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HP Proliant Microserver G8: Powerful features in a small, stylish package

Tom Henderson and Lars Johnson | July 2, 2013
HP's new Proliant Microserver Gen8 is an SMB, home, or branch office/retail server that looks completely different than HP's usual offering: it's a small cube with an optional eight-port Gigabit Ethernet switch atop.

HP Proliant

The Proliant has actual industrial beauty and there's even a choice of different colored front bezels. And the Proliant Microserver has a reasonable amount of speed. As we're prone to lifting and heaving 80-pound monstrosities into large racks, we wondered how could this comparatively tiny appliance be useful?

The MicroServer G8 has an Intel i3 chipset, which can be found on discounted notebooks, as the i7 and soon Haswell chipset currently rules the state-of-the-art roosts. On the plus side, the unit we were sent had nearly 2Tbytes of fast disk, lots of memory, an OEM version of Windows Server 2012.

Bottom line:  It's a small, fast, server.

The engineers at Apple once made servers that were fast and beautiful. Windows-based whitebox servers were rectangular boxes with aesthetics so awful that they were tucked away from wincing eyes. The MicroServer Gen8 is a box that would look fine in an art gallery.

iLO management app
HP put the same iLO management app (v4.5) into the BIOS of the MicroServer Gen8 that they put in their most powerful servers. Booting this beast is about a five-minute process, should everything behave. This does not count the load time for Windows Server 2012, which takes another minute or so.

Our patience was rewarded in the following way: iLO allows the machine to be remotely deployed, monitored, reconfigured and administrated from another site, perhaps a value-added reseller, corporate systems deployment engineer, and so forth.

A civilian unboxing the Microserver G8 has precious little to do, in terms of assembly. Once installed physically, an end user has a reasonable chance (if they can find the local broadband connection) of making the unit connect to the point where someone else — now connected to the server via the Internet — can likely login and take control.

The iLO software included runs in realtime, so it can be checked as a process-within-the-server-frame. Application deployments and other day-to-day software switches can be flipped to automate backups, get notices about errors, set and reset user and access policies. The minutae of day-to-day admin work can be done remotely through Windows 2012 (or Linux, which we did not test).

The entire server comes apart with included tools. Nothing special is required to change out nearly all parts. Spilled a pitcher of ice tea on the unit? With luck, a rapid diagnosis can be made and parts that are user installable as replacements can be shipped out overnight. They're all modular and the tool needed is attached to the back of the machine as shipped. Cost of a remote deployment should be reduced, as a result.

This very fact goes against the grain of every notebook we've seen in the past five years. Except for changing memory, perhaps the disk, and with luck, the keyboard, they're all proprietary and finding the parts for notebooks can be a genuine chore in our experience (this means you, Toshiba). The modularity of the Microserver G8, and the lack of bizarre Torx screw sizes and obtuse hold-it-like-this-to-remove instructions thrilled us.


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