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

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The HP ProLiant DL380p packs one or two eight-core Intel Xeon E5-2600 Sandy Bridge CPUs, up to 768GB of RAM, and as much as 25TB of internal storage.
The HP ProLiant DL380p packs one or two eight-core Intel Xeon E5-2600 Sandy Bridge CPUs, up to 768GB of RAM, and as much as 25TB of internal storage.

HP hasn't just wired together a big pile of powerful components and slapped a case around them, either. The ProLiant DL380p is carefully engineered to make optimal use of all its hardware muscle as evidenced by publicly published benchmark results using VMware's VMmark 2.1.1 benchmark test. In case that one's new to you, VMmark runs multiple workloads across several virtual machines simultaneously. Workloads and VMs are configured via templates and grouped as "tiles," which form the basis for bench results. Using the two-processor version of VMmark running VMware ESXi 4.1.2, the ProLiant DL380p managed 11.05 at 10 tiles, somewhat higher than the Dell PowerEdge 720xd's 10.49 score at the same 10-tile count. You can see these results for yourself and read a deeper description on interpreting VMmark results at VMware's VMmark site.

HP attributes several factors to these benchmark results. RAM performance is improved not just because of support for a wider variety of RAM chips, but also because of new smart memory algorithms that supposedly eliminate some common memory errors. Also, HP claims up to a sevenfold storage performance boost with its new Dynamic Workload Acceleration design, which is supposed to improve data-intensive storage speed through optimized use of HP's solid-state drive technologies. The use of PCIe-3 for its storage controller doesn't hurt either.

Lights-out management
Just as with the Dell 720xd, some of the ProLiant DL380p Gen8's slickest engineering is in its management capabilities. HP's iLO 4 management processor uses tools including HP Agentless Management and the Active Health System to remotely handle a number of tasks that would normally require a physical visit to the server box. For example, you can use iLO to power cycle the server, install a new operating system, interface with perform ROM and BIOS updates, and even mount an ISO image and boot from it. The DL380p also has a new pre-boot information display that provides early system status info in case you're willing brave the server's startup noise. Wear earplugs, it'll help.

The Active Health System is a new tool for HP ProLiant customers. It's similar to one of those rabid sports fans who soaks up statistics like Rain Man and spews them out ad nauseum with little or no provocation. Active Health logs all diagnostic, alert, and configuration information for your server from the moment it's powered up. It can then pour that data onto the screen of an HP services technician, probably overwhelming him, her, or it, but providing all the information required for "rapid problem resolution."

A slick new feature is HP's mobile management application, which lets you manage your ProLiant from an Android 2.2 or iOS 4.3 device. (Yo! Whaddabout Windows Phone?)  The app gives you direct access to some of the server's guts, as well as to the iLO console. It'll let you cycle the server's power directly, do a BIOS update, and even boot from an ISO image. But you can also launch any scripts you've created for iLO and access iLO's Web interface for deeper management. Store a list of the servers you want to manage on the device and you'll be able to access all of them from your phone or tablet. It's very cool, though you know your boss is going to expect you to manage a server while you're on the golf course.

Even with this potential distraction to my backswing, the DL380p Gen8 is a fitting successor to the Gen7 and keeps the ProLiant's excellent reputation alive and well.

HP ProLiant DL380p pricing starts at $2,799; the high-performance SKU (the basis for our test configuration) runs to $10,759; and the actual as-tested price comes in at $15,313.

This story, "Review: Next-gen HP ProLiant pumps up the jam," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in computer hardware, servers, and the data center at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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