HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus review: Pint-sized perfection
HPE’s smallest MicroServer yet delivers a surprising package for the price
Servers come and go but HPE’s ProLiant MicroServer family has stood the test of time. We’ve had them all on the bench over the years; IT Pro reviewed the original N36L model way back in 2011, we wait three years for the slinky silver Gen8, and we were equally impressed with the Gen10 version when it finally made its debut in 2018.
The latest MicroServer Gen10 Plus targets precisely the same market as its predecessors by offering SMBs an affordable entry-level server capable of running a wide range of business apps. This is HPE’s smallest MicroServer to date, but this compactness doesn’t come at the cost of features - there’s a lot going on inside.
It’s all change in the processing department; AMD has had its marching orders, and the Gen10 Plus instead offers a choice of two Intel CPUs. On test, we have the base model with a dual-core 3.8GHz Pentium Gold G5420, but those with heavier workloads and a hankering for VMware virtualization services can go for a quad-core 3.4GHz Xeon E-2224.
There are no compromises with storage either, as the Gen10 Plus also offers four LFF SATA drive bays and any can be converted to use SFF SSDs with enablement kits costing around £10 each. The older MicroServer Gen10 lacked any remote management features, but the Gen10 Plus remedies this, courtesy of an iLO5 enablement kit which costs about £31.
HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus review: Chassis design and storage
Placing the Gen10 Plus next to a Gen10 model shows just how small it is. The Gen10 Plus has a slightly larger footprint but standing at only 119mm, it’s half the height.
HPE has achieved this shortening by changing the drive bay arrangement from four vertically inline to two groups stacked horizontally. The bays are carrier-free and to install a drive, you fit mounting screws on each corner and slide it in until the tab at the front locks – all the screws are provided in the panel below.
On the other hand, there’s no room for an internal optical drive and the power supply goes from internal to external, complete with a chunky 180W power brick. Expansion potential has also been reduced; the Gen10 Plus has one PCI-E Gen 3 x16 slot as opposed to the two in its predecessor.
Basic RAID is provided by the embedded Smart Array S100i SR Gen10 controller, which supports software-managed stripes and mirrors. You can upgrade to fast SAS3 storage as the Gen10 Plus supports HPE’s Smart Array E208i-p SR Gen10 PCI-E adapter which also brings RAID5 arrays into the storage equation.
HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus review: Maintenance and expansion
The chassis cover is retained with two thumbscrews; undo these and it can be removed by sliding it backwards. The front cover has an internal locking tab on each side that can only be accessed with the lid off, so if you use a padlock or Kensington lock, the drive bays behind it can’t be interfered with.
Removing the motherboard is a piece of cake, too - just undo two screws and slide the entire tray out the rear. The only cables to worry about are the SATA and power cables for the drive backplane, which are easily unplugged when the board is pulled out.
Along with quad Gigabit ports, the motherboard has two DIMM slots and both CPU options allow memory to be expanded to a maximum of 32GB. The PCI-E slot is fully accessible with the motherboard pulled back and there was enough room for us to fit a 167mm long Emulex dual-port 10GbE adapter card.
Cooling arrangements are clever, too. The CPU is fitted with a large passive heatsink, and two copper heat-pipes are routed from this to a vertical radiator array that sits in front of the single 10cm diameter system fan at the back. It clearly works well: using the SPLnFFT iOS app on an iPad, we measured a zephyr-like 35.9dB at one metre in front, rising to no more than 37.5dB during prolonged periods of disk activity.
HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus review: System management
The motherboard already has HPE’s iLO5 remote management controller chip onboard and to use it, you’ll need the aforementioned iLO enablement kit (part no. P13788-B21). It’s a great upgrade for the price as it fits in a dedicated bay above the PCI-E slot, provides its own network port and delivers many of the management features found in HPE’s high-end enterprise servers.
The iLO5 web console is packed with useful information about critical components and their status, along with 3D thermal graphs showing temperature ranges throughout the chassis. One missing feature is the power monitoring graph, which is absent due to the server using a ‘dumb’ external PSU.
It’s even better value than it first appears, too - the upgrade incorporates an iLO 5 Essentials license which activates full OS remote control. The lack of optical drive won’t be an issue either as the license also enables virtual media services so you can map a local drive to the server.
Accessed from the server’s boot menu, HPE’s Intelligent Provisioning feature makes light work of OS deployment. We selected this menu option during boot-up, chose our OS from its list, pointed it at the virtual ISO drive we’d mapped to the server and left it to load Windows Server 2019 in 30 minutes.
HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus review: Verdict
With remote working becoming the new normal, many businesses will be looking for an affordable entry-level server that can comfortably run a range of services such as on-premises apps, virtualization or NAS file sharing. The ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus looks an ideal candidate as it takes all the goodness of the Gen10 model, adds powerful Intel processing and packs it all into a chassis that’s half the size.
You will need to factor in the cost of storage as this isn’t included, but a price tag of only £395 for the base system on review is excellent value. The Gen10 Plus is a great choice for remote sites and SOHO deployments as it’s extremely quiet, and the iLO enablement kit option brings classy remote management into play.
HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus specifications
Ultra Micro Tower
119 x 245 x 245mm
Dual-core 3.8GHz Intel Pentium Gold G5420
8GB DDR4 UDIMM (max 32GB)
4 x cold-swap SATA LFF/SFF
HPE Smart Array S100i SR Gen10
RAID 0, 1, 10
No HDDs included
1 x PCI-E Gen3 x16
4 x Gigabit
6 x USB 3.2, 1 x internal USB 2.0
VGA, DisplayPort 1.1a
External 180W PSU
1 year on-site NBD
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