Review: Next-gen HP ProLiant pumps up the jam

HP's DL380p Gen8 dances through virtualization workloads and server administration with compelling mix of speed and ease

Review: Next-gen HP ProLiant pumps up the jam

Unlike most movie sequels, the HP ProLiant DL380 gets better with each generation. The DL dynasty just hit generation 8, and true to form, the HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 does a fine job of incorporating all the latest server hardware, features, and doodads, with special emphasis on CPU clout, storage performance, and systems management.

HP designed the DL380p Gen8 with many of the same market and performance goals as the Dell PowerEdge 720xd (click for the review); both share the same form factor, drive density, and Intel's Sandy Bridge CPU architecture. The DL380 is also a noticeable upgrade from the DL380's Gen7 iteration. For one, it runs on dual Xeon E5-2600s instead of the Gen7's dual Xeon 5600s, which means it can run a maximum of eight cores per socket versus the Gen7's six cores -- with more compute punch in each core. The Gen8 not only supports 768GB of RAM vs. the Gen7's maximum of 348GB, but it can also handle a wider variety of RAM types. Finally, HP has spent considerable effort increasing the storage performance of its servers. While the Gen8 uses the same Smart Array P420i storage controller as the Gen7, the Gen8 still supports a wider variety of drive types, along with greater density.

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My test unit didn't come max-equipped but still had plenty of oomph, with dual E5-2690 CPUs, four 600GB 10K SAS drives, and 128GB of RAM. The system arrived with a FlexLOM NIC that carried dual 10Gb interfaces (which my paltry switch fabric doesn't support), but HP also included an optional four-port gigabit Ethernet card. Swapping one for the other was a 1-minute tool-less process that worked like a charm.

The rest of the box is standard by today's measure: On the front you'll find two USB and VGA ports, system insight displays, and all the drive bays, including an optional optical bay. On the back are four USB, network, iLO (Integrated Lights-Out) management processor, and VGA rear-mounts along with a good ol' serial port. Additionally, my unit came with 94-percent-efficient dual-750-watt hot-swap power supplies, though you can get 460-watt or 1,200-watt versions, too. The rack kit is simple to install and entirely tool-less. I had some trouble locating system ID info (including the user name and password I needed to access HP's System Insight Manager), but finally found it printed on a plastic tab that slides out of the front bezel like an ATM card.

Features, finish, and speed
Beneath the quick-removal access panel, you'll notice typical HP fit and finish. All key components, including CPU, RAM, disks, the hard disk risers, PCI risers, power supplies, fans, and network ports, are upgradeable without tools. The two CPUs and all 24 DIMM slots are protected by a clear baffle and cooled by six fans possessed of the traditional jet-engine, only-tolerable-in-a-rack cooling noise; these are swappable individually or as a whole by removing the entire fan cage. Upgraded from the Gen7, the Gen8 DIMM slots support not just straight DDR3 DIMMs, but also load-reduced DIMMs and unbuffered DIMMs.

Continuing our internal tour, you'll find both an internal SD slot and USB port. My unit had three PCIe 3.0 and three PCI 2.0 expansion slots (though you can opt for up to six PCIe 3.0), as well as four 600GB 10K SATA drives. Drive options are many, but max out at 25TB using any combination of SFF (small form factor) SAS/SATA disk, SFF SAS SSD, or LFF (large form factor) SATA SSD. In a nice touch, HP has replaced the standard cache setup with flash. That means better performance during a power outage, and you no longer need to worry about changing a battery every couple of years.

Test Center Scorecard
HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8989797


Very Good

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