Although the ProLiant DL145 represents a belated entry into the Opteron-based server market by HP the company has made it very clear that this is being offered as an alternative to its Itanium servers -- not as a replacement. AMD's support for simultaneous 32- and 64-bit processing gives many enterprises with a large investment in 32-bit computing an ideal migration path for the future and it's these users that HP has targeted with its Opteron servers.

White box origins
The DL145 is offered as a cost-effective HPC (high performance computing) platform and the package comes delivered in a slim-line 1U rack server. However, unlike its quad-Opteron DL585, HP has simply sourced the entire product -- and AMD A2210 -- from third-party manufacturers.

The A2210 initially made its entrance last year as a result of AMD's Validated Server Program. Initially struck as a deal with Celestica, this agreement bears more than a few similarities to Intel's white box server programme, and was initiated with the aim of smoothing Opteron's entry into the OEM and system builder market. Everyone's doing it: IBM's only Opteron server, the dual processor eServer 325, is merely a complete K1-1000S rack server package from MSI.

Fair deal spec
For the price though, you do get a fair deal. It comprises a single Opteron 248 processor running at 2.2GHz, teamed up with a healthy 2GB of PC2700 ECC SDRAM memory. Naturally, there's room for a second processor and memory can be upped to an impressive 16GB.

Storage options aren't particularly exciting. Although the system is offered by AMD in SCSI and IDE versions, HP opted for the latter to keep costs down. General build quality isn't up to the standards set by HP's own server products but the chassis does look and feel sturdy enough.

Inside the box
With the lid removed you'll be greeted by a tidy interior with cable clutter kept to a minimum. One of the two front-located, easily-accessible drive bays is occupied by a basic 40GB ATA/100 Seagate Barracuda drive. Upgrading won't take long as the IDE and power cables are already in place for the second drive. It's disappointing that no integrated drive mirroring is available on the IDE controller and the drive backplane link to the motherboard isn't the most elegant either. A row of five small fans provide all the chassis cooling; overall noise levels are high.

Built around AMD's Serenade motherboard, the processor sockets are masked by a plastic duct that directs air flow from the fans situated directly in front. Expansion options are basic: an assembly at the rear offers a single 133MHz, 64-bit PCI slot. Adding a card is easy enough. You remove the entire cage, plug in the PCI card and slot the module back into the motherboard. The network connection is handled by a pair of Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet adapters and although they support adapter teaming HP doesn't provide the Advanced Control Suite utility that is required to achieve this.

Management
In an HPC environment, management needs to be good and the DL145 is designed primarily to be managed from another dedicated server running HP's Insight Manager. Basic server problems are handled by a watchdog timer that is reset at regular periods when the server is functioning normally. If the system hangs the server will be automatically reset, powered down or rebooted if the timer reaches a predefined threshold.

The server also includes as standard an IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) 1.5 compliant baseboard controller which has its own dedicated serial and 10/100BaseTX ports. Using a direct null-modem connection or a remote serial-over-LAN connection you can access the server's BIOS, powering it up and down or resetting it regardless of its operational status. The server isn't offered with HP's own management boards so you can't access the server for remote management or to remotely control it via a browser.

Summary
This isn't the first time HP has sourced rack servers externally and, despite the DL145 being an all-AMD solution, it does offer a good value Opteron package. Build quality is acceptable and there's room to expand, although remote management features are basic when compared to HP's own servers.

OUR VERDICT

The fact that Intel's next generation Xeon processor will support 32- and 64-bit processing shows AMD was always on the right track with Opteron. Intel fans may want to wait but bear in mind Opteron is an established technology with a year's head start and the DL145 looks a good, cost-effective HPC platform for businesses that want a clear migration path to 64-bit computing.