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Can the HP Proliant DL380 G4 series server still perform at high a quality in the 2011 IT world?

This may sound like a weird question but we are a very small company whose primary business is NOT IT related. So my IT dollars have to stretch a long way.

I am in need of a good web and database server. The load and demand for a while will be fairly low so I am not looking nor do I have the money to buy a brand new HP Dl380 G7 series box for $6K. While searching around today I found a company in ATL that buys servers off business leases and then stripes them down to parts. They clean, check and test each part and then custom "rebuild" the server based on whatever specs you request. The interesting thing is they also provide a 3-year warranty on all their servers they sell.

I am contemplating buying two of the following:

  • HP Proliant DL380 G4 Dual (2) Intel Xeon 3.6 GHz 800Mhz 1MB Cache processors
  • 8GB PC3200R ECC Memory
  • 6 x 73GB U320 15K rpm SCSI drives
  • Smart Array 6i Card
  • Dual Power Supplies
  • Plus the usual cdrom, dual nic, etc...

All this for $750 each or $1500 for two pretty nicely equipped servers. The price then jumps up on the next model up which is the G5 series. It goes from $750 to like $2000 for a comparable server. I just do not have $4000 to buy two servers right now.

So back to my original question, if I load Windows 2008 R2 Server and IIS 7 on one of the machines and Windows 2008 R2 server and MS SQL 2008 R2 Server on another machine, what kind of performance might I expect to see from these machines?

The facts is this series is now 3 versions behind the G7's and this series of server was built when Windows 200 Server was the dominant OS and Windows 2003 Server was just coming out.

If you are running Windows 2008 R2 Server on a G4 with similar or less specs I would love to hear what your performance is like.

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That G4 is more powerful than the G5 we have running here. What more can I say, other than I'd be happy to have one. –  John Gardeniers Mar 31 '11 at 3:13
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Keep in mind that a warranty for that server runs $800/yr right now. 750 + 800 * 3 = $3150. A brand new DL385G7 with more RAM & CPU, same warranty, is about $3300 (single PS and 3x146GB HD). –  Chris S Apr 27 '11 at 2:24
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You can get 3rd party warranty support for much less than $800 - we're paying about $500/year on our DL380 G4's for 24x7x4hr response and have been very happy with their service. –  Rex May 25 '11 at 3:40
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13 Answers

A DL380 G4 is almost useful if you already own one. However, if you're buying today, there are plenty of other options. I'd recommend buying a modern system and virtualizing.

A SINGLE ProLiant DL3xx series from G5, G6 or G7 would easily serve both duties if equipped with the right amount of disk space. Couple that with free VMWare ESXi and you'll be better off in terms of parts availability, warranty and a path to expansion.

There are good suppliers of off-lease and refurbished HP gear. Don't go with anything less than a G5 with quad-core CPUs at this point. For $1500-$2000US, you could find a server that meets your needs WITH more than enough disk space. And that's from a quick check on eBay.

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Having a couple of the G3 and the G4 servers, and all I have to add to this is the replacement parts are getting expensive..

Also when a disk broke (and they will.. eventually) we couldn't find the 3,5" disks in stock anywhere, so we had to go for a refurbished disk. It held up for probably 1-2 weeks then it went down again. Probably bad luck, but it could happen to you too!

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If you get the SAS-Model for under 700.00 it's worth it!

  • HP Proliant DL380 G4 Dual (2) Intel Xeon 3.8 GHz 800Mhz 2MB Cache processors
  • 8->12GB PC3200R ECC Memory
  • 4->8 74GB/146GB/300GB SAS 10,000RPM Hard Drives
  • Dual Power Supplies
  • Smart Array P600/256 BBWC Controller
  • DVD-RW

I have 8 G4-SAS with this setup running win200864-R2. I use the server's to store/route MRI/Cat-Scan images, PACS systems and everything works great. Now they are in a colo, the G4s are 75+DB and dump alot of heat so keep that in mind.

I can get a dl380 g5 with 1 QC 2.66GHZ, 6GIG memory, DVD-RW, dual power supplies with 3 year HP warranty for 1000.00. The dl360 g5 goes for around 875.00, so I would not buy a dl380 g4 unless it was a SAS model loaded and for under 700.00.

Hope this helps.

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The HP GL380 G4 is 64-bit however, HP does not support Windows Server 2008 R2. They do support Windows Server 2008 32/64 bit. It will "probably" work just fine, but you will not find support from HP with Windows Server 2008 R2. For $1500 you can probably find better systems suited for Windows Server 2008 R2. Try and work with a company that leases computing hardware, they usually sell the off lease machines cheap.

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Where do you see that HP doesn't support 2008 R2? –  Cheekaleak May 25 '11 at 0:45
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The negatives on this server: x64 but not capable of virtualization (i.e. no Hyper-V), RAM options are restrictive as heck, you'll only be able to do 8 Gigs of dual-sided DDR2, or 16 Gigs of Single sided.

the positives are that it is server hardware: good nics, i would assume the disks are enterprise class, and you can anticipate quality throughput at those points.

what you can do with it? Run Ubuntu or VMware esxi, make it a unix based firewall / router, or turn it into a NAS ISCSI box if you have the disks.... I would not advise running 2008 R2, though. Too many limitations.

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You just said that it can't do virtualisation (which is correct; well, you can but you can only run 32-bit guest OS's), but then recommend running ESXi on it?! –  Mark Henderson Jan 12 at 22:13
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Windows 2008 R2 installs on the hardware just fine, but the HP Insight management agents do not. If you're not planning on monitoring them in SIM, you'd be OK. Despite what the guy said up there, used parts are cheap. Also, SNMP can still send traps to other network management platforms, but the proprietary SIM agents won't work.

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We've got quite a few DL380 G3, G4, G5 and G6 and non have had any major problems. Spareparts ARE, in my mind, more and more difficult to get hold of. Memory (Kingston) is readily available, but CPU's, PSU's and especially harddrives are very difficult to get. We've got quite a lot of systems with 3.5" SCSI U320 drives and have moved to non HP 146GB and 300GB drives with SCA80 connectors that we put into the HP hotswap cradles. They have hull warranty and cost about 25% of an old refurbished HP drive.

Old systems (HP Proliant G4 systems) that have x64 CPU's can be given a new life by switching to a x64 OS. We have an old ML350 G4 with Win2003 x32. It had become really sluggish and had some hardware issues (dust and oxidation) which, after a major cleaning session, were resolved. We added some memory, we had lying around and installed Win2008R2 x64. We didn't use Smartstart but installed from the Windows DVD and afterwards ran the HP Supportpack. Now the system is running faster than ever.

I wouldn't advice using Proliant ML/DLxxx G3 and G4's for virtualization, even with 2 CPU's and a full memory config. I've used VMware ESX and ESXi (3.5, 4.0 and 4.1) and the performance isn't very good. VMware has improved the performance on the 4.1 so if you want to try virtualization on a G4, 4.1 is the best option. I do use a couple of DL140 G2 with 2 CPU's, 12GB memory, an adaptec SATA raid controller with 2 500GB SATA drives for testing purposes.

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Verify the processor can run 64-bit OS, otherwise you'll need to fall back to 32-bit Win 2008 (not R2). I don't recall offhand if something of that age can be assumed to be x64; circa 2003 was the dawn of x64 in the Windows world.

In light of your tight budget, also consider the floorspace, energy and cooling costs for the hardware. They are too loud to sit near, they'll take a fair bit of electricity to run, and they will heat up a small room pretty well.

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The DL380 G4 has EM64t CPUs, so it can run 64-bit applications. However, the SCSI disk subsystem and other components have been equipped by SATA/SAS and it's not cost effective to upgrade or maintain such an old model. –  ewwhite Mar 4 '11 at 23:10
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We have 5 HPDL380G4s. 3 running Win2008R2 and 2 running Fedora. They have 12GB of RAM - (there are restrictions on what kind exactly to max it out, so be careful if adding more RAM yourself). 30 users are clients for filesharing and MSSQL. About 10 simultaneous users in RDP.

We can use RDP to connect to iLO.
If that is enough disk space, i say go for it - save your money to buy more servers and have more redundancy.

They will probably not come with DVD, but you can use some 8GB usb flash drives.

You will want to join itrc.hp.com. The SmartStart 8.5 needs some modifications, but you don't really need it?

One downside is that Win2008R2 will only allow 1024x768 whereas Linux sees 1280x1024, so i use rdesktop on the Linux DL380s to connect to the Win2008R2 to get 1280x1024.

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For a new purchase today - no. These servers are five years old. Hardware attrition rates go up after four or five years. The reseller may say they have a three year warranty, but that is for drop-ship component replacement from the same surplus that they are selling off. If you don't need a spare replacement right away and they still have it, that strategy may work.

With regards to performance, the G5 was where the performance really took off. The G4 and earlier models are underperformers.

The G4 models that you see for sale are typically for organizations that already have those models, and cannot replace them at this time due to business reasons, so they purchase additional units as spares.

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I have used hundreds of the DL series 360/380/580 servers for the last 10 years. The only crap servers were the early 360s which had problems and the early 580 G2 servers had an annoying problem with the memory riser boards. I still run one of the 380 G4s at my desk and it is rock solid. One interesting I have found is that almost all hardware failures occur in the first 6 months. After that there is almost never a hardware failure. I run the servers on conditioned power and reliable cooling. This seems to help reduce failures also.

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Do you wear earplugs at your desk? :) My 380G4(p)s are pretty darn loud for usage outside the NOC. –  jscott Jul 22 '11 at 14:41
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I honestly wouldn't pay that much for a DL380G4. Don't get me wrong; That is a great server. However, you could do very well risking eBay for the chassis and spare parts. I see plenty in the $100-200 range. Buy many and stock up on parts. I'd buy the disks as new as possible.

With that said, you could likewise do very well buying similar G6's, which are much more performant at similar or lower power requirements.

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Why run Windows on that machine? Run LAMP and get better performance, unless you really need IiS and MS SQL.

Another option you have is virtaulization proxmox may be a great option for this server of yours as a host OS. http://pve.proxmox.com/wiki/Main_Page

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LAMP is not automatically better or even supported in certain cases. For instance what if he needs Microsoft SQL and to host a .Net app? At that point he needs Windows. Please don't assume LAMP is a solution to every problem.. –  Jacob Jul 22 '11 at 14:45
    
What makes you think LAMP has better performance? In the end, it's the same CPU cycles and RAM available. A lot people assume windows is worse because of the always-on gui, but in practice Windows does a good job of paging the RAM used for that to disk and it doesn't use any cpu tiime unless you're actually viewing the desktop and moving the mouse (and you shouldn't be doing that often on a server). –  Joel Coel Jul 22 '11 at 19:06
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