HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen10 review: A tower of strength
Affordable and feature-packed - a clear contender as a first server for small businesses
Stepping up as HPE's latest entry-level tower server, the diminutive ProLiant ML30 Gen10 aims to bring enterprise-class server features to budget-conscious small businesses. Also targeting remote and branch offices that want to run on-premises services, it offers a range of classy features at a price that even micro-businesses will find appealing.
There's plenty more to like here, too; the ML30 Gen10 is available with a choice of seven Intel Xeon E-2100 CPUs while those on stricter budgetary diets can save cash and choose a cheaper Core i3 or Pentium G chip. The price we've shown for the review system includes a speedy four-core 3.5GHz Xeon E-2134 CPU teamed up with a generous 16GB of fast 2,666MHz ECC DDR4 memory which can be easily maxed out to 64GB.
More savings can be made with the OS as HPE has partnered with ClearOS and offers the server pre-installed with its open-source Linux software. The unsupported Community edition is free. while the modestly priced Home and Business editions turn the ML30 Gen10 into an all-in-one business server with access to hundreds of apps, all centrally managed from a browser-based management console.
HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen10 review: Storage choices
The ML30 Gen10 suits those with big storage plans and is available with four LFF or eight SFF hot-swap drive cages, accessible from behind the lockable front panel. Our system includes the SFF drive cage but note that the price we've shown is for the base model and doesn't include any hard disks - these will instead need to be added at the point of sale.
All models start with HPE's embedded Smart Array S100i chip which enables RAID0, 1, 10 and 5 arrays in software. It supports up to four SATA drives - which is fine if you have the LFF model but in our case, we needed to upgrade to a Smart Array RAID PCI-E card to enable all eight bays.
HPE offers a good choice of RAID cards; the Essential Smart Array E208i-p costs around 140 and provides support for eight SAS3/SATA drives and RAID0, 1, 10 and 5 arrays. The E208e-p model is for externally attached drives and in both cases, you can apply an optional upgrade to enable their secure encryption feature.
Further up the RAID food chain are HPE's Performance models with the P408i-p adding 2GB of flash-backed write cache and support for RAID6. The motherboard also has a single slot for an M.2 NVMe SSD - although we're not convinced of the wisdom of running your OS on a single storage device with no RAID protection.
HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen10 review: Internal design and expansion
Unlocking the front panel also releases the side panel, revealing a tidy, well-designed interior with easy access for upgrade and maintenance manoeuvres. Cooling is extensive as the CPU has an active heatsink with a 9cm diameter fan on the rear panel behind it. while the lower part of the chassis is serviced by a fan underneath the drive cage and a full-length plastic shroud to direct it over the lower portion of the motherboard.
Behind the shroud are four available PCI-E slots, although you won't need them for network upgrades as the server already has two embedded Gigabit ports. The M.2 NVMe SSD slot is just underneath the CPU socket and has mounting points for all card lengths.
The motherboard has six SATA ports with four connected via a fan-out cable to the drive cage backplane. The other two can be used to connect optional devices such as an optical drive installed in the pair of 5.25in expansion bays.
Our 'Solution' model includes a decent 500W Platinum PSU and there's room below for a second PSU to be slotted in for power redundancy. The server is easy on the utility supply too. It drew just 27W in idle and peaked at only 87W with all CPU cores under maximum load.
HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen10 review: OS deployment and management
We spotted a HPE-branded USB stick fitted in the motherboard's embedded port and its purpose became clear once we booted the server up; the drive contains HPE's new Rapid Software Setup utility. This presents a smart console where we could run diagnostics, configure a RAID array and choose to install Windows and VMware ESXi from our own media or select the pre-loaded ClearOS image.
Traditionalists can also go with the standard HPE Intelligent Provisioning tool which provides equally good OS deployment facilities. We used it to install Windows Server 2019 and had it ready to go with all the correct drivers loaded in under 20 minutes.
If remote management is a top priority the ML30 Gen10 won't disappoint as it's blessed with HPE's embedded iLO5 management controller. Sharing access with the first Gigabit port, this presents a smart web console packed with information about the server's status and essential details on critical components.
It also provides direct access to HPE support but you'll need to upgrade it with an Advanced license to enable OS remote control, virtual media and power monitoring. However, it supports HPE's OneView and we were able to add it to the lab's Hyper-V app and keep an eye on CPUs, power usage and temperatures as well as controlling power.
HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen10 review: Verdict
The ProLiant ML30 Gen10 is a highly versatile and flexible tower server well-suited to forward-thinking small businesses. There are costs for storage devices and optional features that will need to be factored in, but it still represents great value and it's made all the more appealing by HPE's excellent enterprise-class remote management features.
HPE ProLiant ML30 Gen10 specifications
3.5GHz Intel Xeon E-2134
16GB 2,666Mhz ECC UDIMM DDR4 (max 64 GB)
No HDDs included
HPE Smart Array S100i
RAID0, 1, 10, 5
4 x PCI-e Gen3, 1 x M.2 NVMe SSD
2 x Gigabit
500W hot-plug PSU (max 2)
HPE iLO5 Standard
3 years parts/1 year on-site NBD support
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