It's small, but HPE's latest microserver still packs in plenty of storage and other features for under $1,000.
HPE’s clever little ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 has garnered a loyal following in the small business market, but it’s now over three years old and in need of a refresh. Enter the generation-skipping MicroServer Gen10, which delivers a big boost in performance while retaining its predecessor's space-saving dimensions.
The Gen10 isn’t as pretty as the Gen8: the latter’s sleek, brushed aluminium bezel is replaced with a black plastic door, and the status light across the front has also gone. Still, the door on the Gen10 feels fairly secure: to prevent interference, you can flip down a sliding tab on the side of the drive bay, fit the main cover and padlock it shut.
Inside, things are more positive. The Gen8’s aging Intel Celeron is replaced by AMD’s fresh X3000 series of Opteron ‘accelerated processing units’ (APUs), and fast DDR4 ECC UDIMM memory is used across the board: with from 8GB to 32GB available.
The Opteron X3000 series offers up to 2.1GHz clockspeed, four processor cores, eight Radeon R7 graphics processing unit (GPU) cores and support for 2,400MHz DDR4 memory. However, the MicroServer Gen10 appears to have one option currently: the 1.6GHz dual-core Opteron X3216 with four GPU cores, and support for 1,600MHz DDR4.
Either way, the Opteron X3000 chips can’t hold a candle to the Intel Xeon processors in many full-size servers, of course, but then those servers can’t match MicroServer’s tiny size and price, starting at just $599.
Storage is handled by an embedded Marvell 88SE9230 chip, which drives the Gen10’s four SATA drive bays (via mini-SAS connectors). Unlike the Gen8, no brackets are required for standard-sized drives: to install a disk, you fit the provided mounting screws to each corner, then simply slide it in until the tab at the front locks. RAID options are the same as the Gen8's embedded B120i – the Marvell chip supports RAID0, 1 and 10 – and the LFF-SFF converter trays are offered as an optional extra.
There’s also a fifth SATA connector, for the media bay on top of the drive cage. You can populate this with a slim optical drive kit, or you can go for the 7mm SATA SSD mounting kit.
Expansion options have been improved: the motherboard offers an open-ended PCI-E Gen3 x8 slot, plus a second x4 slot (though this only supports x1 speeds). The faster slot is certified for HPE's Smart Array SAS RAID cards, so you can even upgrade the MicroServer to support high-performance SAS drives.
Upgrading the memory is a cinch, as the two DIMM slots on the right-hand side are unobstructed. The motherboard is easily removed by unplugging three cables, undoing one securing screw and sliding the tray out the back. The Opteron APU sits under a passive heatsink – all cooling is handled by a 10cm chassis fan. Small offices will appreciate how quiet this is: we recorded it at only 42dB at 1m.
The one disappointment about the Gen10 is the absence of HPE’s iLO remote management chip. This means its Intelligent Provisioning feature isn't supported, although we had no problems booting the system from a Windows Server 2016 ISO and loading it with the drivers inside 30 minutes.
For Linux users, HPE has partnered with ClearCenter to offer an option to include ClearOS open-source Linux OS preinstalled. This offers a slick browser-based management console which we found easy to use – you can load apps for gateway, DNS, Active Directory plus firewall services and add others to provide antivirus, web content filtering and much more. The Community edition is free, while the paid-for Home and Enterprise editions let you turn the MicroServer into an all-in-one business server with access to over 300 apps.
The Gen10's extra power, larger memory capacity and more versatile storage options make it a great choice for budget-conscious offices seeking their first server.
This review is based on an article originally appeared at IT Pro.