The new HP ProLiant is a heavyweight server. Weighing in at just less than 70 pounds, it's designed for industrial-strength work. One of the first systems available with the new 64-bit Intel Xeon chip with Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T), the HP ProLiant ML350 G4—in its tested configuration—offers dual 3.2GHz processors, 2GB of RAM, a dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI controller with battery backup connected to four 36GB 15,000rpm hard disks, a 1GB PCI network adapter, and hot-plug redundant power supplies. (Maximum memory is 8GB, and the server supports as many as eight internal drives.) In addition, the system's four PCI Extended (PCI-X) slots and two PCI Express slots let this server take full advantage of today's technology, as well as the upcoming generation of high-performance PCI Express cards.

Despite the presence of 64-bit chips, I performed my tests in 32-bit mode, using Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition. At the time of this writing, the 64-bit Windows 2003 x64 Edition isn't yet available. However, network administrators and IT managers with an eye on upgrading to 64-bit will be glad to know that Microsoft will offer a free upgrade to all customers who have purchased 64-bit hardware with one of the Windows 2003 32-bit editions.

ProLiant servers have always had a terrific manageability reputation, and the ML350 carries this reputation forward with its bundled HP Systems Insight Manager. You can perform remote management directly over the network via a network browser or interactively by using Insight Manager. The full Insight Manager installation requires a Web server and a Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) database, but it's worth it. The software lets you monitor the system, send alerts, and perform asset management. Insight Manager might not quite match the effectiveness of some third-party systems management tools, but it can be quite useful for small and midsized businesses. Best of all, it's free.

I put the server through its paces, running a number of scenarios, including a server-consolidation scenario involving servers using the VMware GSX Server and running several different database systems, including SQL Server and Oracle. The system provided extremely high levels of performance. Even running in 32-bit mode, the ML350 was quite capable of concurrently running two or three active Windows 2003 virtual machines (VMs) with very good performance.

HP ProLiant ML350 G4
Contact: HP * 800-752-0900
Web: http://www.hp.com
Price: Starts at $2277; tested configuration, $5450
Summary
Pros: Rugged construction; excellent performance; 64-bit compatibility; PCI Express slots; built-in systems management tools
Cons: Poor system documentation
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Recommendation:
An excellent, well-equipped server ideal for a small or midsized business.