power

Fast, flexible, and easy to manage, this is one solid state-of-the-art server

The AMD Opteron x86_64 platform was first available only from smaller server vendors, but now Opteron-based servers are available from nearly every major server vendor, with the notable exception of Dell. Hewlett-Packard was one of the first big boys to play in the x86_64 pond, and thus far it’s been good for the company.

The new ProLiant DL585 is a fine example of HP’s Opteron success, and it’s no surprise Microsoft used the quad-CPU server to showcase the 64-bit beta of Windows Server 2003. Given the server’s local storage capacity, redundancy, and horsepower, it’s perfectly suited for a high-performance stand-alone application or database server.

The DL585 offers a solid 64-bit platform built around AMD’s recently released 2.6GHz Opteron 852 CPUs with 1MB Level 2 cache. Of course, the AMD-based chip set in the DL585 is running the 1GHz HyperTransport bus that pushes 8GBps between CPUs.

The DL585 also boasts support for as many as 64GB of PC2700 RAM at 266MHz, 48GB PC2700 RAM at 333MHz, or 32GB PC3200 RAM at 400MHz. This is a good spread of speed or size options, and the system is easily tailored for the best performance for the target application. Other features include eight PCI-X (PCI Extended) slots, a built-in Smart Array 5i Plus RAID controller, four U320 hot-swap drive bays, dual Broadcom gigabit NICs, and dual hotplug power supplies. Although Smart Array 5i is no slouch, I’d like to see Version 6i in this configuration.

As with most other enterprise-class x86-based servers from HP, the DL585 also includes redundant system ROMs and the latest installment of the iLO (Integrated Lights-Out) out-of-band management controller. iLO is responsible for true remote-management support, functioning via a dedicated CPU, RAM, and network interface.

Management, accomplished via a Web browser, pushes well beyond simple health monitoring and diagnostics. For example, there is support for controlling the server from a power-off state to full operation. Administrators can also change the BIOS and other system-level functions from the iLO interface’s KVM-switch-like display.

Additionally, local boot media is accessible through the Java-based console applet. Full management of the server is also performed through this applet, although a license is required to run the iLO in full graphical mode. Access to text consoles is fully functional out of the box.

Internally, the DL585 is very well laid out. The case is almost completely toolless, and the most commonly replaced components are easily accessible from the top. The accordion-cable tray simplifies accessing the server from within a rack: An administrator pulls the server completely forward for full access without disconnecting any cables.

Each CPU has a dedicated CPU/RAM board added and removed as a single unit. Each board has eight DIMM slots for RAM and a single CPU socket. Adding and removing fans and PCI cards is very easy as well. The cover uses a simple catch mechanism for locking and unlocking, and it opens and closes quickly and easily.

Click for larger view.

Also atop the case is a full map of the server’s guts, guides for common maintenance operations, and a diagnostic panel that highlights faults in any component from the fans to the RAM. Kudos to HP for that touch.

In my tests the DL585 ran Windows Server 2003 with aplomb, as well as Novell/Suse SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) 9 for x86_64 and later versions of Red Hat Advanced Server. Version 3.0 of Red Hat had some issues with the Northbridge on the mainboard, however, requiring the latest revision to properly install.

One odd quirk of the DL585 is that the device numbering isn’t similar between the power supplies and the hard drives. The disks are numbered 0 through 3 and run left to right, whereas the power supplies are numbered 1 and 2, running right to left. Also, I’d like to see up-front USB ports for quick device attachment.

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be impressed by the DL585. From form to function, it leaves little to be desired. The DL585 is a first-class quad-Opteron server for a first-class price.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Availability (25.0%)
Configuration (15.0%)
Scalability (10.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
HP ProLiant DL585 9.0 9.0 9.0 10.0 9.0 9.0 9.2