In Pictures: HP’s giant ProLiant: The good, the bad, the UEFI

Massive 60-core DL580 Gen8 challenges big iron from IBM, Oracle

  • The DL580 Gen8 is HP’s most powerful server in the ProLiant line. HP says that it’s designed specifically to take on the IBM Power 750 and Oracle’s Sun server T5-4. Two tiers are offered -- basic and high performance. With basic, you get two processors, Intel EZ-4809 V2s at 1.9Ghz clock, which means a dozen cores. The high performance selection boosts capacity to four processors, Intel Xeon 4850 V2s (48 cores), or 4890 V2s (60 cores) clocked at 2.3 or 2.9ghz respectively.

  • Intel claims this server delivers a 1.7x performance increase using VMware’s VMark 2.5.1 benchmark over previous generation Xeon processors. A better clock and more cache—multiplied by an insane number of cores per processor is like a lit fuse. Add this to 40GB of Ethernet (at max configuration), 12Mbps, SAS SSDs inside or iSCSI outside, and room for PCIe full height/width cards in the chassis.

  • You can take a coffee break while waiting for the DL580 Gen8 to boot. In our testing and rebooting, it took seven minutes. Should you use the supplied front panel or rear panel connections to a crash cart/console, the system boots to numerous options, including a rudimentary GUI. Function key selections permit alternate boots, although we use PxE, which worked well. The BIOS suits UEFI boots, but it can be disabled to accommodate OS installations that don’t want the draconian controls of UEFI.

  • The high performance tier now also includes two or four 10Gigabit Ethernet ports, using SFP+ connectors. The basic tier has four GBE ports. We were supplied with HP’s four 10G Ethernet ports in the same space that the SFP+ connectors usually are mounted. Both chassis also have a Gigabit Ethernet iLO (Integrated Lights-Out) port to connect with HP’s management and monitoring system.

  • HP has stuffed an insane amount of the server CPUs and memory components-plus-cooling in the front of the chassis to provide space in the rear. What was pushed out? The base prices for the machines reflect no drives. Yes, they can be installed in a Small Form Factor (SFF) cage inside. However, HP believes you probably won’t put many drives inside and the drives aren’t easily accessible from outside the chassis for hot swap anyway—the front is covered by the four aforementioned fans.

  • There is massive room inside for PCIe V3 slots, which can run at a stunning 15Ghz+. Five 16 lane/fast slots, and four 8 lane/half-that-speed slots are included. Into these slots can go anything from Infiniband cards to additional SAS or General Purpose Graphics Processing Units, or other SAN target Host Bus Adapters.

  • The device has Advanced Memory Protection that ostensibly recovers from CPU, cache, and memory problems. Hypervisors and operating systems could benefit from this information. It would be lovely to track results in a way that would allow decision support for taking a machine out of service should its failures reach a certain threshold. The problem is that the firmware for Advanced Memory Protection is installed, but it isn’t yet supported by vendors like Microsoft or VMware. HP told us: soon.

  • We were supplied with 256GB of memory. However, the current max is 3TB, and with new memory sticks not yet available, the total could be 6TB. This means with 60 available cores, each core could conceivably be configured with 100GB of DRAM per. This is an astonishing possible amount of memory in any chassis, and this one’s just 4U high.

  • We found the power-on-self-test (POST) process to be extremely slow. Yes, there are delicious options for specific-operating system pre-installs, although most servers get at most, one OS their entire service life. There’s a delightful GUI one can use, too, which isn’t quite as terse as the power-on CLI (actually function-key) list of choices.

  • HP allows customers to mix and match Intel processors, so enterprises can select from the low-end basic Intel EZ-4809 V2s at 1.9Ghz clock, which means a dozen cores up to Intel Xeon 4850 V2s (48 cores), or 4890 V2s (60 cores) clocked at 2.3 or 2.9ghz respectively.

  • OK, this isn’t all bad, it’s more of a mixed blessing that HP didn’t put an actual L2/L3 Ethernet switch inside the box. With such a switch, such as the one we reviewed inside HP’s Moonshot 1500 chassis, much configuration work could be done inside the box, rather than externally.

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