HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus Internal Hardware Overview
One area that HPE is saving costs in the MicroServer Gen10 Plus is with the backplanes. Instead, these are direct cabled units. HPE screws in these cable ends to create a pseudo backplane which is functional. There is one major drawback. These are not hot-swap bays. Hot-plug functionality is not enabled here. If one wants to install a new SATA drive, one needs to power off the unit, then back on. This is one feature that we wish HPE provided, especially for edge virtualization. Downtime must occur if one is going to service drives.
On the motherboard, we de-populated the risers and CPU heatsink to get a look at the system. One can see this is a very compact and dense motherboard. A key feature is the Intel LGA1151 CPU socket which allows HPE to create one motherboard and support both the lower-cost Pentium CPU as well as the performance-optimized Xeon E-2224 CPU. We are not going into alternative CPU options here, but that is a focus on our subsequent piece. We will cover the performance of the two HPE SKUs later in this review.
There are two DDR4 DIMM sockets. These can take ECC UDIMMs and HPE officially supports up to 2x 16GB for 32GB of memory. With the Xeon E-2224 SKU, we get DDR4-2666 operation. For the Pentium Gold G5420 we get DDR4-2400 operation. Both SKUs support two DIMMs and ECC memory. The socket itself supports up to four DIMMs per socket in two-channel memory mode, but HPE does not have the space for that in such a compact form factor.
There is still one USB 2.0 port on the platform and this is an internal USB Type-A header. It would have been nice if this was USB 3.0 as that would make it more practical for internal boot media.
The heatsink you are seeing may look substantial, and it is. It is a passively cooled unit with a heat pipe that helps get the heatsink into the airflow of the chassis fan. This is a very nice design.
We mentioned the four 1GbE ports previously. These are powered by the Intel i350-am4 NIC chip. This is a high-end 1GbE NIC that has been around since 2011. It is expected to be supported through 2029 making it a very long life part. Here is the NIC on Intel Ark. You will note the $36.37 list price. For some context, the Intel i210-at, the lower-end single port NICs, are $3.20 each. Inexpensive consumer Realtek NICs cost well under a dollar. As you can see, this is an area where HPE designed a premium network controller where there was ample opportunity to cut costs. At the same time, by using the i350-am4, HPE gets excellent OS support that we will see in our OS testing section of this review.
Another big feature is the addition of the HPE iLO 5 BMC. This adds cost to the unit, but also makes this system a first-class iLO manageable server, just like other servers like the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 and HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen10 tower servers and the HPE ProLiant DL20 Gen10 and HPE ProLiant DL325 Gen10 rack servers. Competitive systems, such as the Dell EMC PowerEdge T40 (review almost complete) do not have BMCs to save costs at the expense of manageability.
PCIe expansion is via a PCIe Gen3 x16 slot. Given the power and cooling of this system that we will discuss on the final page of this review, we suggest that this is not suitable for higher-end SmartNICs and GPUs, even the NVIDIA Tesla T4. HPE has a low power AMD Radeon GPU option for those who need display outputs.
The top slot may look like a PCIe x1 slot at first, but it is designed to be used with the iLO Enablement Kit option. For STH readers, we highly recommend equipping this option and we will go into more depth on that later in this review.
The SATA connectivity is powered by the Intel PCH. This may look like a SFF-8087 SAS connector, but it is being used here for four SATA ports. There are no additional SATA ports or SATADOM headers onboard which means there is no extra SATA port for boot drives. We wish there was a powered SATADOM header onboard as that would allow for all four drive bays to be used solely for storage.
The motherboard connectors are greatly reduced from previous versions. HPE is using custom connectors to deliver power and data to the rest of the chassis except for the SFF-8087 cable.
Overall, this is a great hardware package with the HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus. There are a few areas where HPE has the opportunity to innovate and make a category-killing product. We like the hardware direction HPE took.
Next, we are going to look at the system topology then the management stack before getting to our OS and performance testing.