HP reached somewhat of a cult status amongst many tech enthusiasts a couple of years ago when they dropped the price of the N36L MicroServers to clear out stock. The new price point highlighted a niche market with large growth potential, especially for those wanting to build their own whitebox NAS. At the time, popular NAS providers such as QNAP and Thecus were considerably more expensive, not to mention the MicroServers were capable of so much more than simply being a NAS.
The old N36L was based on the AMD chipset and the subsequent models N40L and N54L were based on the same with some incremental speed bumps. This new Generation 8 (Gen8) G1610T MicroServer comes sporting the Intel Celeron G1610T processor which promises to give a significant speed boost over its predecessors.
|Processor||Intel® Celeron® G1610T (2 core, 2.3 GHz, 2MB, 35W)|
|Form factor||Ultra Micro Tower|
|Power Supply||150W non-hot plug, non redundant power supply kit Multi-output|
|Expansion slots||1 x PCIe|
|RAM Slots||2 x UDIMM slots|
|Storage Bays||Supports up to (4) LFF SATA non-hot plug drives|
|Optical Disk Drive||None Supplied; Supports slimline optical drive|
|Network Controller||1Gb 332i Ethernet Adapter 2 x Gigabit Ports|
|Storage Controller||Dynamic Smart Array B120i/ZM|
|Infrastructure management||iLO Management Engine|
Taking the unit out of the packaging, it’s fairly obvious that this little box is well built. The front includes 2 x USB2 ports, opening for a slimline (aka laptop sized) optical drive and swinging door that opens to show 4 x HDD bays. Gone from the front are the keys required to open the door and the spare screws on the inside of the door. The required screws are already on the drive caddies. However, using the supplied tool to remove and apply the screws was extremely painful. Do yourself a favour and get a proper torx screwdriver, it’s much faster. The drive caddy appears to be much more flimsy then the previous designs.
The rear of the unit also comes with some subtle but welcomed changes. The first thing I noticed was the removable cardboard asset tag which includes serial # and iLO default network settings. Simple but still a nice touch. The number of PCIe slots has been reduced to 1 and there isn’t a eSATA port anymore which is a little disappointing. Also included are 2 x USB2, 2 x USB3, 2 x Gigabit NICs, 1 x VGA and 1 x iLO port.
Taking the cover off shows where most of the redesign effort was spent. The new look MicroServer takes care of all my gripes of the previous model. Gone are the days where you need to take the motherboard out of the MicroServer in order to add RAM or a PCIe card. The new design allows for easy access from the sides of the unit.
The CPU heatsink appears to be removable but I can’t confirm whether the CPU is as I’m sure that HP wouldn’t be impressed if I started to perform a teardown on their review unit. 😎 As with previous models, an internal USB is included but unlike older models the Gen8 now also includes an internal microSD slot. There is still an internal SATA port for optical disk drive and HP continues to use a mini-SAS cable for the 4-disk drive bay which means no issues with using the HP P4xx series RAID controllers.
Setup & Configuration
With in the inclusion of iLO with the new MicroServers, setting up the boxes has never been easier. Similar to the old RACs (Remote Access Cards) used in the N series, the integrated iLO allows you to remotely configure the server.
iLO uses .NET, JAVA and a mobile client where the old RACs used JAVA only to perform KVM functions. One issue I came across was that you actually need to buy a license to get the remote control working. Without a valid license, you get a couple of minutes before the warning box pops up and kills off the session. For the purpose of this review, I popped over to the HP site and grabbed a free 60-day evaluation key, which seemed to work for one time use only?
Running FreeNAS on the G1610T MicroServer
There are a range of NAS solutions available that can run on most PCs. For the purpose of this review I used the latest 64-bit version of FreeNAS. I currently run the older version on my N40L and N54L MicroServers. The installation onto a USB thumb drive was went as expected and was mostly problem free. On first load, the server was not publishing an IP address for the web config page but a reboot later all was good. Everything was recognised and the NICs were also capable of being configured for LAGG/LACP. You will need a supported switch to take advantage of this feature.
Running ESXi 5.1 on the G1610T MicroServer
According to Intel, the G1610T CPU supports VT-x but doesn’t support VT-d. ESXi 5.1 Update 1 was installed to a bootable USB thumb drive to see how virtualisation performed anyway. On installation I hit one small snag, it needed more RAM to complete the install process.
The amount of available RAM from the supplied 2GB wasn’t enough. Fortunately, I still had an old 2GB stick from my N36L that I could use. After that it was all a fairly simple process with no issues. The first onboard NIC was detected no problems, the 2nd refused to be detected for some reason. Also, as expected no VT-d support so no DMA remapping of SATA ports, etc… You are still able to map USB devices to a host.
The MicroServer comes with a lot of features packed into a tiny box. If you were to build your own, the difference in cost would be negligible and not worth the effort considering what you get as a whole plug and play package from HP. The internal design was much better than the old N-series MicroServers. The relocation of the memory slots for easy DIMM changes was a nice touch. The only negative for me was the drive caddy being a little too flimsy. Overall, I liked the HP MicroServer G1610T. A mini server suitable for most non-enterprise needs.