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I have an opportunity to pick up a used HP DL380 G3 2U for $100. I'm looking for a basic entry level web server that I can host a small - medium size website on and more or less learn the ins and outs of running my own web server before I bite the bullet and spend a couple grand on a server. The specs are:

  • Dual (2) Intel Xeon 2.4GHz 400MHz 512KB Cache
  • 4GB PC2100 ECC Registered Memory
  • 6 x 72GB 10K U320 SCSI Hard Drives
  • Smart Array 5i RAID Controller
  • Redundant Power Supplies
  • DVD/Floppy, Dual Intel GB NIC's, USB

Or would I be better off spending a couple hundred bucks on something like: this new HP Seems like the only major difference is SATA and a bit of storage, but I will likely be implementing a separate storage system of some sort anyways.

I guess it also wouldn't hurt to mention that I plan on running a linux server distro, so would the hardware be likely to support linux with a system that is 4 generations old? I don't mind spending a couple hundred extra dollars if its a better solution, but as mentioned previously I am simple looking for a server to learn on and probably use for a year or so while I put together a small - medium size website.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Any Linux distro will support HP Proliant servers just fine; all the relevant hardware support has been in the mainline kernel for years.

If the disks are good, this is excellent value for money, and the only bottleneck you might encounter is if you want to run stuff besides web servers on it, such as busy PHP scripts and/or database servers.

As shown here, the box supports 6GB maximum, so there is not much you can upgrade there.

But for learning and trying stuff out - go for it, $100 is awesome value for money.

DO note that this machine will keep you awake 24/7 if you run it anywhere inside your house - these boxes are meant to run in datacenters and produce a LOT of noise.

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The sound is something I hadn't thought of. That is a good point, thanks. I do plan on running a Java-EE website on the server with a MySQL database. Should this be an issue? –  ryandlf Oct 27 '11 at 12:54
    
+1 Good Points. Especially the noise issue, the G3 boxes didn't have variable speed fans (or if they did, they weren't quite in any sense of the word). –  Chris S Oct 27 '11 at 12:56
    
You have 4GB, and even if you are going to spend the $60 on the maximum 2GB upgrade, you will still only have 6GB. Nothing you do to the box is going to improve that... plan accordingly. –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 12:58
    
@ChrisS: sure they do - but they require OS support :) I WAS talking about the noise level post-fan-control... on boot-up, these boxes are easily mistaken for a Boeing 747 on take-off. –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 12:59
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With the HP agents loaded, the fans can run at a lower speed. –  ewwhite Oct 27 '11 at 13:01

I would buy the new box. The G3, while a great machine (I have a couple and am HP certified to maintain them), is old. No support is available if something breaks, and the disks are small and expensive.

Besides, the new box is going to be much quieter and energy-efficient.

Also the Ubuntu HP Proliant Support Page is fairly out-of-date. This either means that support isn't really maintained from one end or the other. They don't support the recent standard or LTS releases.

Ubuntu will probably install fine, but drivers and the Proliant Support Tools (which can be awesome) may not work. (Meaning that the Fans are probably going to run at top speed all the time.)

On a personal note, I have installed 10.04 on DL380 G2's and DL360 G3's, but I don't remember which I was and wasn't able to get the PSP on...

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But still - $100 ! For learning, you can't beat that in value :) –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 13:39
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I can agree completely on the quieter and energy efficient comment. A DL 380 is a great box to learn with but its got a lot of noisy fans and don't know that they were thinking power saver when they designed it (or were they?). I had one in my basement for about a month then sent it on its way. Way too noisy. –  Mitch Oct 27 '11 at 13:45
    
@adaptr if you want to learn server hardware, or don't plan on using it for long before passing it off, then I'd say fine, but otherwise... Also, unless the disks are included (Ultra320 and the needed rails), they're not going to be cheap, and are likely to be of questionable quality. –  gWaldo Oct 27 '11 at 15:48

Either would work fine as a simple web server. The DL380 is HP's bread-n-butter server. Getting familiar with one, even if it's several generations old, is going to benefit you in the long run (assuming you're going to expand to "real" servers at some point.

The server you linked to is a Home and Special Use server. I wouldn't even use that as a Small Business server. It lacks almost all the features a SysAdmin would expect in server grade hardware. The only benefit is that it comes with some warranty out of the box.

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Ugh, I didn't even click that link, and am now sort of glad I didn't - my answer would probably have been different. –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 12:56
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Have to agree here - $100 for a real (if slightly outdated) industry spec server is a bargain. You'll get the basic ILO features too, which are actually a godsend at home if you want to stash it in a loft or basement somewhere and turn it on and off remotely. You'll need an ILO license for the remote console stuff, though. –  Dan Oct 27 '11 at 13:45
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Remote text console should be included, which should be sufficient for a Linux server. The advanced iLO license is only needed for remote GUI. –  James Sneeringer Oct 27 '11 at 17:31

My concern with this box is the disks. That's a five to six year old system, which puts the disks inside (assuming they are original) near their expected life cycle. Everything else in there looks okay. You're basically working with a pair of 2.4Ghz Pentium 4's from a performance perspective, but for what you're doing that should be adequate. Even a new Atom cpu would give equivalent performance, and a Core i3 should be a lot faster, but you'll have a hard time getting either in a full system for $100 and the experience working with real server hardware will be worthwhile.

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The ProLiant DL380 G3 was a popular system in the 2003-2005 era (along with its tower counterpart, the ML370 G3). It would easily handle the hosting needs for a website and is/was well supported under Linux.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a 32-bit only system and uses legacy technologies (Ultra 3 SCSI, parallel ATA, etc.). The G3 systems from HP had a rather predictable failure mode after about 5 years of use. The motherboards and fan controllers tended to fail in a dramatic fashion, rendering the system unusable. Also, the power requirements of that system are relatively-high compared to what's available now.

I'd actually recommend the ProLiant Microserver you linked to or one of the lower-end ProLiant 100-series systems available now. A current model desktop may also be a good stepping stone before moving to server-class hardware.

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One anecdote does not make a general case. We have half a dozen of these and they're fine. Also note that ML370 != DL380... The Microserver linked to has almost no 24/7-capable or redundant hardware, and I did note the OP said he wanted to eventually use this to run actual web sites - it's not JUST for learning. –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 13:02
    
I deployed about 60 of these systems in that timeframe, and 25% started to exhibit fan controller problems after 4 years. Those that continued in service eventually required motherboard replacements or failed completely like the system in the above link. –  ewwhite Oct 27 '11 at 13:04
    
What did HP say about that ? –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 13:05
    
They replaced the motherboards as necessary while systems were covered under warranty. After the warranties lapsed, I had to source system boards on my own. Around 2008, there was a shortage of motherboards available for repair of these units, so it was a good time to move to newer servers. –  ewwhite Oct 27 '11 at 13:08
    
They had nothing to say about such an unlikely large incidence (25%) ? Odd. –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 13:09

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