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ProLiant ML10 v2, ML310 Gen8 v2, ML30 - which is right for you?


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#1 LoneWolf

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 08:38 AM

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Okay, I'm going to make this a collective effort, since I have had an ML10 v2 on my hands for a very short time (I am returning it, as I purchased an ML310 Gen8 v2) and do not have an ML30, so am going on what I know from HP's QuickSpecs.  I will try and make this reasonably authoritative, but I am sure Joe_Miner and SchoonDoggy can add some valid points.  Note:  Any approximate prices I mention are US; exchange rates may tip the scales in favor of one system or another if you're in another country.

 

So...HP has several tower servers that all seem to fit the same form factor. 

 

The ML10 v2, at the budget end, has recently listed as low as $329.99 at NewEgg for the Xeon version, and who's to say it won't go $299.99 on sale at some point?

 

The ML310 Gen8 v2.  This server is on its way out, being replaced by the ML30 (Gen 9) but is still available.  The lowest price I've seen for the Xeon E3-1220 v3 configuration is $461 at ProVantage.com  The ML10 v2 looks to be largely based on this with some features missing (more on that to come).

 

The ML30.  The cheapest Xeon configuration I know of is currently around $649 at ProVantage (the HP SmartBuy configurations at this time here are sometimes cheaper than the base model, that also goes for the ML10 v2).

 

So what are the known differences?

 

The ML10 v2 and ML310e Gen8 v2 use a v3 Intel Xeon based on Intel's Haswell desktop architecture.  This is still quite recent as processors go; we really didn't see any Broadwell (v4) Xeons in this segment, and Intel quickly went to the v5 (Skylake) architecture used in the ML30.  The ML10 v2/ML310 Smart Buy come with a Xeon E3-1220 v3, base clock 3.1GHz, the ML30 Smart Buy with a Xeon E3 1230 v5, base clock 3.4GHz.  If you're familiar with desktop processors, these are similar to a Core i5 of their generation: Quad Core (no hyperthreading) but with additional features that may or may not be available, such as Trusted Execution Technology, VT-d virtualization, support (in this case requirement of) ECC memory, and more. 

 

Probably the most significant details of the change in processor are a modest increase in performance-per-clock cycle, moderate energy savings (although TDP is listed equally at 80w) and largest, that the v5 Xeon uses DDR4 memory and supports 64GB of RAM; the ML10 and ML310e with their v3 Xeons support DDR3 memory, and a maximum of 32GB.  Memory prices are slightly higher for DDR4 right now, but not huge and this could easily change.  If you are a tinkerer, note that used v3 processors are easier to come by and less expensive, so if you want the base CPU upgraded to a Xeon E3-1231v3 (quad core, with Hyperthreading, 3.4GHz base clock - basically the "Core i7" Xeon), which is one of HP's supported shipping chips on the ML310e (and should work fine with the ML10 v2), you'll pay about $200 used on eBay.  The v5, you'll probably be buying new for a year or two until prices come down.  As you can buy the ML10 v2 in a fairly base processor configuration, you may wish to do this, and upgrade immediately to save money on the initial spec.

 

The ML310e and ML30, being the higher up models, come with several notable features you may find useful.  On the mainboard, you're going to find an internal USB port, and an SD card slot.  Should you want to boot from a small flash device to run a hypervisor (example: VMWare ESXi, Citrix XenServer, or Microsoft Hyper-V) separate from your storage, this could be useful, but isn't a big deal if you're running one operating system.

 

I cannot confirm this for the ML30 (I think it does not and is an add-on kit, Joe can confirm), but my ML310e came with a front fan kit.  This could be a big bonus for those of you running a hardware RAID card or high-speed hard drives.  It could be a detriment if you value low noise.  The ML30's front fan kit accessory comes with two fans, which could also boost the noise.  The ML10 v2 is limited in this ability; its mainboard does not have all of the connectors.  That's not to say you won't be able to make a modification to fit one; it just isn't likely to be one that will be tightly integrated so you can monitor fan speeds or control them with the system BIOS.

 

The ML310e and ML30 have a drive cage with a backplane and removable non hot-plug drive sleds; this can be upgraded to hot-plug by purchasing parts or buying a higher-end configuration if available.  The ML10 v2 has a plain metal cage, no sleds, no backplane.  The drives screw in to the cage itself, and the entire cage is unscrewed and removed from the system.  This is far less convenient, but if your storage needs rarely change, you're saving money with the ML10 v2.  While HP doesn't support it, several forum members are ordering ML310e or ML30 parts to see if they can change the ML10 v2 to match the ML310e/ML30 configurations.  It appears likely, but doing so may raise the cost to the point where you were better off buying the ML310e in the first place.  Also, the ML310e and ML30 have optional supported configurations supporting eight 2.5" drives instead of four 3.5" drives.

 

USB port configuration is different on all three servers.  The ML30 has four front USB 3.0 ports, two rear USB 2.0 ports, and 2 USB 3.0 ports.  The ML310e has four front USB 2.0 ports and two rear USB 3.0 ports.  The ML10 v2 has two front USB 2.0 ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports.  Also note:  The ML10 v2 and the ML30 use Intel USB 3.0 ports; while I haven't checked yet, it's possible that as a Gen8, the ML310e uses Renesas (formerly NEC) USB3 ports.  Those are probably the best after Intel, so I don't think that's a big deal, but your choice.

 

The ML310e has a dedicated NIC port for iLO, and is the only one to do so.  All three servers have a dual-port Broadcom gigabit NIC, but the ML10 and ML30 have their iLO on a shared port configuration.  The ML30 has an update to the iLO4 which may have or introduce additional features not available on the previous system

 

Because the ML10 v2 is not considered a "Gen8" or "Gen9" server (apparently it's in a class by itself), it does not support Intelligent Provisioning, which is the ability to do a low-touch operating system install right from the box.  The ML310e supports this, but Gen8 servers only support the 1.x version of this, which currently stands at version 1.62b.  The ML30 supports the new 2.x Intelligent Provisioning.  At this time, I do not know what enhancements are available on the newer version, but if this is important to you, keep it in mind.

 

The ML310e and ML10 have an onboard B120i RAID controller, while the ML30 has a new B140i controller.  The B140i lists as supporting RAID-5, but a caution; I don't think this is a caching RAID-5, and my experience with limited RAID-5 controllers like Dell's PERC H310 tells me this is a *bad* thing.  If you are using RAID 0, 1, or 10, this isn't a big deal, but if you're using RAID-5, do yourself a favor and get a dedicated RAID card.  Also note - As far as I can see, the ML10 does not list supported HP SmartArray configurations.  That's not to say you can't run one, but HP may not consider it a supported config.  I would probably run either a P222 or P420 just like those that are supported in the ML310e.  The ML30 has newer controllers on its support list, however, these are considerably more expensive, and not as easily available on eBay for a deal.  Note that running a supported controller has the advantage that HP's iLO can see the controller and provide you with additional information.  While "not supported", I believe an aftermarket Avago-LSI controller like the 9261-8i or its successors will probably also run fine, albeit without the iLO reporting.

 

At this time, that is everything I can think of, but I'm sure more information will come out as more testing is done by Joe_Miner on the ML30.  In the meantime, here are links to the HP QuickSpecs on all three servers.

 

HP ML10 v2:

http://www8.hp.com/h...x/c04567802.pdf

 

HP ML310e Gen8 v2

http://h20195.www2.h...34998.pdf?ver=2

 

HP ML30

http://www8.hp.com/h...x/c04123183.pdf


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#2 LoneWolf

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 06:01 PM

One other note:

 

HP's ML30 QuickSpecs have this interesting fact:

 

NOTE: B140i can't mix with any standup internal controller

 

This likely means that using a card-based HP SmartArray controller will disable the B140i.  It's unclear if this affects LSI or other aftermarket controllers.


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#3 gibster

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 11:11 PM

Nice feature review.


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#4 LoneWolf

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 12:57 PM

Note:  (By "officially supported" this means that HP lists the parts in their QuickSpecs, and will provide support to these parts as part of a warranteed server configuration.  It also may mean in some cases that these parts may be able to report to and/or be monitored by the HP iLO onboard management.  Other parts may work, despite not being part of an officially supported configuration, but you may receive no assistance from HP if you encounter an issue, and may not integrate with HP iLO).

 

Other notes.  Officially supported RAID controller cards:

 

Proliant ML30 Gen9 - Official support for the HP Smart Array P440 (two internal SAS SFF8087 ports), HP Smart Array P441 (two external SAS SFF8088 ports).  The P440 comes in two part numbers: 820834-B21 with 2GB cache, and 726821-B21 with 4GB cache.  HP documentation states that these three controllers require the addition of one Megacell battery and holder.

 

Proliant ML310 Gen8 v2 - Supports the familiar HP Smart Array P222 (one internal SAS, one external) and HP Smart Array P420 (two internal SAS).  These controllers use either 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB of flash-backed write cache, which uses a super-capacitor and cable.

 

Proliant ML10 v2 - Supports the H220 Host Bus Adapter and H221 PCIe 3.0 SAS Host Bus Adapter.  Note that these are limited in function, and do not have the RAID capabilities of the hardware controllers of the ML30 and ML310e.  While not officially supported, it is likely the controllers supported by the Proliant ML310 Gen8 v2 will work in an iLO-supported fashion.

 

Officially supported network cards:

 

Proliant ML30 - Supports the HP 332T (Broadcom 2-port PCIe) Gigabit NIC, the HP 361T (Intel 2-port PCIe) Gigabit NIC, and the HP 331T (Broadcom 4-port PCIe) Gigabit NIC.  There is support for multiple 10-gigabit NICs as well, but somehow I doubt most of you have 10 gigabit links in your house (Even HSS-Dave ;) ) and for now, they are beyond the scope of this FAQ.

 

Proliant ML310e Gen8 v2 - Supports the above listed cards AND the HP NC365T (Intel 4-port PCIe) Gigabit NIC. Several 10-gigabit NICs are supported as well.

 

Proliant ML10 v2 - Supports the same adapters as the Proliant ML30.  No 10-gigabit NICs are officially supported.

 

While there are other accessories on the supported list, most aren't going to be Home Server Show type gear.  The graphics and computational accelerators expensive, and aren't intended for gaming.  HP does list tape drives and storage, but I believe most of us will choose our own path via a third-party NAS, third-party hard drives, and probably nothing in the tape drive market. 

 

You can purchase HP Care Pack extended warranty services for all three servers.  With HP's new policy, firmware updates (unless they are security-oriented) are only available for a system under warranty coverage.  These services may be useful for the ML30 and ML 10 v2 as they are newer, and under more active software development.  They are less useful for the ML310e, as HP has cut back on firmware development, with the system design having been out longer, and supported RAID controllers have fairly mature firmware at this time.

 

You can purchase an iLO Advanced key for any of these three servers.  This adds some significant features to the HP iLO management package, including IP-KVM (the ability to control your server remotely from any state, including entering BIOS setup) through Java or .NET applet in a web browser, remote mounting of ISO media , shared network drive, or local USB drive through that KVM (Install an operating system or update your Intelligent Provisioning, run a Proliant Service Pack, etc. from another computer), and monitoring functions.  Note that the ML310e and ML10 v2 having the earlier iLO4 have been verified to actually use iLO2 and iLO 3 license keys to activate, and these can often be found aftermarket very reasonably.  I do not know if the ML30's newer iLO4 2.3 allows this; someone with an ML30 will need to confirm.  I can attest that iLO Advanced is probably the most significant reason to choose HP over another brand of server in this price range; management features on Lenovo and Dell servers within this price range are basic Intel AMT which while useful, doesn't match up.


Edited by LoneWolf, 19 March 2016 - 01:06 PM.

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#5 nrf

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 08:34 PM

so lots of details of differences, any summary/thoughts on when one would be preferable to another?


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#6 Trig0r

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 09:28 AM

Depends on the end user I would of thought, my Gen8 Microserver was a perfect replacement for my Gen7 but now I find as I'm running more VM's I need more RAM, despite the Gen8 still being good enough in all other departments (since fitting a SDM3)...



#7 LoneWolf

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 04:56 PM

so lots of details of differences, any summary/thoughts on when one would be preferable to another?

 

It is based both on convenience, and needs.

 

The ML310e and ML30 are far more convenient in mounting drives.  The bay in these matches what you'd expect to see in an enterprise server, with a backplane.

 

If you need maximum RAM for multiple roles, the ML30 is totally for you, going to 64GB.  Note that finding 16GB DDR4 ECC modules is still a bit difficult; many vendors are carrying 4GB and 8GB modules, but not 16GB, which is what you want.

 

If you already have a Microserver Gen8 and are hoping to make a move that allows migration of some of the fiddly bits and toys you added to it, the ML310e is the sweet spot, but the ML10 v2 will likely handle a lot of your add-ons as well, even if they aren't officially supported, because the ML10 v2 is basically a stripped-down ML310e.  Examples of things you might want to migrate would be an HP Smart Array controller, or (in some cases, this may or may not work) RAM memory, or hard drives you had in a RAID on the B120i Dynamic Smart Array controller, because you're transitioning to the same generation platform and there are a number of similarities.

 

If you like being able to use used parts to do your upgrade to maximize your price/performance, once again, the ML310e and ML10 v2 are your choices.  It is much easier to find used Xeon E3 v3 series CPUs and P222/P420 Smart Array controllers.  With the ML30, you are very likely going to be buying all-new parts; there are no off-lease systems, etc. to pull a P440 Smart Array controller from, or an E3 v5 series Xeon, they're nearly brand new.

 

If money is not the deciding factor, you should go the ML30.  DDR4 memory is the way of the future, it has an updated version of the iLO 4, it has an updated version of Intelligent Provisioning, and supports HP's newest generation of RAID controllers, plus it features the new B140i Dynamic Smart Array controller if you aren't going hardware RAID.  The Smart Buy config is around $650USD from a big seller like Provantage.

 

If you want champagne on a beer budget, the ML310e Gen8 v2 is a great buy at this point.  It's currently around $460 at Provantage (I keep citing them because they're among the least expensive prices I've found, beating NewEgg and Amazon at this time, and they're a decent-sized VAR), and accessories such as RAM, RAID controller, etc. run 10% or more less, or you can find used-pull parts to build up your system.  This was my choice, because I already have a P222 RAID controller, and 32GB is enough for my needs.  I would have loved the ML30, but it would have set me back another $200 for the system, then another $30-40 for DDR4 instead of 3, and I'd have had to buy a brand new RAID card and a brand new CPU if I wanted to upgrade.  I'd have not done the CPU upgrade I'm doing with the 310e for sure and would have been on a really tight budget buying a new RAID card.  I also was fortunate to find an open-box unit and save another $45, and the unit arrived in perfect shape.

 

If you're the type who says "I'm going to build my server and storage is going to stay set at what I stick in when I first put it together", or "My budget is tight, and I have to balance my needs vs my wants" then the ML10 v2 is still a good choice.  The drive cage doesn't have a backplane or vibration dampening, but with WD Reds that's not going to be a huge issue.  You can still get a Xeon E3 v3 processor, and it's the same one as the ML310e in both Smart Buy configurations --and if you're not doing any virtual machines, just one physical server, you can scale down to the Core i3 and you'll be fine.  As someone noted, the Core i3 version was on Shell Shocker at NewEgg for $189 this past week, and the Smart Buy Xeon config was $329 on special.  At that $200 mark, maybe that's the savings you need to get that extra amount of RAM, or pull the Core i3 right away and get a Core i7 Xeon E3 equivalent, that you want.

 

Finally, if you're a Microserver Gen8 user who doesn't need more than 16GB of RAM --ask yourself if you need to upgrade at all.  The Microserver Gen8 is still an amazingly engineered box, and once the CPU is upgraded, I think its only real weaknesses are that it can't do more than 16GB of RAM, and that once you've added a hardware RAID card, you have no other slots for, say, a dual or quad-port NIC.  Once again, these are features that are useful for people who want to run some virtual machines either to play with, or perform tasks.  Good examples might be if you want to run a low-end Linux VM to serve as a controller for Ubiquiti Unifi access points.  Or maybe you want to run a Plex server separate from your main server.  Or you want a VM solely for home automation.  Maybe you want to test Server 2016 Technical Preview 4, Windows 10 Insider builds, etc. and you don't want your primary system to be a beta box.  At those points, you are likely to want to upgrade beyond 16GB of RAM; you'll need to ask, based on your budget, whether 32GB is enough or you need 64GB, and what other parts you want to put in.  I'd say at 16GB, you can support one or two VMs if they're light duty and you have the right CPU.  If you want best-performance though, you probably want more RAM than the Microserver may provide.

 

Note that some of that decision in a VM environment may depend on what hypervisor you're using too.  With VMWare, the hypervisor is bare-metal, with fairly low overhead.  Hyper-V uses a bit more resources but is efficient if you're using the Core (free hypervisor).  Hyper-V as a role on a GUI-based Windows server uses more resources, but may be the most comfortable choice for novices.  While I've played with Citrix XenServer, I found it had some of the great management features like VMWare, but didn't seem to perform quite as well as VMWare or HyperV, but that may have changed, and it's completely open-source.


Edited by LoneWolf, 20 March 2016 - 05:08 PM.

HP ML310e G8 v2.  Xeon E3-1231v3, 32GB RAM, dual-port Intel gig NIC

4x 240GB SSD RAID10 (Icydock Express), 4x 3TB HGST, RAID5, P420 1GB FBWC

Former owner: Microserver Gen8, TS140, HP N40L, N54L.

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#8 H00GiE

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 04:58 PM

(1) Note:  (By "officially supported" this means that HP lists the parts in their QuickSpecs, and will provide support to these parts as part of a warranteed server configuration.  It also may mean in some cases that these parts may be able to report to and/or be monitored by the HP iLO onboard management.  Other parts may work, despite not being part of an officially supported configuration, but you may receive no assistance from HP if you encounter an issue, and may not integrate with HP iLO).

 

 

 

(2)...newer iLO4 2.3 allows this...

(1) Apart from (fancy) reporting in ILO and support from HP is there any reason NOT to use 3rd party hardware in a proliant server?
I can understand HP endorses their own products for economic reasons, but i'd like to use more affordable 3rd party alternatives.

 

(2) by 2.3 you mean the firmware version? (i'm assuming they not use different ILO4 chips on different models/servers, given the difference beeing that G6 servers have ILO2 chips and G8 uses ILO4)

The latest version of ILO4 is 2.4 and cheap ILO keys bought from ebay (assumed they are the older licences you are talking about) work fine, even when activating after upgrade to v2.4
PS. ILO4 v2.4 is quite the update, it's has the new HPE style design, all functions are easy accessible and well-arranged. There's a topic on Microserver gen8 forum about it.


 


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#9 nrf

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 05:50 PM

thanks for that rather long answer, I actually am able to make sense of it. how is it that a 'smart' raid card is not considered hardware raid? are you 'locked in' to the vendor if you use a raid card as in your drives are 'customized' to that card for eternity (or until you do a full restore from backup)?


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#10 LoneWolf

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 07:37 PM

(1) Apart from (fancy) reporting in ILO and support from HP is there any reason NOT to use 3rd party hardware in a proliant server?
I can understand HP endorses their own products for economic reasons, but i'd like to use more affordable 3rd party alternatives.

 

(2) by 2.3 you mean the firmware version? (i'm assuming they not use different ILO4 chips on different models/servers, given the difference beeing that G6 servers have ILO2 chips and G8 uses ILO4)

The latest version of ILO4 is 2.4 and cheap ILO keys bought from ebay (assumed they are the older licences you are talking about) work fine, even when activating after upgrade to v2.4
PS. ILO4 v2.4 is quite the update, it's has the new HPE style design, all functions are easy accessible and well-arranged. There's a topic on Microserver gen8 forum about it.


 

 

1.  Mostly no, however, note that if the iLO recognizes hardware like a RAID card, it may be able to adapt fan speeds to temperature better.  This was well known with the Microserver Gen8 for example; using RAID controllers not recognized by the iLO in some cases could cause higher fan speeds, and therefore, more noise. EDIT: See my final note to nrf below.

 

2.  HP mentions the iLO on the Microserver ML30 as being "iLO 4 2.3" whereas all previous servers are called "iLO 4".  You could be right that they are referring to firmware.  It is also possible that the Gen9 servers have a slightly improved iLO with additional extensions not previously available.  Having not played with the ML30, I'll direct those questions to Joe_Miner.  I've read just a little bit about 2.4 but haven't played with it yet.

 

thanks for that rather long answer, I actually am able to make sense of it. how is it that a 'smart' raid card is not considered hardware raid? are you 'locked in' to the vendor if you use a raid card as in your drives are 'customized' to that card for eternity (or until you do a full restore from backup)?

 

Sorry for being very long; I'd rather be detailed (and sadly, long-winded) than not provide enough information, and being analytical is sometimes a strength, sometimes a weakness with me.

 

HP's Dynamic Smart Array controllers are like a slightly smarter version of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology (RST) RAID you'd find on desktops.  This is why most of them (apart from the new B140i) can't handle RAID-5 (striping with parity, and why the B140i can't handle RAID-6 (striping with double parity) or RAID 50/60.

 

Three factors go into a hardware RAID controller.  The first is being able to do hardware parity calculations.  In a RAID-5 array, you lose one disk's worth of space (requiring a minimum three disks) due to a "parity bit" being written for each two data bits.  Calculating parity is a costly mathematical equation using what's called an  XOR (exclusive OR) operation, for more information, see http://www.raid-reco...id5-parity.aspx.  Regular x86 or x86-64 processors are not suited to this, and soft-RAID chips like the B120i do not have what  hardware RAID controllers do -a hardware XOR unit that does these calculations, without which, a RAID-5 will be extremely slow (see the Dell PERC H310 controller issues on the web as a great example of this, I've dealt with my share).  RAID-6 is even harder, because it requires a double-parity calculation; you lose two disks (requiring a minimum of four); without a good hardware RAID controller, you'd bring a system to its knees due to poor I/O --this is extremely noticeable for systems running databases, or multiple virtual machines.

 

The second factor that goes into a good hardware RAID controller is caching.  In order to ensure that a RAID array doesn't penalize a system performance, RAID controllers have a memory cache using some form of RAM.  Today's modern caches range from 128MB up to 4GB of memory, and can be used as both a read-ahead cache, and a write cache.  Few software RAID controllers have any form of caching; HP has had occasional exceptions by offering an optional cache to the Dynamic Smart Array on some servers.

 

The third and final feature that hardware RAID controllers have (either as an option or standard) is a form of battery backup.  If a system locks up, crashes, or loses power during a disk write, the entire RAID array could potentially be corrupted.  Having a battery or a super-capacitor means that the data in the cache of the RAID controller can be held for anywhere from a day to (in the case of HP's super-caps and flash-backed write cache) potentially years, so when the system is next powered-on,the controller can finish the data write and ensure the RAID array stays intact.

 

Yes, you are usually locked in to a vendor when you choose a RAID card, or possibly a chipset manufacturer.  HP's current RAID controller generations have generally used PMC-Sierra chipsets (note that Adaptec is nowadays "Adaptec by PMC").  Dell and Lenovo generally use Avago-LSI chipsets; some of these controllers can actually be flashed back and forth between an OEM LSI controller and a Dell PERC/Lenovo ThinkRAID controller if you know which design is which.  If you use an HP controller, you can generally migrate your RAID array from an older one to a newer one with no data loss.  The same is true of Dell, and of Lenovo, or of Adaptec or LSI.  This is because RAID is by nature proprietary, and each vendor's chipset accomplishes what it does in a different way.

 

None of this is really what I would call "bad" --doing RAID right offers both increases in system uptime, and increases in performance.  Note that RAID is NOT (can't state this enough) a substitute for backup.  Delete a file on an array, and it's gone across all member sets.  Corrupt one, the same.  But it is awfully nice being able to replace a disk when one fails, and have your RAID rebuild and restore without backup - and hardware RAID controllers are MUCH faster at rebuilding as well.

 

H00GiE, this does bring up one other great note about integrating a supported HP RAID controller with iLO --you can potentially set up iLO or HP Insight to e-mail you if a RAID failure is detected.  I haven't set this up on my system, so I can't fully describe the process, but this can be a great thing if you aren't looking at your server constantly.  You won't get that with an unsupported controller; instead you would need to set up Windows Server to e-mail you upon certain Event Log errors, or try to do so another way if that's not your primary operating system.


Edited by LoneWolf, 20 March 2016 - 07:38 PM.

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#11 nrf

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 10:21 PM

wow! I am getting an education today! thanks, professor!


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#12 GotNoTime

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 11:08 PM

2.  HP mentions the iLO on the Microserver ML30 as being "iLO 4 2.3" whereas all previous servers are called "iLO 4".  You could be right that they are referring to firmware.  It is also possible that the Gen9 servers have a slightly improved iLO with additional extensions not previously available.  Having not played with the ML30, I'll direct those questions to Joe_Miner.  I've read just a little bit about 2.4 but haven't played with it yet.

The iLO4 controller is the same and uses exactly the same firmware. The only thing that differs between the various iLO4 implementation is whether it has a dedicated network port and how much NAND flash it has for storage of tools like IP and iLO data like the logs. AFAIK, all of the recent Proliants have had 4GB NAND flash integrated onto the motherboard as standard.
 

HP's Dynamic Smart Array controllers are like a slightly smarter version of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology (RST) RAID you'd find on desktops.  This is why most of them (apart from the new B140i) can't handle RAID-5 (striping with parity, and why the B140i can't handle RAID-6 (striping with double parity) or RAID 50/60.

The HP DSA controllers are just regular SATA controllers with a HP firmware and driver. The B120i is actually the Intel SATA controller in the C204 chipset and the B140i is actually the Intel SATA controller in the C224 chipset. There isn't any technical reason that they don't support RAID-5/6 beyond it eating up some CPU time.

Few software RAID controllers have any form of caching; HP has had occasional exceptions by offering an optional cache to the Dynamic Smart Array on some servers.

The HP DSA controllers support read/write caching in system RAM. The optional addon card is FBWC which you've already mentioned. It requires a special slot on the motherboard which isn't present in a Gen8 Microserver even though it uses the B120i controller.

Dell and Lenovo generally use Avago-LSI chipsets; some of these controllers can actually be flashed back and forth between an OEM LSI controller and a Dell PERC/Lenovo ThinkRAID controller if you know which design is which.

I wouldn't recommend cross flashing PERC cards. There have been reports of odd behaviour due to Dell modifications to the firmware bootblock which can't be changed.

#13 LoneWolf

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 06:20 AM

I'm not saying I'd recommend it. Just that it's known it can be done in some cases.

I'd normally recommend either the OEM LSI, or finding a model on the supported list for your given model of server unless you totally know what you're doing, or are okay with the law of unintended consequences.

Edited by LoneWolf, 21 March 2016 - 06:22 AM.

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#14 H00GiE

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 07:03 AM

I have a original (Avago-)LSI Megaraid (with the cachecade fob installed) so luckily no crossflashing for me, it has 512MB cache + any number of SSDs connected as HOT cache, I know the P420i and above smart array can do this too.

It's called Cachecade on LSI and SmartCache on HP.

I have to say having "hot" data cached on a raid 1 SSD array makes any VDI operation smooth. I love it.
ESXi 100% supports it, and does the reporting via a VIB i had to install, which surprisingly works almost the same as the ILO reporting.

Reason for bringing this up is quite simple: the ML10 v2 can be considered a budget machine but once you get the hang of the server and WANT to upgrade there's a whole world of options to upgrade the server up to, and beyond the specifications of lets say the ML310e V2, so for impatient people like me... there's a way to sit on the front row for a dime.
You're not bound to HPE hardware and with a little creativity you can create quite the EPIC server after you bought the step-in model of a ML10 v2...
And the topic stated "WHICH one is right for you." and i'm simply trying to rip up the box(, i'm done thinking outside of it).
 


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#15 LoneWolf

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 08:07 AM

Well, for someone on the cheap, the HP Smart Array P212 or P410 are now at fire sale prices on eBay. I bought a P212 Saturday with 512mb of cache and a battery for $18. These are great for learning RAID and adding performance on a budget. They probably won't be monitored in iLO as they are Gen7 parts but they work well.
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#16 LoneWolf

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 04:31 PM

Reason for bringing this up is quite simple: the ML10 v2 can be considered a budget machine but once you get the hang of the server and WANT to upgrade there's a whole world of options to upgrade the server up to, and beyond the specifications of lets say the ML310e V2, so for impatient people like me... there's a way to sit on the front row for a dime.
You're not bound to HPE hardware and with a little creativity you can create quite the EPIC server after you bought the step-in model of a ML10 v2...
And the topic stated "WHICH one is right for you." and i'm simply trying to rip up the box(, i'm done thinking outside of it).
 

 

And this guide is really for several reasons:

 

1)  Mainly not to tell you *what* to buy as much as make sure you're fully informed what your options are before you pull the trigger.  That way, you can decide what works for you based on your budget, and what kind of techie you consider yourself.  Some people like experimentation.  Some people are purists - they like something that matches the way HP or a corporate network would put it in place.  Some people have one budget, some people have another.

2) To that end, there are still some people at the end of it that would rather say "Tell me what to buy".  For them, my best suggestions are based on what you want to accomplish, combined with the budget you have.  It's very possible for example to take an ML10 v2 as you suggest and make it a powerhouse by buying the lowest end model and shoving hardware in it to match your needs.  However, some add-ons (like the ML310e/ML30 drive bays) are an expensive add-on if you want to buy a new drive cage, backplane, backplate, and then drive sleds.  Some people would much rather that came with.

3) Different nations = different currency.  A Canadian is going to probably pay a 10-15% upcharge of what I would, because the Canadian dollar is weak relative to the US one.  A country with a strong currency might pay less.  UK folks might have to figure in VAT tax.  And so on.  This may or may not be a factor, depending on where you live, so knowing what is available and determining whether it's something you need or not (or in some cases "want enough" rather than need) may help you make the call when it comes to the price.

 

In my case, I didn't find out until it was too late that the ML10 v2 doesn't support Intelligent Provisioning, which is useful to me.  Plenty of people either won't need that, or won't want it enough to pay the extra.  If I can benefit someone by making sure they are informed before they buy something, then they benefit by going in eyes wide open. :)


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#17 LoneWolf

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 09:08 PM

NRF, by the way, allow me to add this from HP's Dynamic Smart Array B140i literature (the B120i has similar wording):

 

The HPE Dynamic Smart Array B140i RAID controller is a RAID solution combining SATA ports and
proprietary software components. Eliminating most of the hardware RAID controller components, and
relocating advanced RAID algorithms from a hardware-based controller into device driver software lowers
the total solution cost, while still maintaining comparable RAID protection and full compatibility with Smart
Array disk format, configuration utilities, and management/monitoring software.
 
Once you read the literature, the fine print becomes less so, and shows that most (if not all) calculations for RAID have been moved to the driver.  What this means in plain words is that those calculations have to be done by something now that there isn't a RAID CPU to offload them to; that means your processor gets to do it, which isn't nearly as optimized.

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#18 nrf

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 09:28 PM

reminds me of the old 'share the system ram with the display' days...

so 'smart' means 'smart enough to use your cpu instead of forking over money for hardware'


Edited by nrf, 21 March 2016 - 09:29 PM.

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#19 GotNoTime

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 10:13 PM

Whether software raid is good or not depends on your situation. If you've got a spare CPU core or two you are willing to dedicate to it then software RAID can be faster than hardware RAID even with hardware parity. No hardware to buy or maintain and you get the benefit of not being locked into a hardware vendor if you use OS software RAID. Upgrading your CPU will correspondingly increase the speed of your RAID parity calculations.

As I mentioned before, the HP DSA controllers are just the Intel SATA controllers with HP firmware and drivers. There is no hardware acceleration involved. The benefit is that you have a clean upgrade path to the HP SA controllers. The metadata is the same so you just add the card, swap the drives and you're ready to go.

reminds me of the old 'share the system ram with the display' days...

Anything with integrated graphics uses main memory as your VRAM so that still happens today.
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#20 LoneWolf

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Posted 22 March 2016 - 04:23 PM

Well, once you don't use parity, the need for a hardware controller is far less.

 

The B120i doesn't support RAID 5 on its own.  You'd need an operating system that does RAID-5 for you.  I'm very loath to recommend solutions like Dynamic Disks (Microsoft) or Windows Storage Spaces (also Microsoft) because they come with their own set of cons.

 

If you're running a Linux-based NAS software or OS that supports ZFS, this could be an entirely different animal.  There are some decent benefits to software RAID on ZFS, but this is another ball game.  SSDs also improve things, but while I get running them in a RAID-1 mirror, I'm not sure I see the value of running them in a RAID-5/6; most people use them for the boot OS and then go for mechanical disks for storage.

 

Once again, with the B140i and B120i not supporting caching or hardware acceleration, once you're using a parity-based RAID (with the exception of IMO, ZFS or certain specific situations) with mechanical disks, I have found in the enterprise world what the results are, and they're lousy.  The moment you have multiple demands from multiple workstations beyond just basic file serving --this includes Exchange, any sort of database (even basic, like QuickBooks), or multiple simultaneous VM, I've experience how much a system bogs down with a product like the LSI 9211-8i.  When you can buy a Smart Array P222 or P410 for under thirty bucks, why not?


HP ML310e G8 v2.  Xeon E3-1231v3, 32GB RAM, dual-port Intel gig NIC

4x 240GB SSD RAID10 (Icydock Express), 4x 3TB HGST, RAID5, P420 1GB FBWC

Former owner: Microserver Gen8, TS140, HP N40L, N54L.

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