If you’re in the market for a 4-way blow-your-socks-off Windows server system, I urge you to take a look at HP's powerful ProLiant DL585, which is representative of the new era of 64-bit x64 servers.

The ProLiant DL585 I tested was equipped with four 2.4GHz Opteron CPUs, 2GB of RAM, and a dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI controller with battery backup connected to four 36GB 15,000rpm hard disks. In its maximum configuration, the system supports a total of 64GB of RAM and four 300GB hard disks. Internally, the system provides a 1GHz HyperTransport bus, two 133MHz PCI-X slots, and six 100MHz PCI-X slots. The ProLiant DL585 also comes with dual 1GB PCI network adapters, two USB 2.0 ports, a slimline floppy-disk drive and CD-ROM combination unit, one serial port, an Integrated Lights Out (iLO) management port, and hot-pluggable redundant power supplies.

You can purchase the system with 32-bit Windows 2003 Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition, or you can get the native 64-bit Windows 2003 Standard or Enterprise x64 Edition OS. Also, several varieties of Linux and UNIX are available, including Red Hat, Novell SUSE, SCO UnixWare, and Solaris.

To get an idea of the system's performance benefits while running in native 64-bit mode, I tested SiSoftware’s Sandra 2005 in both 32-bit mode and native 64-bit mode. (The blazing speed of the DL585 is apparent from the first startup; it booted up Windows Server in just 17 seconds.) Sandra 2005, which comes in both 32-bit x86 and 64-bit x64 versions, is a synthetic benchmark that yields a general overall picture of a system's capabilities. Comparing the results of the 32-bit tests with those of the 64-bit tests showed that the ProLiant DL585's performance was, on average, 22 percent better as a native 64-bit system. Not surprisingly, the most significant differences appeared in the CPU Arithmetic and Memory Bandwidth portions of the tests. The file system and LAN portions were approximately equal. The CPU Arithmetic improvements were a result of the x64 processor's better floating-point capabilities, whereas memory bandwidth benefited immensely from the larger data path.

Like the other systems in the ProLiant line, the ProLiant DL585 comes with a terrific set of bundled management utilities, consisting of the HP Systems Insight Manager and the iLO technology. Insight Manager requires the installation of Microsoft IIS, as well as a database. The system provides Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), but you can also use an existing SQL Server system. Insight Manager, which lets you perform remote systems management directly over the network through a browser interface or interactively through the Insight Manager console, provides system monitoring, alert functionality, and asset management. The built-in iLO feature enables remote management through an embedded Web server.

If you’re in the market for a rack-mounted enterprise-class server, you can’t go wrong with the ProLiant DL585. One warning, however: After installing this 2U rack-mounted server, I would first strongly advise that you place it in one of the lower positions in your server rack. This heavy-duty system weighs over 100 pounds, and getting it into place can be a task. (The quick-mount rail kit that HP provides does help immensely.)

HP ProLiant DL585
Contact: HP * 800-752-0900
Web: http://www.hp.com
Price: Starts at $9905; tested configuration, $27,521. Base price includes two 2.2GHz AMD 848 Opteron processors, 2GB of RAM, and two 1GB Ethernet adapters. Tested configuration includes four 2.4GHz AMD 850 Opteron processors, 16GB of RAM, four 36.4GB Utlra320 SCSI drives, and four 1GB Ethernet adapters.
Pros: Rugged construction, ultra high performance, 64-bit compatibility, built-in systems management tools
Cons: CD-ROM drive instead of DVD-ROM; no USB ports on front fascia
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Recommendation: The system's 4-way Opteron configuration makes it blindingly fast, and with support for as much as 64GB of RAM, it offers enterprise-class scalability in a rugged, well-designed package.