We have recently received one of the new HP MicroServe Gen8 boxes here for review. Clearly aiming at the SME market, this is the kind of hardware that can - and will - help business leverage technology with low cost investment in ongoing administration resources.
The HP Microserver Gen8 comes as a small desk server with a rich set of hardware and software features that give small businesses a complete solution for user management, storage, on-site backup and recovery.
At only 23 cm (h) x23 cm (w) x 24 cm (d), this server is small and quiet enough to be used inside an office.
The HP Microserver Gen8 on top with a PS1810-8G managed switch below it
The model tested came with one Pentium G2020 2.5 GHz processor, 16GB of RAM (two DD3 DIMM slots) and a 150 watts PSU powering the box, which can be plugged to standard mains, although I would obviously recommend using a good UPS.
The HP Microserver Gen8 can hosts up to four not hot-swappable disk drives, allowing for a combination of configurations - in my case I have a 500GB system drive, a 1GB spare drive and two 3TB drives configured in a RAID 1 setup. Officially HP supports up to four 3TB drives but that is because the only HP drives available are 3TB. Unofficially there are reports of larger drives being used.
Two USB 3.0 ports allow for high speed external drives to be used, while four USB 2.0 ports (two in the front and two in the back) allow for other peripherals to be connected (in my case the receiver for the cordless mouse/keyboard and UPS monitoring).
If you open the case you will also find an internal USB 2.0 and a microSD slot. Those can be used to boot hypervisor systems (VMWARE ESXi is supported) that would give you the power to run virtual machines giving you the ability to use all four internal drives for virtual storage.
There are two gigabit ethernet ports for the system itself plus one ethernet port for the Integrated ILO, the HP lights-out remote management platform. If your network doesn't have enough ports available it is possible to configure one of the ethernet ports to be shared between system and ILO (Integrated Lights Out).
The ILO system allows you to remotely access the system, monitor performance and execute administrative tasks (such as turn on/off, restart, check system conditions, mount local media from your PC or even access the desktop) without you having to connect a keyboard/mouse and monitor to your server.
The HP Microserver Gen8 comes with the Essentials ILO which allows for all these tasks to be performed but you need to get the Advanced option to have access to the remote terminal. In my experience though you can use the remote terminal for a few minutes before being disconnected, in effect giving you a glimpse of the system if you need some visual feedback.
My review box came with Windows Server 2012 Essentials pre-installed. This system allows up to 25 users to connect to the server and access shared resources. It also gives a very easy to use browser-based tool for file access as well as automated image backups. These image backups create a copy of an entire PC allowing for simple and easy restore, reducing downtime in case of a hard crash.
Those two system ethernet ports can be bonded for improved performance or resiliency. To be able to take full advantage of NIC Teaming you need a switch that supports this feature. As part of the review package we also received the PS1810-8G managed switch (which will be reviewed separately) and allows not only for NIC Teaming but for other features such as Jumbo Frames to be used.
The PS1810-8G managed switch can be positioned on top or below the HP Microserver Gen8 making it easier to position both in a single space.
After using the Windows Server 2012 Essentials for a while I decided to take advantage of Intelligent Provisioning, a feature built-into the server that allows you to install a supported-OS and have all the necessary drivers and software installed automatically for you. To this to happen you just need to insert the OS install media, boot the system and press the F10 key to start the install.
The PS1810-8G managed switch complements the HP Microserver Gen8 perfectly, in design and functionality
I used a USB key with a Windows Server 2012 R2 image and the system installation required only a few input at the beginning and it proceeded unattended after that.
Note that the server received here did not have an optical drive but the space is there. From some research I found it's possible to use a SSD as a system disk and use the space intended for the optical drive - again freeing up the four standard disk drives for storage only.
HP officially supports Microsoft Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enteprise Server, plus VMWARE ESXi.
When compared to a NAS solution, the HP Microserver Gen8 comes out well mainly because of the flexibility it provides in terms of software. I also noticed network performance tended to be 50% superior when compared with my existing NAS boxes here when transferring large files such as Microsoft Windows installation ISO files, which could be up to 4GB each.
• Small footprint, low noise full server hardware
• Low power consumption
• Good number of external ports
• NIC Teaming (bonding)
• Built-in ILO as standard
• HDD frames require a screwdriver when they could be a tool less frame
• No option to Sleep/Hibernate server when using Windows Server