HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer — First Look

• March 28, 2013

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The HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer looks exactly like its predecessor HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer. I chose to wait on flashing the BIOS-MOD — electing instead to do some testing with the stock HP BIOS which, by-the-way, is the same as the stock BIOS ( #O41 July 29, 2011 – see Figure 10) that came with my HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer a year earlier.

 

Contents:

HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer

RocketRaid 2720SGL

Windows Server 2012

Compatibility with other PCIe Cards

Performance of RAID0 Drives

Conclusion

References

= = = = = = = =

 

 

HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer

The HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer (“MicroServer” or “N54L”) is the third variation in the MicroServer line at HP (N36L w/system board #620826-001, N40L w/system board #661787-001, and N54L w/system board #708503-001). In a previous writing I compared the rated performance of the CPU’s and having worked with the N40L in the past I was anxious to try out the N54L.

Unlike my work previously, I decided to NOT flash the BIOS-MOD on the N54L — planning instead to test the HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL and not using any of the onboard SATA II Ports of the N54L — making it unnecessary to unlock the stock BIOS to get the increased speed of Ports 4 & 5 or set those Ports to AHCI. Later, I will flash the BIOS-MOD to either test the eSATA Port multiplier or when I remove the RAID card and need to use Ports 4 & 5.

 

Parts List

· HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer

· 4GB RAM: 2*2GB Stock HP Sticks: 2GB came Stock with the HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer and I added to that the spare Stock 2GB stick that came with my N40L (“Ranger”)

· HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL

· StarTech Model SAS8087S450 19” Serial Attached SCSI SAS Cable – SFF-8087 to 4x Latching SATA

· Nippon Labs SATA Adaptor Molex 4-Pin PC Power Cable to 2 x SATA Converter Cables #POW-SATA-2

· Intel EXPI9301CTBLK PCIe 10/100/1000MB/s

· WD SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCIe card

· OS: 2*Seagate 250GB (HP branded VB0250EAVER) in RAID0 – ID: RAID_0_0

· Data: 2*Crucial M4 256GB SSD in RAID0 – ID: RAID_0_1

 

 

RocketRaid 2720SGL

Before I pulled the HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL (“RR2720”) from its box I went to HighPoint’s website at http://www.highpoint-tech.com/USA_new/CS-series_rr272x.htm and clicked on the “Storage Configurations” tab. On the Storage Configurations page I downloaded:

· The latest BIOS => v1.5

· The latest Windows Drivers for Windows 7, 8, Vista, 2008 => v1.3.12.1023

· The latest Windows Web RAID Management => v2.1.4.12.1026

· The Windows 8 User’s Guide

· User Guide

Later, during installation of the RR2720 I used the most current drivers and software downloaded from the HighPoint website instead of the disk that was packaged with the new RR2720.

 

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Figure 1– Mini SAS Cable detached from System Board

 

Except for a N54L on the System Board, instead of a N40L, the new MicroServer is a duplicate, as far as I could tell, of the MicroServers I have reviewed in the past.

One early, pleasant, surprise was the ease that the Mini SAS Cable could be detached from the System Board shown in Figure 1. On previous MicroServers it had been my experience that the Mini SAS Cable connector was very difficult to remove from the System Board — requiring the “working over” of a very small screwdriver to free it up.

The HP ProLiant MicroServer Maintenance and Service Guide and various other User Guides can be found at http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/DocumentIndex.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&contentType=SupportManual&prodTypeId=15351&prodSeriesId=4248009 and are a valuable reference when adding or removing devices on the MicroServer. The HP MicroServer Self Repair Videos are another excellent resource to study before working on the MicroServer – links to them are available at “Useful MicroServer Links & Reference”.

 

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Figure 2– The HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL being prepared for installation

 

In Figure 2 the System Board has been removed from the MicroServer and the RR2720 box is ready to unpack. The System Board power connector is long enough that I didn’t need to disconnect it.

 

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Figure 3– The low profile bracket installed

 

In Figure 3 I have replaced the standard size bracket on the RR2720 with the low profile bracket that was included in the box with the RR2720.

 

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Figure 4– The Highpoint RocketRAID 2720 SGL installed onto the N54L System Board

 

The RR2720 is shown in Figure 4 installed on the N54L System Board. Note the red SFF-8087 cable that will provide four additional SATA III connections in the ODD bay area. The HP Mini SAS Connector that fans out to provide the SATA connections in the main four drive bay of the MicroServer is also clearly visible.

 

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Figure 5– System Board installed — the HP Mini SAS Cable is attached to Port 2 on the RR2720 while the StarTech Cable is attached to Port 1

 

In Figure 5 the RR2720 is installed with the HP Mini SAS Cable attached to Port 2 of the RR2720 (attaching the HP Mini SAS Cable to Port 2 gave me a few extra millimeters of cable to work the connector in position). Originally, the Mini SAS Cable attached the four (4) SATA drives to the System Board. It fits into the SAS connector on the RR2720 perfectly and I had “just enough” length of cable to reach the RR2720. In addition to the HP Mini SAS Cable from the MicroServer I attached to Port 1 of the RR2720 the StarTech SFF-8087 19” SAS Cable to 4 x Latching SATA connectors giving me four SATA III Ports in the top of the MicroServer. Part of the SATA Adpater Molex 4-Pin PC power cable to 2 x SATA Converter Cables is visible in the top of the MicroServer.

 

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Figure 6– RR2720 BIOS Setup Utility that’s displayed shortly after the RAM is verified

 

When I powered up the MicroServer the RocketRaid 2720 BIOS Setting Utility V1.0 appeared shortly after the RAM check was displayed on the monitor during post. Hitting Cntl-H took me into the utility. Working in v1.0 of the utility I set up two 250GB HDD’s (one came with the N54L and the other came with a N40L – the VB0250EAVER is known for OK but not impressive performance HDD – see Figure 15) in a RAID0 to be used as my OS drive. I set this RAID0 (named RAID_0_0) in <Settings> to be my boot drive.

 

 

Windows Server 2012

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Figure 7– After loading the latest drivers downloaded from HighPoint the OS (Windows Server 2012) saw the RAID0 of the 2 Seagate 250GB Drives

 

For the OS I chose to install Windows Server 2012 (“S2012”) and I chose the “Server with GUI” installation option. The installation proceeded like it would have any other time till it came to choose the drive to install the OS on – the window showed no drives. I selected the “Load Driver” icon – I had previously downloaded the RR2720 Windows Driver v1.3.12.1023 to a Flash Drive which I pointed the Windows Server 2012 installer too. The v1.3.12.1023 loaded successfully and showed my RAID_0_0 as Drive 1 as shown in Figure 7.

 

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Figure 8– Installing the OS from a DVD. The Flash drive was used to install the RR2720 Drivers

 

Figure 8 shows the MicroServer while Windows Server 2012 is installing and the Flash Drive that held the RR2720 Windows drivers.

 

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Figure 9–Windows Server 2012 Installed on the N54L

 

Figure 9 shows Window Server 2012 successfully loaded on the MicroServer. I have named this latest MicroServer Intrepid (running on a N54L).

 

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Figure 10– System Information after the complete install of Windows Server 2012

 

System Information for Intrepid is shown in Figure 10.

 

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Figure 11– Device Manager showing the installation of the RR2720 Complete

 

Figure 11 is the Device Manager screen for Intrepid that shows the RR2720 loaded.

 

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Figure 12– installation of Crucial M4 SSD’s for 2nd RAID0

 

After installing Windows Server 2012 I shut down the MicroServer and attached two Crucial M4’s that I had temporarily removed from other machines. Note that there is enough space as well as two open SATA III Ports that I could have mounted (taped down) two additional SSD’s – which I would have really enjoyed doing. After reading RacerMike’s article Crucial Crucible – SSD Testing last year and hearing him talk about putting two Crucial M4’s in RAID0 in BYOB #82 I had wanted to try two SSD’s in RAID0 if I ever got the chance.

 

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Figure 13– RR2720 BIOS Utility upgraded to v1.5 showing the Crucial SSD newly intialized

 

While it’s possible to upgrade the RocketRAID 2720 BIOS Setting Utility with a DOS bootable Flash Drive I chose the easier way, for me, and clicked on the hptflash.exe Windows application that I had downloaded previously from HighPoint’s Web Site and then point it to the subdirectory that I had the new RocketRAID 2720 BIOS rr2720.v15. The application executed quickly.

 

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Figure 14– Current HighPoint RAID Management utility showing the OS RAID_0_0 and 2nd RAID0 RAID_0_1

 

After upgrading the RocketRAID 2720 to the latest BIOS v1.5 I next loaded the HighPoint Web RAID Management software v2.1.4.12.1026 and used the Web Management software to create my second RAID0 (named RAID_0_1) of two Crucial M4’s.

 

 

Compatibility with other PCIe Cards

When I loaded the RR2720 into the MicroServer with the Intel NIC beside it the RR2720 BIOS Setup Utility would not load and POST would end without finding the OS drive. When I removed the Intel NIC the RR2720 BIOS Setup Utility would again be visible during POST and the OS drive would be found and the OS loaded normally.

When I loaded the RR2720 into the MocroServer with the WD USB3 PCIe Card beside it the RR2720 BIOS Setup Utility would be visible during POST and the OS drive would be found and the OS loaded normally. But after the OS was loaded and I plugged an external USB 3.0 drive into the WD USB3 PCIe Card the OS could not see the external USB 3.0 drive in File Explorer. I could move the external USB 3.0 drive to any open USB 2.0 port and the device would show up in File Explorer.

Right now, I don’t know if the Intel NIC and the WD USB3 PCIe Card are truly incompatible with the RR2720 or if it is (more likely) an operator error but for the time being I know they do not work with the RR2720. I am beginning to suspect that it may be a power related issue on the PCIe. When I attached the external USB 3.0 drive to the WD USB3 PCIe Card the connection light on the external USB 3.0 drive did light up and I heard the drive spin up but the drive would not appear on the File Explorer window.

 

 

Performance of RAID0 Drives (RAID_0_0 and RAID_0_1)

Raid_0_0:

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Figure 15– ATTO Performance of HP Stock Seagate 250GB Drives that come with N40L and N54L’s

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Figure 16– OS Drive: Performance of 2 HP Stock Seagate 250GB Drives in RAID0 in RR2720

 

Figure 15 shows the performance of a single VB0250EAVER attached to a SATA II Port in the MicroServer while Figure 16 shows the much better performance of two VB0250EAVER’s in RAID0 (identified as RAID_0_0 in Figure 14) on the RR2720.

 

Raid_0_1:

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Figure 17– Performance of single Crucial M4 256GB SSD Drive attached to SATA II Port in MicroServer

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Figure 18– Performance of single Crucial M4 256GB SSD Drive attached to Rocket 640L in MicroServer

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Figure 19 — Data Drive: 2 x Crucial M4 256GB SSD Drives in RAID0 on RR2720

 

Figure 17 shows the performance of a single Crucial M4 attached to a SATA II Port in the MicroServer while Figure 18 shows the improved performance of the Crucial M4 attached to a Rocket 640L in the MicroServer. Figure 18 shows that the Crucial M4’s performance has improved to the advertised SATA III speeds for Crucial M4’s. Figure 19 shows the incredible performance of two Crucial M4’s in RAID0 (identified as RAID_0_1 in Figure 14) attached to a RR2720 in the MicroServer. ATTO is showing a peak Read of over 903,000MB/s and peak Read over 518,000MB/s. Simply incredible. What I would/could do with this I’m not sure but part of the fun of the MicroServer is the opportunity to “play” with many different and sometimes crazy setups just to see what happens and what may be useful.

 

Conclusion

Based on the index comparisons I did in HP ProLiant MicroServer CPU Performance Index Comparisons I was expecting the N54L to show more responsiveness because of its 143% benchmark when compared to the N40L. I did note increased CPU responsiveness with the CPU utilization (when viewed with Task Manager) hitting 100% much less frequently with the N54L than with the N40L during installation of S2012 and subsequent server updates. (Before installing S2012 on N54L (Intrepid) I had just completed a rebuilt and installation of S2012 on a N40L (Ranger).)

 

References

HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer

HP ProLiant MicroServer CPU Performance Index Comparisons

Useful MicroServer Links & References

MicroServer Hardware Links

HP MicroServer Discussed on The Home Server Show 212

HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL

Crucial Crucible – SSD testing also discussed in BYOB #82

Another Round With RAID

RAID And Windows Home Server

HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer Build and BIOS Modification Revisited

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Category: Hard Drives, HP Microserver, RAID, Review, SSD, Windows Home Server

Comments (16)

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  1. Nice write-up! I too recently picked up an N54L (two, actually) and loaded it with WD Red drives to add to the home lab and experiment with storage spaces. I found the SS performance to be less than desirable and attribute this at least in part to the SATA II ports. A SAS controller seems to be just the thing this little box needs (I already upgraded the memory) and I'm curious if you experimented with a JBOD setup and then using virtual disk parity in Server 2012 Storage Spaces? At the very least adding the SAS controller will allow me to eliminate the onboard SATA II as causing my lackluster IO performance with Storage Spaces, and adding two SSDs as journaling drives should allow me to create some meaningful benchmarks on the various SS virtual disk layouts. Thanks again — I'll post my results if you are interested.

  2. Joe_Miner says:

    BryanCrollins: Thank you for your kind comments. I have done some performance measurements on Storage Spaces — for a summary check Table 1 in http://homeservershow.com/storage-spaces-performa

    LoneWolf and Schoondoggy have done some pretty interesting stuff in their MicroServers using the HP P410 card http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic

    I think a lot of people would be interested in your performance tests — join us in the Forums and tell us about your Set-ups and your testing results. Thanks!
    http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/forum

  3. Just Checking says:

    I just purchased a N54L as my first server. I got it on Sale @ Newegg for US$309 with a US$50 mail in rebate. The deal included a PCIe dual USB 3.0 card and an external USB 3.0 dual HDD system. I bought a couple 8Gb Sticks (16Gb total) of DDR3 240 pin PC3-10600 ECC buffered Server Memory (Inexpensive on eBay coming out of another server upgrade). I also purchased a RAC but I am not sure that was the best use of the other available card slot after reading this build. I have been researching how best to configure my server so I have a couple questions regarding whether to purchase and install the RocketRaid 2720SGL card vs. going with the mod-bios and setting up a Sata III SSD to boot the OS and installing another ssd or HDD in OD bay. I purchased a couple 3Tb WD Red SATA III HDD's to go in the 3.5 bays and I have a couple more 2Tb SATA III drives that can go in the other two open HDD bays.

    The questions I have are as follows:
    1. Has anyone gotten the RocketRaid 2720SGL card to work with other cards? In particular, any other USB 3.0 or Ethernet NIC's?
    2. Has anyone used the RocketRaid 2720SGL with a full set of 4 HDD's in the drive bays along with either two SSD's or a SSD and a HDD in the OD bay? If so, how do you get 6 SATA III ports from the 2720SGL card?

  4. Just Checking says:

    Continued from above:

    3. What kind of power does the 2720SGL card use? The power supply for the box is only 150 watts. If you have 4-5 HDD's in the box and an SSD, along with a USB 3.0 NIC, and a 2720SGL card, isn't that approaching the PS limits if the server is under high load?
    4. My reading indicates that the mod-bios allows you to maximize the transfer rates out of the SATA II ports on the Server MB. From my reading, the default Bios setting is for SATA I or approximately 150MB/sec speed. Mod-Bios allows you to set the bios to allow the ports to run at SATA II speeds of 300MB/sec on all ports. Is this not true? If it is true, why didn't the measurements taken by Christian Marcotte in the posts above reflect that change when he changed to mod-bios? It did change for ports 4&5 but not on the other ports with the HDD's.
    5. My reading indicates that mod-bios just allows Hidden files and features to be visible. It only allows the Bios to be more "user configurable". Why is this so risky that there are all the disclaimers about "ruining your system"? This seems less dangerous than overclocking – something that is regularly done.
    6. Why are there all these posts about people adding HDD's and SSD's to the OD bay when they don't even fill up the open 3.5" bays they have available? I want to fill up my 3.5" bays, add two more drives in the OD bay, and add 2-3 more external drives connected to the USB 3.0 external ports I am putting on this server.

  5. Just Checking says:

    Continued from above – part 3.

    7. I see that other people have been using Windows 8 for an OS on this server. Windows 8 is a much larger OS than Windows 7 and has less functionality. Isn't Windows 7-64 bit Professional a better choice for an OS if you are going with a Windows based OS to begin with?
    8. What is the advantage of going with WHS 2011 over Windows 7 anyway? What about WHS 2012? I know that WHS is being discontinued – even though it will continue to be supported for some time. I am much more comfortable with Windows 7 and it seems capable of doing everything that WHS is able to do, and more.
    9. If the MB only has SATA I/II connections, how fast is the bus to RJ-45 Ethernet port on back and How fast is the eSATA port? Do they only run at SATA II speeds?

    I guess my bottom line is – will going with the RocketRaid 2720SGL card allow me to use other NIC's reliably and also to be able to connect all my HDD's up at SATA III speeds? After that, what is the most reliable Windows OS to handle lots of HDD's and other chores? I am not familiar enough to be comfortable with a Linux OS at this time.

  6. Joe_Miner says:

    Hi Just Checking!
    1. I have not. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that others have but I don’t know them and have no confidence in their information.
    2. I have not but I’m planning to give it a try. Schoondoggy and LoneWolf have done it with the HP P410 RAID card. Check the forums.
    3. Don’t remember precisely – it’s less than the 25W max that the x16 slot will support. You can check HighPoint’s documentation – as I recall it was only a few Watts.
    4. The BIOS-MOD gives you the option to speed up Ports 4 & 5 to SATA II Maximum Speeds – Ports 0 – 3 are already at SATA II Maximum speed. The BIOS-MOD also allows you to set Ports 4 & 5 to AHCI – which is necessary if you intend to attach SSD’s to those Ports. AHCI is necessary for Trim. The BIOS-MOD allows you to turn on Port Multiplier for the SATA ports. BTW, Ports 4 & 5 are the eSATA and System Board SATA ports respectively.

  7. Joe_Miner says:

    5. It’s always risky and there is the danger of bricking one’s system unintentionally.
    6. People configure it to meet their needs.
    7. Windows 8 pro is an excellent OS – much better than Windows 7. Hyper-V is just one of it’s many fantastic features IMHO.
    8. Bare Metal Backup of Clients – WHS-2011 is based on Server 2008R2 Foundation and you can get it for less than $50.
    9. The NIC is a Gb. The eSATA will run at SATA I speeds stock or SATA II after BIOS-MOD.

  8. Robert says:

    using that thing and upgraded it from a HP x312 :)

    booting from 32gb Stick a ESXi
    have about 3 VMs
    firewall, windows 2012 server essentials (data homeserver) and a debian server, and trial 2008 server

    used normal ram and have 12 Gib
    4HDD´s

    just hear that someone used 5 HDD and other, a drive box over eSata and add 4 additional HDD´s

    is there a method to overclock that cpu on board ?

  9. jpopfans1 says:

    Robert,
    12 Gib or 12TB ?
    if 12TB, is it a raid under any VM ? or individual disks only ?

    the news you heard about eSata, is it also under ESXi using the onboard esata or need an separate PCIe raid card ?

    sorry for asking many questions

  10. Joe_Miner says:

    Hi Robert! I am not aware of anyway to overclock the CPU — the G8 that is rumored to come out before the end of June 2013 is rumored to have an 1155 socket so it may be possible to upgrade the CPU http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic… If you are looking to turn on the Port Multiplier for the eSATA Port on the N54L there is a way to do it as described in the links 4 lines down in http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic

  11. Garry says:

    Hi,

    I have just got to work on my N54l

    So far, BIOS MOD updated.
    IcyDock Installed.

    Now I've just purchased:

    1) HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL 8-Port PCI-Express 2.0 x8 SAS/SATA 6Gb/s RAID Controller with RAID 6 Support

    2) Startech.com 50cm Serial Attached SCSI SAS Cable – SFF-8087 to 4x Latching SATA

    3) Molex to 2 SATA Internal Power Splitter Cable

    Though am I right in thinking I don't need the 2* SATA Power splitter as the IcyDock only required 1 power port?
    (Hence I can get away using the Molext to SATA Internal Power adapter I have already just installed with the IcyDock?)

    Am I understanding the hardware installation process correctly:-

    1) The HP Mini SAS Cable which is pre-inserted into the front-left portion of the motherboard – is already connected to the 4 HDD bays – which will slot into Slot2 of the HighPoint rocketraid?

    2) The Startech SFF-8087 cable is inserted into Slot1 of the HighPoint rocketraid – and of the 2 of the 4 Sata Cables at the other end of this cable will connect to the 2 SATA ports on the IcyDock (correct?)
    (2 of these 4 SATA cables will be ignored – does it matter which of the 4 SATA cables to use?)

    Any information on the above and anything you think I may have missed or that I may need to know would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

  12. kgotso says:

    hey guys! where do I get the drivers for Microserver G8 windows 7 32bit

  13. Bob says:

    Hi. Thank you for the great article. How are you fitting a RAID card, a USB 3.0 card and a NIC on this board please? The mainboard has only 2 PCI-e slots as I see it!_Thanks

  14. John Stutsman says:

    Hi Bob and thanks for reading my article!

    You can not fit all three cards in the MicroServer at once. With the RR2720 installed I first tried its compatibility with the WD USB 3.0 card then shut down the MicroServer and switched out the WD USB 3.0 card for the Intel NIC card to check it's compatibility.

    Ultimately, I moved the RR2720 to my VM server http://homeservershow.com/performance-of-a-highpo

    and made my N54L my Home Server http://homeservershow.com/moving-my-windows-home-

    • Bob says:

      Thanks a lot John for the info.
      Would you know if the RR2720 SGL offer iSCSI option when installed on a N54L HP microserver running Windows server 2012 and configured to RAID 5 on four HDDs.
      Thanks

  15. John Stutsman says:

    Hi Bob! That I don't know. You might want to ask in the Forums http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php? there are people there who are real experts on what you can do with a 2720.

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