In this review, we are going to show why we unexpectedly ended up really liking the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 server. The HPE ProLiant ML110 is a pedestal server that is a little different than HPE servers of previous generations. It is a heavily cost-optimized tower server that is whisper quiet. If you are looking for the most powerful pedestal server on the market, the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 is not your server. Instead, look at the ML350 Gen10. On the other hand, sometimes you simply need a well-built server for offices, retail locations, or even high-end home environments. For that, the ML110 Gen10 is simply excellent.
HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 Hardware Overview
From the front, the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 may look small. Make no mistake, this is a full tower server at 17.32″ x 7.68″ x 18.92″. If you are looking for a tower/ pedestal server for a location without a rack, this larger form factor means one can fit a lot of functionality into the machine as we are about to see.
When you see the front panel of the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 you immediately notice how porous it is. This bezel design keeps air flowing through the chassis. Of note, as a cost optimization, this bezel is included unlike in HPE’s higher-end servers. That is important because it is also extremely functional.
Behind that bezel, we have a quad LFF (3.5″) hard drive bay. You can see room above this hot swap bay for a second set of four drives. HPE also has SFF 2.5″ drive options and an optical drive option which our review unit was not equipped with.
We are going to take a second to highlight our least favorite part of the server, the front bezel latch. In order to release the front panel, you need to remove the side panel. You then have to push this lever up, and the front bezel moves away. If you are looking at the server from the exterior, this latch is not visible. That makes servicing unnecessarily complicated. We gave this feedback to the HPE team and they said they would look into it for future generations. It is a minor nit, but one that can be important if you need a non-technical resource to service a server in the field for emergency maintenance.
We are going to move to the rear of our system. Here you can see a fairly standard quad USB port, VGA port, configuration. There are three network ports, dual 1GbE ports for standard networking and a dedicated iLO 5 management port.
We are going to touch on the PCIe slots in a second, but we wanted to open the chassis up and point out a pattern you may be noticing: labeling. These tower servers are often located in small installations of one to a handful of servers in offices, retail outlets, or high-end SOHO settings. Servicing can happen through personnel other than trained IT staff. HPE does a great job labeling their systems so that someone in front of the machine attempting to complete a task has a basic map before they get started. Inside the ML110 Gen10 we see a map of the front, back, and internal motherboard of the server. This is something white box servers often overlook and it is a differentiator in this space.
Documentation extends to online resources. Here is the internal map via the HPE Quick Specs documentation which gives a good overview of the server.
Taking a quick look inside, HPE uses a double air baffle system. That allows the server to stay cool even if the side panel is removed for front drive access. The baffles are solid units that are easy to service even without tools.
From a cooling perspective, the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 is a single Intel Xeon Scalable CPU socket server with only six DDR4 DIMM slots. Intel Xeon Scalable can handle multiple processors and up to twelve DIMMs per CPU. This configuration allows the ML110 Gen10 to deliver maximum single socket CPU performance while still optimizing for low cost and power. The heatsink design is extremely interesting. You can see the labeling on the heatsink, but the shape is asymmetrical. Perhaps this helps airflow or saves a bit of cost, but it is a different design to what we see in many servers.
One of the standout features of the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen10 is the PCIe configuration. There are five PCIe slots. There are a total of 44 of the platform’s maximum 48 PCIe slots exposed in this configuration along with an additional four lanes from the PCH (via an x8 physical slot.) That means that a user has five slots and up to 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes available for expansion. HPE’s product team did a great job of ensuring that the PCIe x16 slots had room for double-width cards such as GPUs, albeit one would likely want a bigger power supply with two GPUs.
One can also see two internal USB Type-A headers along with a MicroSD card slot for embedded boot options or license key media.
These slots are all full height units. HPE shows off some excellent mechanical design here with its PCIe card locking mechanism. You will likely need a screwdriver, but everything is well-labeled and easy to service.
Primary storage for our unit was provided by a pair of SFF_8087 ports, each handling quad SATA lanes from the Intel Lewisburg PCH. Some vendors use a large array of 7-pin SATA cables which becomes more difficult to manage once four or eight cables are installed. Another benefit to the SFF-8087 connector is that there are SAS cards available that can utilize the same cables.
Onboard there are actually two 7-pin SATA III connectors, one is parallel to the motherboard while the other is perpendicular. All told, there are a total of ten SATA ports in the platform.
As you can see, our test unit did not have the maximum number of options available. At the same time, there were a few extra bits where HPE gave us something extra. One good example of this is the single 16GB DDR4 DIMM.
The 16GB DDR4 HPE Smart Memory DIMM is a SK.Hynix model. We were pleasantly surprised to see a DDR4-2666 unit installed. Current generation Intel Xeon Silver CPUs, like the Silver 4108 in our test system, are limited to DDR4-2400 speeds. HPE actually provided a slightly more premium part in our base configuration.
Next, we are going to look at our test system’s specs along with the iLO 5 management solution. We are going to follow that by looking at topology, performance, and power consumption before concluding with our final thoughts.