Microservers

EXCLUSIVE: Internal photos of the HP Microserver G8 leaked

Well here are the photos you have all been waiting for – a world exclusive of the HP Microserver G8 with all the internal photos to answer all the questions you were after,  and a full 7 days before the Official HP product announcement.

 

HP_Microserver_G8_Int_Front

First off, we have inside the door. We see a completely different design in the G8 from the outgoing G7. The biggest changes are the stock HP Non-Hot Plug LFF Drive caddies, some of you may already be familiar with these from the DL120 servers. Also the front of the server is closed with meshed steel panelling. This is quite the change from the open fronted G7 where you could open the door to gain access to not only the hard disks in the cage, but also the internal USB port.

Other features of note include a magnetically latched door, and no apparent locking mechanism. To me, this seems like a major oversight from HP as they are positioning this model as an enterprise-ready, remote branch office basic file & print server, maybe doing local Active Directory, DHCP & DNS. As a IT Consultant that specialises in hardware and networking myself, I know how inquisitive fingers can be. If I was putting any sort of server in a remote location, I would want it locked down tight. The key lock of the G7 achieves this, but is conspicuously absent in the G8.

And yes, that thing on top we cannot tell you about yet, but there will be a reveal on this blog later this week ahead of the official HP announcement of this server at HP Discover in Las Vegas on 11-13 June.

HP_Microserver_G8_Int_FBWC

Next we pop the case off and have a look on top. We see a large rubber grommet on the top of the Microserver unit, stamped with ‘FBWC’ – or in HP jargon – Flash backed Write Cache. This is what will turn your standard disinterested RAID10-level B120i controller into a much more efficient and effective RAID5 unit.

You can look up the cost of these FBWC modules yourself, but brace yourself for some sticker shock as they are not cheap. Also, we have not yet spotted a header on the motherboard where these plug in.

On the right you can also see the quick-release tab for the slimline DVD/RW optical drive. You have seen these on most of the current G8 servers and probably some of the bigger G7’s also.

HP_Microserver_G8_Ext_Rear

We now move to the rear of the unit, where we can see two Gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB3.0 ports as previously confirmed on this blog, VGA port, dedicated iLO4 port, and a low-profile PCIe x16 slot. There’s also a standard IEC power plug for the PSU, and you will notice the sound-deadening rubber grommets around the main fan screws which help to lower noise.

One thing that may slip you attention – the quick release motherboard tray tab just underneath the main fan. Push that tab down, and as long as you have unplugged all cables in the motherboard then you can pull that entire motherboard tray out bacwards without tools. For those of us with skinned knuckles after the G7, this looks extremely easy to work on.

HP_Microserver_G8_Int_RightHandSide

We now look at the right hand side, and there are two major points of interest. First and most obvious is the two memory slots which will make memory replacement one of the easiest things you have ever done, definitely easier than upgrading the RAM in a laptop. Bravo HP, you are to be congratulated on this very intelligent design.

So what is the second thing I hear you ask? That blue tab halfway up – that’s your new door locking mechanism! Close the door, push down on the blue tab and it will lock the door shut. Still not the best or most secure solution in my eyes, but will keep most inquisitive fingers at bay.

HP_Microserver_G8_Int_LeftHandSide

Now, the side you all really want to see. A standard 150W power supply could indeed be replaced by a more efficient PicoPSU supply and leave plenty of room for at least a couple more drives, maybe you could squeeze 4 2.5″ drives or SSD’s in there.

There are plenty of other goodies in here, but we need to take a closer look.

HP_Microserver_G8_Int_LeftHandSideDetail

BOOYAH! Click on it to take a closer look!

There is plenty going on here, so lets take it one step at a time.

First off is the CPU. Now that looks like a reasonably standard Northbridge heatsink, but in this case it actually does the cooling duties for an i3-3220T CPU. This CPU has a TDP of 35W and is pretty much the limit for non-active cooling with a fan. We cannot see if there is a socket under there, but the heatsink seems to be fairly high off the motherboard so initial signs look good for a socket.

Moving left, we can see the power MOSFETs for the CPU power have a heatsink on them too. This will be helpful and make the G8 more reliable.

Further left again and we can see the HP iLO chip which houses plenty of internal smarts for out-of-band remote management. In my day job, we only use HP servers and iLO is the best remote management solution out there bar none. If you haven’t experienced iLO in an enterprise server yet, then you are in for a big surprise.

Towards the front we have the single PCIe x16 expansion slot. This is a little disappointing as many of us were using the x1 slot on the G7 for another network card, possibly a TV tuner. Personally I modded the x1 and proprietary x4 slot into open slots, and dropped a HP NC360T dual-port Gigabit Ethernet card into it. that addition gave me a total of 3 network ports which is almost a requirement for an ESXi lab machine. Hopefully I can get a USB3.0 network adapter which is on the VMware Hardware compatibility list soon.

Down the very front you can spot a MICRO SD CARD SLOT! SD card slots have been on the motherboards of a number of HP servers for a while now, but I have never seen a Micro SD card slot. This is an amazing addition to the Microservers. Next to it you can see the USB2 port for booting from a USB stick – handy for BIOS flashes, or even booting ESXi or FreeNAS from instead.

To the far right we can see a single SATA3 6.0Gbps port, whereas we had documentation leaked from HP stating two SATA3 ports on the motherboard. Now we hope the final units have two ports but I can imagine HP seeing it as a non-essential port. You have got one SATA port for the DVD drive, why do you need two? It seems like HP does not want us to have extra drives.

Finally, we can see the SAS connector on the furthermost right, again providing onboard hardware RAID to the drives in the internal LFF cage.

HP_Microserver_G8_BetaUnitSpecs

Finally, the specs of the beta machine. Please remember that this is a beta unit and specifications usually do change. That said, this unit looks reasonable close to manufacturing ready and I doubt there would be too many changes to the chassis or motherboard. About the only thing to change would be the CPU I would suggest.

I hope you have enjoyed our run-through of the beta G8 model, and stay tuned for a special top-secret reveal later this week. I would suggest subscribing to our RSS feed so you get the information as soon as we post it.

It’s not a Microserver, it’s a Micro-Ecosystem for IT

The beta program for the upcoming HP Microserver G8 is in full swing. At least two beta units are out in the field within my sphere of contacts, however I refused the offer to take part in any beta after the removal by the HP Microsevers page on Facebook.

Some of the details I have been leaked by internal HP contacts is only now becoming clear. I was given the follow images last week from someone inside HP.

Microserver_G8_Side Microserver_G8_Stacked

These show a very modular unit, indeed stackable with other Microserver-like chassis units. This feature was considered to be a part of the external storage unit, however with that also confirmed as no longer happening, the modular design seemed to have been a hangover of the previous product development and design.

That is until today. A source familiar with the beta program has passed on the information of a

“stackable unit, smaller in height than the Microserver unit itself, for backup purposes”.

This highly curious information could mean any of the following devices could be on the way:

  • A single high capacity hard disk of 3TB or 4TB;
  • An RDX unit that uses a hard drive in a removable cartridge format; or
  • An LTO4/5 tape backup unit.

Considering the four USB ports on the back, all quite possible scenarios. Of these, I think the RDX unit most likely as this unit is being targeted at the smaller remote offices where a simple backup solution is often lacking.

Another beta tester has raised the possibility of another component that they have actually received and are testing. While I cannot divulge this information yet as it may be traceable back to the end user due to forums I frequent. That said, I was surprised that this sort of module is available and currently testing with customers, but is a brilliant move by HP.

Finally, we found this on a slide from an internal HP source… I wonder what this could be?

Microserver_G8_OrangeVariant

The plot thickens!

Gen8 Microserver features dual Broadcom Network ports, teamable!

HP_Microserver_G8_Network

Here’s the image that many people have been wanting to see.

Straight out of HP’s system diagram for the Microserver G8, we can see that it will feature the Broadcom BCM5717 chip, which is a part of the BCM5718 family. It sports two Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) RJ45 ports with the following new features over the preceding model:

  • Teaming (via Broadcom driver under Windows)
  • Jumbo Frame support
  • IP Checksum offload
  • TCP Checksum offload
  • UDP Checksum offload

Unfortunately the checksum offloads will be of limited use to such a low-powered server, and having these enabled may have an impact on network performance at high CPU utilisation. This particular chip also does not support the extra Virtualisation features like VMware NetQueue for vSphere, or Microsoft Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) but that probably is not required for something like a Microserver.

Compared to the single network port of the G7 Microserver, the new model gains quite a bit of functionality. The BCM5723-provided networking in the G7 did not support Jumbo frames, and also did not play nicely with FreeNAS, with quite a few users complaining of slow network speeds. Generally, the fix was to install a low-profile Intel PRO based network card in the PCIe x1 slot and use that instead.

Teaming is nice, and will be appreciated out of the box, however most serious ESXi users with G7’s installed a low-profile HP NC360T dual-port Gigabit Ethernet NIC which uses the Intel PRO chipset. This was available via many Server OEMS including Dell and Sun, and can be found on eBay in various guises for about $USD75-USD$80. All work the same.

Having two built-in NIC’s may also mean that the Microserver might become a viable platform for routing/firewalling 4+ GigE interfaces under a Linux solution like Vyatta or pfSense. The option of a NC360T/Intel-based Dual-Port NIC gives a cheap and easy 4-port solution.

Granted that even the Intel Dual-core CPU’s might not be up to the task of Routing and firewalling six GigE ports, if the user so desires to source one, a quad-port Gigabit NIC like the HP NC364T could be added to the x16 PCIe slot and give a total of six copper GigE interfaces.

Even with the advent of cheap hardware Router/Firewalls such as the 3-port Ubiquiti EdgeMax Lite priced around $100, it still may mean that some users may elect to use the Microserver as a home Router/Firewall.

EXCLUSIVE: What the Gen8 Microservers missed out on

More information has been leaked to me from a source inside the HP corporate machine regarding the features that were actually ruled out of appearing from the upcoming G8 Microserver models. The list appears to have a couple of items on it which at first glance seems out of place on what really is HP’s most basic server.

From what we could ascertain from our source, at the original product planning stage of the new model, the team basically throws all possible features and functionality that could possibly be put into the product onto the table, then rules each one out. Some features went further into the product planning process than others, but items taken out of the product specification is said to be ‘outscoped’.

Some of the outscoped features supplied to me were:

  • 12Gb/sec SAS support
  • Small Form Factor HDD cage (2.5″ Drives), either as an option or standard
  • External ‘SCSI’ interface (we assume SAS port)
  • Storage Expansion Unit (via SAS connector?)

There’s also something removed from the new Microserver too. So far we have ruled out any eSATA port, which the G7 did have. We think that the USB 3.0 ports will more than make up for the lack of eSATA, which could be difficult for some people to use.

SAS 12G

This one seems a bit out of place in such a low-powered ecosystem. 12G SAS is usually reserved for the high-end SSD drives, or multi-port HDD drives. Even then, if you need more storage speed, usually it would be cached to a PCIe-based SSD which has data transfer speeds well in excess of 12Gbps.

The target market for the Microserver G8 is for either SOHO storage, or for Branch offices that need a little storage but the ability to run remote Active Directory, DNS & DHCP plus maybe a print queue or two. SAS 12G just isn’t required!

Small Form Factor drive cage

The idea of an SFF cage in a device like this is not new – plenty of Microsavants have installed a 4 x 2.5″ drive cage into the 5.25″ ODD bay of the G7 Microservers. HP themselves started moving to SFF Drives in a number of the Proliant G5 range, notably the DL360 and DL380. Due to this, the DL380 G8 can now take up to 16 spindles with its SFF cages in a 2RU Chassis, whereas the DL380 G4 could only take six spindles with 3.5″ Drives in its 2RU Chassis.

The main benefit of more spindles is a higher aggregated IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) over the entire array. This means more reads and writes can be performed, and applications need to wait shorter amounts of time for the data to be written to/read from storage.

There is a downside to the 2.5″ disk format. Basically the highest density drives in a 2.5″ format is currently 1TB. There are 2TB drives available from Western Digital but they either sport a Micro-USB3 interface and come as a external storage drive, or they are the ‘Green’ models and these do not play nicely with Hardware RAID controllers.

In the case of something like the Microserver, a 3.5″ bay means that 4TB can be stored with a 4TB Hard Drive. You cannot fit 4x 1TB 2.5″ drives into the space of a single 3.5″ drive, so by doing so you would actually lose density of storage by doing this. I also cannot see how this unit would require the sorts of performance required by more than spindles UNLESS it was being used as a highly storage-contended Virtualised Host, and even then your biggest problem is going to be CPU cycles. It’s not like there would be four Database VM’s fighting over disk as your CPU will not have the capacity for that.

What the SFF drives would do for the Microserver will make it easier to design, mainly as the drive bays are smaller and the HP Designers could orientate them differently in order to gain space and reduce the physical size of the unit. They could even or even fit more disks in without sacrificing space. On my quick estimate, I think you could fit 12 SFF drives where the current 4 LFF reside, and maybe still have some space left over. Still not going to have the maximum storage capacity of the current 3.5″ setup, but would get close. If decent 2TB drive were available, it would be a different outcome.

External ‘SCSI’ interface

I personally think this is the most interesting of the outscoped features. It would mean that you would get an External SAS port that you could use to hook up to external disk arrays. I have used a Promise VessRAID unit with Dual SAS interfaces at a client site to act as a shared ESXi Datastore. There are other 3rd Party RAID or JBOD enclosures that you can plug a workstation into. This storage is then presented to the machine through a Host Bus Adapter (HBA) card.

I have used a few SAS HBA’s with ESXi hosts, and they work well. The bandwidth available is very good, in most cases 600MB/sec transfers are very possible. It all depends on the array itself and how it is configured. It would have turned the little Microserver into a unit that could store some serious amounts of data and probably would have eaten into other HP product sales, so it was taken out of scope.

Storage Expansion Unit

This External Storage Array is the other half of the External SCSI Interface. This was mooted to be a modular box that looked exactly like the upcoming Microserver, however would only contain storage bays for drives, and a small SAS interface to manage them and connect it back to the Microserver, along with a power supply.

In this case, it was very much like the units you can get from NAS vendors which you can add/stack to your NAS to increase the storage capacity. One I can think off immediately is the Synology DS-513 which you connect to a ‘host’ NAS via an eSATA port, but gives you an additional 5x 3.5″ drives for storage.

Again, probably meant that the Microserver could store too much and take sales away from more powerful enterprise level storage.

Conclusion

There is really no surprise that these features were rejected by HP. Personally I find it rather exciting that they ever considered putting these sorts of technologies and features into the Microserver in the first place. To my mind, the idea of SAS 12G being baked into a sub-$500 server is equal parts terrifying, confusing and inspiring. For this, I applaud HP’s open thinking regarding the possibilities of their products.

It is quite a shame that the Storage Expansion Unit did not make the cut. This would have been very interesting and kept the Microserver look. But on the other side of that argument there is nothing stopping us buying a SAS HBA card and running that in our Microserver and connecting something like a 8-bay external disk unit to it.

The fact is that generally, HP has heard the cries of the community and acted upon them. 16GB Memory capacity, USB 3.0 ports, Dual NICs with teaming capability, and proper iLO Management have all been added to the product along with a very reasonable CPU upgrade. I think we can all be thankful that we got what we wanted.

HP Employee removes tweet with G8 Server range photo

Looks like the employee who leaked an image of the new Generation 8 HP Microserver deleted his tweet over the furore.

BKejcZdCUAANhzO

James Henry, listed as “Business Development Manager for CloudSystem – Hewlett Packard EMEA” tweeted the above photo and labelled it as “the new Microserver and Project Moonshot server with the rest of the G8 range”.

As of lunchtime today, the tweet is no longer available:

jhenry_irl_DeletedTweet

EXCLUSIVE: New Microserver model limited to 16GB ECC RAM, adds 1600Mhz support

Based on events of the last 36 hours, I have been leaked a few very interesting pieces of information regarding the upcoming HP Microserver G8 which is due for release very soon. It seems that not everyone within HP and their contractors are happy with the way that HP has handled the leak on specifications yesterday.

Within the community, possibly the second most asked question by Microsavants is “Will the new G8 support more than 8GB of RAM?”

This question has been asked relentlessly in fora all over the intertubes. While the G7 range of Microservers officially supported a maximum 8Gb of 1333Mz DDR3 unbuffered ECC RAM, there was certain RAM modules which were compatible ‘enough’ so that 16GB of RAM was detected on boot, and a fantastic database of working modules was maintained on the Microserver Wikia page. While most of the Microserver units seemed to work okay, there were just some that would never see 16GB and would only detect and use 8GB of RAM.

For most ESXi users, the difference between having 8GB or 16GB usable was around 4-5 Virtual machines per box on 8GB, or 10-12 virtual machines if you could get 16GB working. In a virtualisation sense, the difference is huge.

So in the last 24 hours, we have been lucky enough to receive the Microserver G8 System Diagram from an internal HP source. While there is more to this diagram, we are only publishing a small amount of it in case of traceability and to protect our source.

G8_Microserver_16GB_Support

As you can see, there will be two memory channels off the integrated Intel CPU memory controller each running a single DDR3 slot on the motherboard for a total of two RAM slots. The G8 Microserver maintains the G7 support of 1300Mhz DDR3 in either normal desktop SDRAM or unbuffered ECC. The G8 increases the memory speeds to 1600Mhz, and takes official memory capacity to 16GB.

This is excellent news, those upgrading will be able to transfer their previous 16GB kits into the new G8 units, on the proviso that they have enough physical clearance between other components in the new model. Those that purchased the 16GB 1333Mhz ECC kits from Kingston or Crucial should see a straight swap with zero issues.

Of course, until we get the new units in our hands we cannot test and see if 32GB of memory in the unit would work. That said, remembering that since this is a relatively cheap machine to purchase, the idea of buying 16GB DDR3 ECC DIMMs seems rather expensive as these are most definitely a enterprise server part and commands a premium price.

In any case 16GB is supported, which for some will be comforting and a bonus if their G7 never quite got to 16GB. For others it will be a disappointment as it is no real improvement on their G7. Put your comments below!

HP takes down Microserver facebook page

If you noticed the flurry of activity on my blog yesterday, you might have noted that there was some new info posted regarding the Microserver G8. This was also posted to a page on Facebook called HP Microservers. But don’t click the link. Why? Facebook have removed the page, so you will be greeted by this:

facebook-page-removed

This morning at just before 6am AEST, I was sent the following email with the ominous sounding title ‘Facebook Warning’:

Hello,

Facebook Pages may only be administered by authorized representatives of their subject matter. As a result, your Page has been removed for violating our Terms.

Learn more about our Terms:

https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

The Facebook team

I then checked Facebook and sure enough – the page is gone. Somewhere over 900 likes, an engaged community of Microserver users, posts and information going back nearly 2 years, lots of goodwill…. all gone. Hell, there was more than one HP employee that had liked the page, including the former Product Manager for the Microserver G7 who was promoted to the DL385 range after a very successful initial model.

 

The section of the Facebook Terms of Service for pages I believe that it was removed user states:

I. General
A. Only authorized representatives may administer a Page for a brand, entity (place or organization), or public figure.

 

So it appears that I am not an authorised HP representative. And that’s fair enough, however there were plenty of places mentioning it was not a HP affiliated page, it was run by fans. The Facebook Terms of Service keeps going

I. General
B. Any user may create a Page to express support for or interest in a brand, entity (place or organization), or public figure, provided that it is not likely to be confused with an official Page or violate someone’s rights.

Well, maybe it was because it was only called HP Microservers rather than HP Microservers Users Group or Fans of HP Microservers.

Nobody really knows why, but since the page had been up and running for up to two years, with multiple HP Employees on the page and contributing, one has to wonder what took them so long to request Facebook remove it. You only need to look at the content posted yesterday, including my posts about HP Proliant G8 Microservers leaked and EXCLUSIVE: USB3 is confirmed on Microserver G8, notwithstanding other information on the Facebook page itself.

Added to the leak by yesterday, where they stated it was going to be styled in the same design as the other HP Gen 8 servers, we decided to go looking and found that a HP Employee had posted a photo of the new Microserver G8 on Twitter with it’s other Gen 8 relatives. That’s right, it was freely posted by a HP employee. We of course grabbed it and used it – because if an HP employee puts it out there, it’s public knowledge and any ‘posts are my own view and not of my employer’ disclaimer be damned.

BKejcZdCUAANhzO

The really puzzling thing is that we previously removed information about the G8 model back in April when some eagle-eyed Microsavants (that’s a Microserver nut to the average person) found details of accessories for the upcoming G8 models on HP’s website itself! All this info went onto various forums around the world and is still available, however I was asked to remove it from the Facebook page. I elected to comply with that request at the time as a gesture of good faith to HP, and try to forge some sort of partnership with them.

There is of course more to this story, and as it plays out I will be posting more details. However there is a time and place for everything, and now is not the time to be discussing those points.

It is such a shame to see the wealth of information and links to cool Microserver implementations like putting one in the back of a Dodge Viper is now lost. The membership I am sure will be upset by this as well. Most of them really like the G8 model information, and most were talking about buying one, two or even more. It would seem that once again, a big corporate has literally stomped on the head of an social community that loves its products. Seems counter-intuitive to me.

Hopefully HP will see some sense in the next 24 hours and ask Facebook to reinstate the page, if that is even possible. Stay tuned people, a Microserver community on Facebook will be back.

EXCLUSIVE: USB3 is confirmed on Microserver G8

USB3-Logo

After today’s earlier leak regarding the specifications of of the upcoming HP Microserver G8 range, one question was asked.

“Does it have any USB 3.0 ports?”

The leaked specs only confirmed 7 USB ports, but did not specify if they were USB2 or USB3, or a mix of the two.

Now USB3 is very important in the Microserver realm. Many organisations would use these as a backup host, and then copy a backup off it to a USB disk. Home users can also use USB3 disks for relatively quick expansion of software RAID, or push USB disks through a hypervisor and present them to a VM, possibly for running a torrent storage drive rather than on the Machine-local RAID array.

The issue with USB 2.0 is transfer speed, namely that it lacks enough of it. To copy 3TB of backup archives to an external drive over USB2 can take 8-10 hours or more as you can only maintain around a 20-25MB/sec transfer rate. USB3 takes that to under 3 hours and can maintain well over 65MB/sec copy speeds.

So yes, after poking around the interwebs and receiving information from a trusted source familiar with the upcoming Microserver models, I can indeed confirm the following USB port configuration.

  • FRONT: Two USB 2.0 ports.
  • REAR: Four USB 3.0 ports.
  • INTERNAL: One USB 2.0 port.

The USB 3.0 ports will be provided by an NEC/Renesas chip, widely known for it’s compatibility with USB 3.0 devices. The Intel ‘Cougar Point’ C204 chipset in the Microserver G8 does not support USB 3.0, so it requires an add-on chip on the motherboard.

I can also confirm that the units will not be bootable from the USB 3.0 ports either. But we think when most people were only hoping for 2 USB 3.0 ports, to be getting four is a massive bonus. I’m sure lots of people out in the Microserver universe will be happy to know that USB 3.0 is definitely in.

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