Review: HP ProLiant DL140

Hewlett Packard's recently released ProLiant DL140 server, with a price tag starting at $1,299, is an easy sell to the mid-market.

December 15, 2003

6 Min Read
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Slim and sleek, coupled with superior technical attributes, is the best way to describe Hewlett Packard's recently released ProLiant DL140 server. The company claims this is the first in a series of ProLiant 100 servers, and with a price tag starting at $1,299, the company hopes the server will appeal to the mid-market.

With office space and money at a premium nowadays, the days of spending money like water is long gone. Businesses now must examine every conceivable cost, even when it comes to purchasing a server. Besides the price tag, organizations must take into account the power a server consumes, the raw processing power it houses, and the space it occupies.

This server is a perfect fit for small to midsize businesses, which for example, do not have the luxury of office space or a large bank roll. The unit takes up little space, and taking advantage of the unit's size, companies can host their business out of a closet if necessary, eliminating the need for additional, high-cost office space.

As great as it is to hear about a server saving space with a very reasonable price point, the main reason a company acquires a server is processing power or performance. The server is designed as a two-way server aimed at the high-performance technical computing market, rendering data, simulations that are not too graphic intensive; its talents are more on the processor computing side.

Engineers evaluated performance by measuring the server efficiency of how it used its memory and processor time while maintaining throughput to network clients. The 10/1000 NIC of the server was connected to a Compaq Gigabit Ethernet switch so that the server NIC simultaneously received HTTP requests from two clients and FTP requests from another two clients. There were four clients in all, each equipped with a NIC, Microsoft Windows Professional 2000 and Internet Explorer 6.0. Two clients were dedicated to making HTTP content requests, and the other two to making FTP requests. The two FTP clients were each equipped with 256 Mbytes of RAM and instructed to launch 10 requests at a time. Each HTTP client sported 512 Mbytes of RAM and was set to launch 200 threads at a time.

An in-house LoadRun program was used to generate the file requests according to a script written for each client. The order of the file names inside each client script were unique to minimize the possibility that two or more clients requested the same file at the same time, stressing the effectiveness of the server's array rather than cache size.

The second performance test focused on the server's array. The results were obtained using Iometer. The benchmark can read and write data to a storage device according to script. Engineers created an 11-stage script, with each stage having its own settings for data-block size and data-position randomness. As Iometer moved from one stage to the next, the script decreased the block size while increasing the randomness of the data's position. The first stage simulated a data-streaming application, which typically involves large data sets accessed sequentially. The last stage simulates database and multi-user access, which typically involves excessive seek time and small data sets. The settings of the other stages represent everything between those extremes. All stages were set to produce an equal number of reads and writes. Each stage was allowed to run for 2 minutes. Data collected during the first 30 seconds of each stage was discarded to eliminate any ramp-up effect.Engineers were pleased with the performance results in each of the benchmark tests. The server performed well enough, and usually by rule of thumb, the better performers tended to be the more expensive solutions, obviously that is not exactly the case here. System builders always can throw more processors into a server to coax more performance from it, but it is an expensive proposition with diminishing returns after about the fourth CPU. A more cost-effective alternative is just to add more memory.

During the serviceability examination, the ease with which components could be accessed and replaced was evaluated. Cooling, security and sturdiness were the criteria used to judge the construction of each server. Cooling in a server is critical and with the ProLiant DL140 server, it doesn't seem to be a concern.

The black grille on the front panel of the server gives it a high-tech look, but its back-to-basics enclosure is an even more appreciated feature. It is a tool-free case, the lid is held in place by a single screw that's easier to engage and disengage than the fancy latches on some server enclosures. The lid simply slides on and off with no fussy alignment procedures. Any technician will have the case open and closed quicker than many cases. Built around the company's motherboard, the DL140 has a nice list of hardware features, including 2 Maxtor 80Gbyte non-hot plug 1" ATA/100 HDDs, a CD-ROM drive and on-board ATI Rage XL AGP graphics. It supports 2 Intel Xeon 2.4 GHz processors with 512-KB second level ECC cache standard, 533MHz front-side-bus supporting Hyper-Threading Technology. When incorporating a second processor the price of the server jumps $525.

Lastly, it incorporates 2 Gbytes of PC2100 DDR SDRAM running at 266 MHz with advanced ECC capabilities. Again, the price of the server jumps when increasing RAM as well.Setting up a large server is usually a two-man job, but this 1U server is light enough to carry with one hand. A defective 1U server can be swapped out in very little time, and a single technician can get the job done easily. Shipped in small cartons, several 1U servers can be kept in a small warehouse. Shipping costs, too, are much less for servers that weigh so little. Everything about these little servers is less expensive than full-blown enterprise-class servers.

While some companies require a little up-front training to ease technicians into maintaining them, this server's consistency makes them perfect for solution providers and their clients. Consistency over time in component and software selection makes it easy to service and replace parts down the road.The company suggests the server is best used for front Web servers, gateways and home-grown applications; companies migrating from a desktop to server for added processing power. The 1U high server is as shallow as a pizza box, not quite as affordable as a one, but with such a low price point, HP is making the server an easy sale into the mid-market.

The author is a member of the CRN Test Center.

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