Tag Archive for Microsavants

The original Microserver G8 System Diagram – not what we will get

Here is a System Diagram for the G8 Microserver from the product planning stage. It differs from what we now know we will get, but the basics are there.

The original Microserver System Diagram. This is no longer the 'real' version as it has a Micro SDcard on the mothermoard, the iLO (red box bottom right) is confirmed as not being an option, and there is only one SATA port on the motherboard.

The original Microserver System Diagram. This seems to be from earlier in the product design phase.

It seems like there will only be one SATA port based on the Beta Units and also the images and documentation coming from HP now, where this slide suggests it will have two. I am almost certain that the chipset will actually support two SATA ports, just that there is only one on these models. We may see a second port on an ‘updated’ model with faster CPUs just like the G7 models – and there is possibly a quadcore CPU on the horizon.

Missing from this slide is the Micro SDcard on the motherboard. Also the iLO ‘option’ in the red square on the bottom right-hand side is now confirmed as standard and not an option module.

Customisation of the Microserver – HP to steal ServersPlus ‘Pimp My Microserver’ idea?

On the eve of the official product announcement for the Microserver G8, we have been passed more information from a HP Source, and on the face of the information provided it would appear that HP is considering offering kits to Mod Your Microserver. Previously ServersPlus in the UK ran a ‘Pimp My Microserver‘ competition, which was a pre-cut decal kit that you could apply to your Microserver.

As shown previously in the Orange Door version of the Microserver, more has come to light in retail kits that you can change the door colour, and now possibly the perforation shape, size and pattern of it also.

Customisation possibilities from HP

Customisation possibilities from HP

It could be very possible that HP will organise a number of ‘Customisation kits’ with a different door faceplate, and some decals for each side of the Microserver. Now I love a Slurpee as much as anyone but I am not sure if many people would like a ‘7-Eleven’ design for their Microserver. I definitely would like to see some VMware ones, maybe a set of HP logo decals for the sides. I am also very sure that some people would love some Linux-themed decals, maybe a CentOS?

The ‘Pimp My Microserver’ competition gained two standout popular votes – the eventual winner was a Borg Cube design, however the ‘Tardis’ design followed just 1% behind in the voting. Given it is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, then I think there is a marketing opportunity. We all know the Microservers are dusted with Timelord Technology – they are bigger on the inside 😉

It would appear that those OEM’s wanting to order a large enough batch (LVO stands for Large Volume Orders) of Microservers could indeed be able to order a customised door with a different pattern to the ‘Gen8 Family’ pattern. One would think that third-party vendores could take the base Microserver and turn it into a variety of different appliance, adding different Operating Systems and options. There could indeed be a supported NAS from a current major player or even a new player, built on the Microserver platform.

The ‘Whitebox’ door above  with a complete-coverage ‘square’ punch actually looks pretty decent, but you could change the punch shape to circles or hexagons too. I’d love to see some of you out there come up with a few photoshop ideas on what you would like to see on a door. So go ahead, make them and post.

Also, HP have a document on how to change over the door. Looks like you could sandwich some open-cell foam in there for dust suppression too. Lots of options start springing to mind now.

HP Document on how to swap a door bezel

HP Document on how to swap a door bezel

EXCLUSIVE: The Microserver Switch Module revealed

After the “Top Secret” photos earlier in the week, we can now reveal the following Microserver Module – a PS1810-8G Gigabit Ethernet switch. Basically it is the normal HP 1810-8G switch (Product code J9449A) stuffed into a new Microserver-shaped case.

G8_Microserver_1810_Switch_Module_Front

G8_Microserver_1810_Switch_Module

Looks pretty good, and the specifications of the 1810-8G are really good. 802.3ad Link Aggregation, Vlans, all the really handy stuff you want as a network admin. I think this will be a game changer in the small branch offices.

Why? Because it will make it easy to run a couple of Microservers, team the Network cards on each into the switch, and uplink them into the workgroup switch. It also leverages Power over Ethernet (PoE) to power the switch on port 1. If you have a larger workgroup switch that already has PoE capability which is often used to provide 48VDC to devices via the ethernet cable in order to power them without plugpacks, you can use that to power the switch and reduce cabling clutter.

PoE is mature technology and is used to power devices like IP Phones and WiFi Access Points. I am seeing more and more affordable PoE switches in the enterprise as IP Phones are making their mark and business sees the benefit of not having powerpacks everywhere.

G8_Microserver_With_Switch_Module

As you can see the module is shaped to the design of the Microserver and is stackable. Very neat and tidy.

G8_Microserver_1810_Switch_Module_OnTop

And finally here is the HP Sheet on these. Click to enlarge it!

G8_Microserver_1810_Switch_Documentation

I hope you can all see where this is going. After my previous post regarding the External Storage Module being dropped, then being told that a backup module exists, it starts becoming pretty clear that the Microserver range will be used as a base to external modules. I think it is a really cool system, keeping the base unit small and cheap to manufacture, while giving customers the opportunity to expand their systems as required.

HP Video shows U320 SCSI Expansion card in Microserver

Well this is rather strange, but perusing the new Repair/Replace videos for the Microserver G8, I noticed the ‘Expansion board’ video. Here’s a couple of screenshots:

HP_Microserver_G8_ExpansionBoard2

HP_Microserver_G8_ExpansionBoard

Now if you look carefully, on the top screenshot you can see ‘ATTO’ on the bracket, and just below that I can make out ‘Ultra 320’. The connectors do indeed appear to be Ultra320 SCSI External connectors.

With a bit of sleuthing, the card in question appears to be the HP StorageWorks U320e SCSI Host Bus Adapter, part number AH627A. Here’s a better picture:

HP StorageWorks U320e SCSI Host Bus Adapter

A dual channel Ultra 320 SCSI card? Talk about old technology, I would have thought a SAS Host bus Adapter would have been more likely. It could have just been a low-profile expansion/HBA card that the video team had lying around, or could it have been a way of attaching an external storage array?

We await the launch of the new model next week for all the official details.

Socketed CPU confirmed for Microserver G8

Full marks to HomeServerShow and their eagle-eyed forum poster MicroMatt who have spotted the Microserver G8 Self-Repair Remove/Replace videos.

The videos can be accessed by going to the HP Customer Self Repair Services Media Library and selecting “Servers > HP ProLiant MicroServer > HP ProLiant MicroServer G8” and then following the “Remove/Replace videos” link below the selection boxes.

Then you get a Javascript popup video which will play the videos for you. I looked at the last video entitled “System Board” and found this….

HP Repair video outs the G8 Microserver as having a CPU Socket for a replaceable (and possibly upgradable) CPU.

HP Repair video outs the G8 Microserver as having a CPU Socket for a replaceable (and possibly upgradable) CPU.

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.

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.

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