HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer — First Look
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.
HP ProLiant N54L G7 MicroServer
Windows Server 2012
Compatibility with other PCIe Cards
Performance of RAID0 Drives
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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.
· 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”)
· 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
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 => v184.108.40.2063
· The latest Windows Web RAID Management => v220.127.116.11.1026
· 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.
Figure 1– Mini SAS Cable detached from System Board
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 v18.104.22.1683 to a Flash Drive which I pointed the Windows Server 2012 installer too. The v22.214.171.1243 loaded successfully and showed my RAID_0_0 as Drive 1 as shown in Figure 7.
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.
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).
Figure 10– System Information after the complete install of Windows Server 2012
System Information for Intrepid is shown in Figure 10.
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.
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.
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.
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 v126.96.36.199.1026 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)
Figure 15– ATTO Performance of HP Stock Seagate 250GB Drives that come with N40L and N54L’s
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.
Figure 17– Performance of single Crucial M4 256GB SSD Drive attached to SATA II Port in MicroServer
Figure 18– Performance of single Crucial M4 256GB SSD Drive attached to Rocket 640L in MicroServer
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.
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).)