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HP's giant Proliant challenges big iron from IBM, Oracle

Tom Henderson | July 1, 2014
HP's new Proliant challenges big iron from IBM and Oracle with 60-core, 4U, high-performance hardware

What we don't like
We found the power-on-self-test (POST) process to be extremely slow. Yes, there are delicious options for specific-operating system pre-install options, although most servers get at most, one OS their entire service life. There's a delightful GUI one can use, too, which isn't quite as terse as the power-on CLI (actually function-key) list of choices.

There is room for 10 SFF drives in a single cage. Gone is the day when front-panel access is possible. To swap out a drive, one must pull the server away from the rack, open the top removable panel assembly and yank drives that no longer sit in custom frames. This means that expensive custom frames are no longer necessary for the drives, but their accessibility has been reduced; a mixed blessing.

Much of the scale-up power of the DL580 Gen8 depends on networking, and although the internal networking options on the larger frame are good with 4x10G Ethernet, it also means that clients will become more dependent on internal SDNs, and as there are varieties of SDNs endemic to each hypervisor/OS family.

Getting maximum output with inherently non-blocking switch architectures will require HP and the hypervisor/OS vendors to pay attention to the Ethernet adapter families that are used.

While this isn't a criticism, it's a mixed blessing that HP didn't put an actual L2/L3 Ethernet switch inside the box. With such a switch, such as the one we reviewed inside the Moonshot 1500 chassis, much configuration work could be done inside the box, rather than externally.

Overall
This is the healthiest server to cross our path, ever. HP has put much thought into the safety features of the design and its flexibility. We haven't seen any server with a potential for 6TB of main memory and 60 cores (each with two threads).

While it's a battleship in a 4U form-factor, HP has employed numerous features to ensure the battleship doesn't sink. It's a different chassis layout, not far from the other new Gen8 models.

No more front-loaded drives, instead, hefty fans. Room inside for more guts. Serious density, and rapid-deployment tailored to specific platforms. Industrial, and priced like it. Customization, perhaps in the extreme, especially if you like mixing and matching Intel processors (and not AMD).

Overall: we like battleships, and this one doesn't need many tenders.

How We Tested
We tested the HP DL580 Gen8 first in our lab, then as a member of our network operations center located at Expedient/nFrame in Carmel, Ind. In the NOC, we tested the DL580 G8 using both its internal configuration options for specific hypervisors/operating systems, then as a PxE-booted server, receiving images from several servers to test deployment. These included Windows 2012 R2 (patched to April 2014), VMware ESXi 5.5, CentOS 6.5, and SLES 11 SP3. All loaded with no issues.

 

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