HP's ProLiant DL 385 G7 Packs Powerful Punch

By Paul Ferrill (Send Email)
Posted Aug 3, 2011


Server consolidation continues to be a key driver behind many corporate hardware purchasing decisions. Power and cooling requirements also rank high on the list, as IT organizations look to squeeze even more cost savings from shrinking operating budgets. From a vendor perspective, it's important to give customers flexible options without compromising on things like reliability and maintainability. Staying on par or even ahead of the competition on price can make a difference in large and small contracts alike.

Plenty of possibilities from the latest version of this AMD Opteron powered workhorse.

HP's ProLiant server line has its origins in the Compaq acquisition. It continues to be the primary workhorse server product line. Customers can choose from AMD Opteron or Intel Xeon enterprise-class CPUs and a whole host of memory and storage options. There are tradeoffs between the Intel-based DL380 and AMD-based DL385 versions, as you get fewer CPU cores and memory going the Intel route. For a complete rundown of HP's ProLiant options, check out the Buyer's Guide recently published on ServerWatch.

Heavy Duty Computing

AMD continues to be the go-to option for CPU core density like other similar servers, such as the Dell R515 we reviewed a while back. Memory density is another differentiating factor with the DL 385, as it provides 24 DIMMs, allowing up to 512 GB using the latest RDIMMs. With 24 total cores (soon to be 32) available, you can do some serious server consolidation. A generous 4 GB of memory per virtual machine (VM) would comfortably support 32 VMs on the machine we tested.


The HP ProLiant DL 385 G7
Figure 1
The HP ProLiant DL 385 G7

The system we reviewed was equipped with two 12-core AMD 6176 SE processors. It is upgradeable to the new 16-core Interlagos chips (scheduled to be available in volume in Q4 2011). Other system specs included are 128 GB of DDR3 memory, a Smart Array disk controller with 1 GB of Flash Backed Write Cache (FBWC) and eight 600 GB SAS Hard Disks (see Figure 1). The total estimated MSRP for this configuration is $17,784. While that might sound a little pricey, it is cost competitive when you consider it could easily replace up to 32 physical machines.

Power and Cooling Innovation

Engineering has always been one of the areas in which HP excels. This is particularly evident in its "sea of sensors" thermal management initiative (see Figure 2). In a nutshell, this boils down to a large number of thermal sensors scattered throughout the box to precisely monitor various components. HP's system management firmware takes these readings into consideration when it adjusts the cooling fan speeds up or down.


HP's 'Sea of Sensors' thermal management initiative
Figure 2
HP's 'Sea of Sensors'

Other key technologies, in terms of power inside the ProLiant DL 385 G7, include HP Power Regulator and Insight Control power management with Dynamic Power Capping. HP has invested significant design and engineering effort in power regulation to deliver high-efficiency conversion. That translates into lower power requirements, lower operating temperatures and, ultimately, lower operational cost. Dynamic Power Capping gives system administrators the ability to set limits based on total power consumption to prevent computing demand surges from exceeding available power. Power supply choices include 460W, 750W and 1200W AC plus 1200W DC.

Management Magic

The DL385 G7 comes with the latest version of HP's Integrated Lights-Out (iLO 3) management software. Figure 3 shows what you'll see when you access the iLO software using any web browser. Notice that the server is currently powered off. Clicking on the "Momentary Press" button will power-on the server just as if you had pressed the power button in person. Figure 4 shows a snapshot of the iLO 3 system log available through the management screen. Another key feature of iLO 3 is support for virtual devices, enabling remote software installation from a local device.


HP's Integrated Lights-Out (iLO 3) management software
Figure 3
HP's iLO 3 Management Software


The iLO 3 system log available through the management screen
Figure 4
The iLO 3 System Log

iLO 3 also gives you direct access to the system console screen using either a Java-based applet or a Microsoft .Net version. Both require the appropriate runtime libraries to be installed to function properly. You'll need version 3.5 of the Microsoft .NET framework and Java Runtime Environment, Standard Edition 6.0 for the Java version. We found the .NET version works best using Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser. Both do the job well and eliminate the need for any additional KVM-over-IP solution.

Bottom Line

The HP ProLiant DL385 G7 is a fine piece of hardware with solid engineering and a wide range of options. We found iLO 3 easy to use with lots of information to help keep you informed about the status of your server. iLO 3 also integrates with high-end SNMP-based management tools. It's easy to see how this box could easily stand out among a crowded field of commodity servers.

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