Respected home networking blog ServeTheHome has leaked the upcoming specs of the new HP Microservers, of which the G7 Models (N36L, N40L, N54L) have all been wildly successful amongst the tech crowd for their low price, high flexibility and miserly power usage. Many people used them as a home-built NAS when loaded with FreeNAS, others like myself use them as a home ESXi lab for learning. They also made a good XMBC box for media playing, streaming and recording.
The G8 Microservers differ from the G7 models in many respects, firstly the aging AMD Turion dual-core CPUs have been replaced with newer Intel chips along with the Intel C204 'Cougar Point' chipset. You have a choice of the Celeron G530T
or the Pentium G630T
. The Celeron clocks two cores at 2.0Ghz with 2MB cache to get an average CPU Passmark of 1604, while the G630T also sports two cores at 2.3Ghz, but increases the cache to 3MB. This boost takes the G630T to an average CPU Passmark of 2154 which is well over double the N40L's 979 Passmark.
One of the biggest issues with the G7 Microserver was memory support. While it sported ECC non-Registered RAM and could also take standard DDR3 memory, officially it only supported 8GB. While some in the Microserver Community were able to get them running with 16GB of RAM, DIMM compatibility was crucial to the success of booting the hardware with 16GB. The G8's will support ECC memory again, but at this stage we do not have any information on the maximum memory support. We expect 16GB at a minimum, but 32GB may be possible. Any of the ECC memory that G7 owners used in their older hardware should be transferable to the new hardware – great news!
: There will be two memory channels off the integrated Intel CPU memory controller each running a single DDR3 slot on the motherboard for a total of two RAM slots. The G8 Microserver maintains the G7 support of 1300Mhz DDR3 in either normal desktop SDRAM or unbuffered ECC. The G8 increases the memory speeds to 1,600Mhz and takes official memory capacity to 16GB
This is excellent news, those upgrading will be able to transfer their previous 16GB kits into the new G8 units, on the proviso that they have enough physical clearance between other components in the new model. Those that purchased the 16GB 1333Mhz ECC kits from Kingston or Crucial should see a straight swap with zero issues.
Of course, until we get the new units in our hands we cannot test and see if 32GB of memory in the unit would work. That said, remembering that since this is a relatively cheap machine to purchase, the idea of buying 16GB DDR3 ECC DIMMs seems rather expensive as these are most definitely a enterprise server part and commands a premium price.
In any case 16GB is supported, which for some will be comforting and a bonus if their G7 never quite got to 16GB. For others it will be a disappointment as it is no real improvement on their G7.
Another major boost is the inclusion of HP’s iLO4
hardware management which is usually included on their higher-end Proliant Servers. The G7 lacked this feature, although had a proprietary slot for a RAC (Remote Access Card) which gave similar functionality. The NIC's have also been upgraded to Dual Broadcom-based ports and the iLO port is a separate
, dedicated port unlike the ML310e G8 which requires a optional mezzanine card for a separate port.
HP’s B120i RAID
solution also features in the G8 Microserver, a far cry from the AMD RAIDXpert chip on the G7. This is also fitted to the higher end Proliant offerings like the ML310e G8 and gives ESXi support out of the box
, something the AMD solution did not. There is no real information what RAID levels this will support for now, but we know it can do RAID levels 0, 1 and 10 out of the box, and if fitted with 512MB of cache it can do RAID5 also however that may require a HP SmartArray Advanced software key. Until we get more information, we cannot really tell what the hardware will support.
There’s also 2 x SATA 3 (6Gbps)
ports on the Microserver, perfect for a couple of SSD's to be added. The pictures we have found of it also show a slim optical drive
, although it is likely that the internals will be much tighter so finding a place to put them or other mechanical drives may be a problem. I have a feeling you will not be able to stuff an extra 3x 3.5" drives into it like some people were able to do with the G7 chassis. Hopefully there will be a couple of mounts for 2.5" drives in there somewhere.
USB ports have been a major talking point in the community and USB3 ports have been high on the wishlist of many. The Intel C204 chipset supports 6 x USB2 ports, although the leaked specs say 7. (Update
: 4 x Rear USB 3.0 ports confirmed
HP has also given us the new G8 styling, bringing the look of the unit into what many would call style. The G7's flat black look was sufficient and was able to be hidden away reasonably well, but the G8's look so good that you will want to show them off!
I am really looking forward to these being released. My ESXi boxes are really struggling with disk writes as the CPU is reasonably slow. A 4-spindle RAID5 array off a P410 card simply does not see the performance it would with a reasonable desktop CPU. RAM being capped at 8GB is another issue, it really limits the amount of VM's you can have, especially if you cannot get 16GB to work on your G7 Microserver. They should also be compatible out of the box with HP’s ESXi Custom Image which already has all the drivers for the G8 Broadcom NICs and B120i controllers.
Of course price will be the issue and I think we will see the retail price on these to be $499 (AUD) for the G530T and $599 (AUD) for the G630T to begin with. The N54L's will be run out with rebates in the near future, You should be able to pick them up for about $180 (AUD) very soon, even though the current price hovers at about $269 (AUD).