While HP took the simple expedient of sourcing from AMD for its ProLiant DL145, dual-Opteron rack server, it's playing in a different league with the quad-Opteron DL585. Instead of using AMD's Quartet [pdf] product, HP has chosen to build it itself – and what a difference this has made. The DL145 is a certainly a sturdy customer but the DL585 simply exudes quality. You'll recognise the chassis as it's the same as used by the quad Xeon MP DL580 but the internals also have HP stamped all over them.

Management
Management features are particularly good: the server comes with HP's Insight Manager software which provides a smart Web-based interface for local and remote access. You can check the status of local and networked systems with the Insight agent installed and monitor critical components such as fan speeds, processors, voltages and memory. If errors or problems are detected, Insight Manager provides plenty of alerting facilities for automatic notifications.

The server also incorporates HP's integrated lights-out (iLO) controller which provides full access to the server over secure browser sessions irrespective of its condition. The well-designed interface provides status information about the controller and server plus its installed components and allows you to access the iLO controller's log and run diagnostics. Power can be controlled and at the push of a soft button you power the server on and off, reset it and simulate pressing the power button. Note that a number of features such as the ability to establish a remote control session with the server's OS are optional and will cost extra.

Design
The sturdy 4U chassis is extremely solid and well designed; build quality doesn't get much better than this as. The front panel comprises a hot-swap cage with room for four drives whilst alongside are two large bays each fitted with 800W hot-plug power supplies. The price includes a pair of 36GB Ultra320 hard disks and a switch inside the chassis allows the backplane to function in simplex or duplex modes.

Internally it gets a lot more interesting as HP has aimed to do away with as much extraneous cabling as possible and combined this with a completely tool-free design makes for a very tidy interior, allowing for swift upgrades and maintenance. Hardware fault finding gets a big helping hand as a bank of LEDs located above the power supply bays provides a complete rundown on all key components. Cooling gets a very high priority with a bank of four hot-swap fans located behind the hard disk cage and a further four situated at the rear to service the processor array.

Computing power
The review system came equipped with a quartet of Opteron 848 processors running at 2.2GHz and each module gets its own dedicated controller board endowed with eight DIMM sockets. Each board came supplied with 2GB of PC2100 which can be upgraded to a massive total of 64GB. Even smarter is the fact that the boards can be easily removed and replaced using a simple lever mechanism.

Starter systems can be supplied with two processor modules but you can only add the third and fourth boards as a pair. Memory options are more varied as this only needs to be installed on the second module and can be added to the other boards as required.

Peripherals
Storage fault tolerance is provided by HP's integrated Smart Array 5i Ultra320 controller which supports RAID levels -0, -1, -10 and -5 and comes complete with the battery backup pack. These components are located underneath the forward cooling modules but the entire assembly can be removed in seconds for easy access.

With graphics and dual Gigabit Ethernet all integrated on the motherboard there's plenty of room for expansion -- for this you get a pair of 133MHz, 64-bit PCI-X slots and six 100MHz 64-bit PCI-X slots.

It may have taken a while for HP to enter the quad Opteron server market but there is still a number of notable absentees as IBM only has a single dual-Opteron offering whilst Dell is sticking firmly with Xeon and Itanium 2 solutions. It's a brave move by HP but be assured that the Proliant DL585 sets standards in design, value and build quality that the rest will be hard pushed to follow.

OUR VERDICT

A quad-Opteron system for the price of similarly equipped Xeon MP server. If you're looking for a powerhouse that offers a clear migration path to 64-bit computing then the DL585 should be at the top of your list as it offers excellent design and build quality and combines these with a very high specification