The HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 is the eighth generation of HP's widely used ProLiant server line. It carries forward all the HP management features that you've come to expect, such as the Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management system. It also includes a number of new features designed to make it easier to set up and manage, including the new tool-less case design, FlexibleLOM technology, and Active Health System.

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Specifications

The HP ProLiant DL380p provides an unprecedented amount of processing power in a very compact package. The unit that I tested was a two-socket system that puts dual eight-core power into a small and rack-friendly 2U form factor. The system was equipped with:

  • Two Intel Xeon E5-2690 CPUs (2.90GHz/8-core/135-watt)
  • 32GB (4 ´ 8GB) of Single Rank x4 PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) Registered CAS-11 RAM
  • Four 600GB Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) 10,000rpm hard disks

In its maximum configuration, the ProLiant DL380p supports a total of 768GB of RAM and 16 Small Form Factor (SFF) SAS/Serial ATA (SATA) drive bays. Besides 24 DIMM slots, it has 6 PCI Express (PCIe) expansion slots that are split between two removable riser boards.

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Interestingly, the ProLiant DL380p has an all-new interchangeable networking configuration that I hadn't seen before. It uses a networking technology called FlexibleLOM ports. Instead of having the RJ-45 Ethernet ports built directly into the motherboard, the FlexibleLOM port lets you change the system's networking configuration to suit your own needs. At the time of this review, HP supplies either a two-port 10GB FlexibleLOM or a four-port 1GB FlexibleLOM. The FlexibleLOM plugs into the motherboard and provides ports on the back of the unit.

Externally, the ProLiant DL380p provides a System Insight display on the front of the unit, letting you quickly view the system's status. The unit also provides a front-mounted slim-line DVD-RW drive, two front-facing USB 2.0 ports, and a nine-pin VGA port. On the backside, the unit has four additional USB 2.0 ports, another nine-pin VGA port, a nine-pin serial port, and an iLO remote management port. The unit also has two 750-watt hot-swappable redundant power supplies. Notably, like many other new server systems I've tested recently, there are no PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports on the back of the server, but this isn't really a problem because the ProLiant DL380p has plenty of USB ports. However, if you have older PS/2-style KVMs, this is something you should be aware of. Figure 1 shows the ProLiant DL380p.

Figure 1: HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8
Figure 1: HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 

Setup and Installation

The first new feature of the ProLiant DL380p that I experienced was the tool-free case. The test unit came with the two-port 10GB FlexibleLOM installed, but my infrastructure was all 1GB Ethernet. I needed to change to the four-port 1GB FlexibleLOM that was included in the shipment. The tool-free maintenance lived up to its billing. The top metal panel came off simply by flipping a lever, which released the panel catch. The FlexibleLOM was installed using two thumbscrews. Likewise, the two riser cages, each of which contained three PCIe slots, came out easily using two locking twist pins. I was impressed with the level of care taken to minimize and efficiently route all the internal wiring. This makes it easy to perform maintenance and improves airflow.

Weighing in at around 61 pounds, the server is relatively easy for one person to install into the rack. One of the first things I noticed about the ProLiant DL380p was that boot-up time is dramatically more responsive than the HP servers I've tested in the past. The previous ProLiant servers took quite a while to boot, and for some models, there was even a notable delay before the power-on self test (POST) screen displayed. In contrast, the ProLiant DL380p displays a graphical boot status screen almost immediately after power-on. The status screen shows you the progress of the system's start-up process and lets you easily enter the BIOS Setup, Intelligent Provisioning, or Boot Menu screen if necessary. Figure 2 shows the new boot-up display.

Figure 2: HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 Boot-Up Display
Figure 2: HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 Boot-Up Display 

Management and Performance

Like other HP servers, the ProLiant DL380p's iLO lets you perform out-of-band (OOB) remote management. With iLO, you can power the server on and off, check the temperature and status of all system components, and remotely control the server using either a .NET or Java console.

To accommodate the growing trend of using mobile devices to manage servers, Google Android and Apple iOS apps available from their respective app stores can provide remote iLO for the ProLiant DL380p. The mobile device apps access the iLO web interface, letting you perform a number of actions, including toggling the system power, modifying the BIOS, and mounting ISO images.

A great addition to the ProLiant DL380p is the Active Health System, which acts like a black box flight recorder in airplanes. The Active Health System records configuration changes, as well as all other hardware activity, such as adding and moving DIMMs. The activity is logged to a NAND flash drive embedded on the motherboard. The ProLiant DL380p will save about two years' worth of information. For troubleshooting, you can remotely download the logs and export them to HP if needed.

The ProLiant DL380p provides better performance than its predecessors because of its improved storage architecture and algorithms. It has 2x more cache capacity than previous models and in some cases can deliver 6x faster solid state storage performance and 85 percent faster overall storage performance. HP states that OLTP applications can experience up to a 50 percent increase in transactional throughput with 88 percent less energy.

I first tested the ProLiant DL380p running Windows Server 2008 R2, then I upgraded to Windows Server 2012 (formerly code-named Windows Server 8). Both OSs ran without any problems. I also built a test bed of 10 SQL Server virtual machines (VMs) on the system and ran 27 database queries. I experienced excellent performance, on par with the fastest systems I've tested. Notably, the ProLiant DL380p is extremely quiet for an SFF server, which needs significant airflow to stay cool. The power supplies are 95 percent efficient, and they can communicate with HP Power Distribution Units (PDUs) for rack power management.

Power Up with ProLiant DL380p

I highly recommend the ProLiant DL380p for businesses of all sizes. It represents the latest in rack-mounted server technology. More important, it provides an excellent level of performance and best-in-class manageability and maintenance.

HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8
PROS: High performance in a small and surprisingly quiet 2U form factor; tool-free maintenance; Active Health Monitor; iLO OOB management
CONS: Lacks PS/2 style mouse and keyboard, which might be a problem for older KVMs
RATING: 5 out of 5
PRICE: $2,799 base price; $14,031 as tested
RECOMMENDATION: The HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 is a great choice for businesses of all sizes looking for high performance and great manageability in a small, power-efficient 2U package
CONTACT: HP • 866-625-0242