Review: HP Proliant DL380 G6

Computerworld server review for mid-size organisation virtualisation

The HP Proliant DL380 G6 was reviewed as part of the Computerworld server review for mid-size organisation virtualisation.

Test configuration RRP: $23,018 (note this is with four 60GB SSD drives as tested)

The HP Proliant DL380 G6 may only be a 2U server but once the cover is removed you discover it is built like a tank! Its high quality is typical of HP.

The front panel of this system hosts eight 2.5-inch hot swap drive bays. They have a nice, smooth action. All the bays on our test unit were occupied by 60GB SSDs that connected through the DL380’s SATA interface. SSDs take no prisoners when their performance is compared to the fastest conventional hard drive, but they are a lot more expensive and of relatively low capacity per unit. The primary SAS/SATA controller is embedded on the motherboard and on our system had the cache battery backed. Incidentally, the server also shipped with a SATA/SAS PCI card for external drive connectivity and it also had battery backed cache.

The front panel also includes quite a detailed array of status LEDs for the health and activity of the cooling fans, CPUs, DIMM slots, power supplies, LANs and temperature. At the rear, the DL380 sports four gigabit LAN ports as well as an integrated lights out (ILO) 2 management port as standard.

Removing the case cover reveals far less than any other server tested because the entire motherboard is covered by an airflow shroud and riser card assembly.

The riser assembly is held in place by five screws and a tool to unfasten them is provided on the back of the server. It’s not as elegant as many of the clip out riser assemblies but it is certainly more robust. It also makes updating RAM or PCIe cards more cumbersome than other servers, although any of the six cooling fans can be accessed without removing any covers should one fail.

The CPU heat-sinks are massive and well built. The two CPUs fitted were X5560 2.8GHz. The DL380 supports mirror and lock-step memory configurations thanks to its total of 18 DIMM slots which are arranged nine per CPU and three slots per channel.

The riser assembly included two sets of two horizontal PCIe x4 slots for expansion and as mentioned, only one was occupied. There are two hot swap 750W power supplies that should be quite adequate, even considering the upgrade potential of the DL380. Case cooling is provided by a row of five hot swap fans that run the full width of the case, however, if one of the two central fans should fail the airflow to one of the two CPUs would be substantially diminished and could result in overheating of the CPU in question.

The DL380 and one of the Xenon servers sported the second highest performing Intel CPU, the X5560, which is just 0.13GHz slower than the HP BL490c blades X5570. The DL380 and Xenon R4550 tussled for second position in the CPU benchmarks (see page 33). It was so close, it was a photo finish. For testing purposes the DL380 was equipped with four 60GB SSD SATA drives and, unlike the smaller SSD in the HP BL490C blade, the DL380’s drive performance was spectacular. Average latency was a similar 0.13 milliseconds but the throughput was more than twice its closest competitor over a single VM session and almost five times faster under multiple VMs.

Verdict The HP Proliant DL380 G6 is a high quality and fully featured 2U server with great performance, and if not for its relatively high price would be the clear leader in the 2U class.

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