Upgrading the HPE Microserver Gen 8 and putting it into service

A year and a half after my original write-up of the Ivy Bridge-based Gen8 Microserver, I’m finally doing a last round of pre-launch updates and documenting the upgrades I made.

You can read the original write-up (as updated to December 2018) here: Warming up the HP Microserver Gen8 and PS1810-8G switch

More links at the end of this post.

Where do we start?

The HPE Microserver Gen8 as I received it had the Intel Pentium G2020T processor, a dual core, dual thread, 2.5 GHz processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics. For an ultra-low-end workgroup or SOHO server, that’s not too bad, and it’s better than the Celeron G1610T option.

gen8-cpus

Stock processor options for the HP Microserver Gen8

But since we’re not worried about the warranty and do want a bit more power, we looked at the following options for a CPU upgrade.

Xeon Processor CPU speed C/T TDP Integrated graphics? eBay price/link
December 2018
E3-1230 v2 3.30 – 3.70 4/8 69 No 75.00
E3-1260L (v1) 2.40 – 3.30 4/8 45 HD2000 57.00
E3-1265L v2 2.50 – 3.50 4/8 45 HD2500 100.00

Since we didn’t have a use case in mind for this, we went for the E3-1265L v2 processor. CPU speed is reasonable, power is within the envelope for this system’s cooling capacity, and the price didn’t turn out too bad (although it was almost twice as much a year and a half ago).

The system arrived with 16GB of memory, which is the maximum supported with this generation of processor and a two-DIMM-slot motherboard (the CPU will handle 32GB but no more than 8GB per DIMM, and the Memphis Electronics 16GB DDR3 DIMMs require a newer generation of CPU).

The system also shipped with a single 500GB SATA drive and three empty trays for expansion, connected to the onboard B120i storage controller. There’s a low profile slot at the top suitable for an optical drive, or a hard drive carrier. According to the specs, the first two bays are 6gbit SATA and the last two bays are 3gbit SATA. You can add a P222 Smart Controller to provide battery-backed cache and expanded RAID options; these can be had for under $50 on eBay.

I installed a 32GB Micro-SD card for OS boot. Like the previous Microservers, the Gen8 offers an internal USB port, but Gen8 adds a MicroSD slot which may be less likely to snap off during maintenance. If I were running a heavy duty Windows or Linux server on this machine, I’d probably either put an SSD on a PCIe carrier card or use the optical drive SATA connector on the board to mount a boot drive in the optical bay. But for VMware or appliance-type platforms, or for light use Linux, the MicroSD should be enough.

Bringing the Microserver Gen8 up to date

One of the first things I do when building or populating a system is to upgrade any applicable firmware on the system. This could include the lights-out management, the system BIOS itself, drive controllers, optical drives, etc.

This gets complicated with HPE gear, as they decided to restrict all but “critical” BIOS update to customers with active support contracts or warranties. There are dubious workarounds, but it’s more of a pain than for any other mainstream vendor. Luckily (and I say that sadly), some of the critical vulnerabilities around Intel microcode in the past year led to the most recent Microserver Gen8 BIOS being considered critical.

So I gathered the latest BIOS, the ILO 4 firmware for out-of-band management, and the latest firmware for the PS1810-8G switch that this system will be connected to. (Unlike the computer systems, HPE’s networking gear carries a lifetime limited warranty and free access to firmware updates.)

With the switch connected to our upstream POE switch and the Microserver’s three network ports (two gigabit LAN, one ILO) connected to the switch, I upgraded the firmware on all three components and installed CentOS 7 from the latest ISO image via external USB flash drive. Additionally, I got a free 60-day trial license for ILO 4 Advanced from HPE.

One quirk I ran into was with regard to the .NET-based remote console and Chrome browser. In short, it doesn’t work unless you install a plugin to handle the .NET launching. I didn’t want to bother with Java either, so I accessed ILO from Microsoft Edge and used the .NET option from there.

Where do we go from here?

In the near term, I’m planning to install the Aquantia AQN-107 10GBase-T/NBase-T adapter and use it to test a couple of new devices in the home lab. Linux with iPerf or the like should be a good endpoint, and with a Thunderbolt 3-to-NBase-T adapter and an economical NBase-T/10G switch to work with, it should be compact and functional.

Longer term, with the former VMware “$25 server” being converted to EdgeLinux (from the makers of the Antsle servers we wrote about here and here), I will probably have this box serve as my in-home vSphere / ESXi system.

There’s a very small chance that I’ll break down and get the new Gen10 machine, but with as many spare computers as I have in the home lab now, it’s not a high priority.

What have you done with your Microserver recently? Share in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

For more information on the Microserver Gen 8 (especially around expandability):

HomeServerShow.com has an exhaustive page on Gen8 upgrades and other features and functions.

ServeTheHome has their release-time update on the Gen8 system here: HP ProLiant Microserver Gen8 Updated Specs and Pricing

And if you want the latest and greatest, the Microserver Gen10 came out a year ago with AMD Opteron X3000 processors.

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Looking ahead into 2019 with rsts11

This is becoming somewhat of a tradition… I’ll point you toward a Tom Hollingsworth post and then figure out what I want to look back on a year from now. As long as Tom’s okay with that, I am too.

This year, Tom’s New Year’s post is about content. He seems to think 2019 is the King of Content. I’m not really sure what that means, but seeing as my blogs seem to be alternately seasonal (with most rsts11 content in the winter/spring and rsts11travel in the summer/fall), I’m hoping to get a more balanced content load out there for you this year on both blogs.

You can see the new year’s post for rsts11travel, my travel-themed blog, over on rsts11travel of course.

Looking back on 2018

Looking back on rsts11 for 2018, our top-viewed posts were a bit surprising to me.

Continue reading

Warming up the HP Microserver Gen8 and PS1810-8G switch

gen8 front 2018-12-04 17.03.32

Microserver Gen8 with PS1810-8G switch, Hershey bar for scale.

[This post was started in April 2017 and, like the gear it describes, the post was shelved for a while. I recently took the Microserver and its matching switch out of the dark recesses of the home office closet and brought it up to date. The upgrade report will follow later this month.]

Quite a while back, I acquired a HP Microserver Gen8 – the Ivy Bridge-based successor to the very popular N40L and N56L models. is model has been replaced by the Gen 10 model, but is still quite serviceable in its own right, and can be found on eBay for $500 and up depending on configuration.

The Gen8 Microserver comes with one of four dual-core CPU options (pictured below from the spec sheet; see Intel ARK for comparison); if you care about PCIe 3.0 vs 2.0, you’ll want the configure-to-order Xeon option or a warranty-voiding aftermarket upgrade. Folks on various home server forums have validated the E3-1230v2 ($75 on eBay), 1260L (from $57), and 1265Lv2 (from $100) processor upgrades (Intel ARK comparison), although the latter may push the cooling envelope a bit. Continue reading

Looking ahead into 2018 with rsts11

My friend Tom Hollingsworth posted a good piece on New Year’s Day, talking about writing more, and the balance of video and text, and more. It was an inspiring read, and there’s a lot that I probably could have said in this post if I hadn’t read his post first.

Go ahead and give it a read. I’ll wait.

Now back to rsts11, in a quick review and a look forward…

Looking back to 2017

Visit rsts11travel for travel technology, caffeination, and loyalty program advice wherever we go!

In 2017 (or more accurately, New Year’s Eve 2016), I launched rsts11travel, splitting out travel content (technology, caffeine, and loyalty) to its own site. The year-end review for rsts11travel went up on New Year’s Eve. This year I’ll try to keep the two blogs rolling at a similar pace, and there will continue to be crossovers as we had in 2017 where the content warrants it. And I still have a slight hope of coming up with a better name, but for now it works.

On the rsts11 side, we looked at NBASE-T and the Modern Office (part 1, part 2), Internet connectivity on the road (part 1, part 2). I made a fun build in a misleading case, inspired by our look at Antsle’s personal cloud servers — and they followed our Xeon-D direction later in the year. And I met with Opengear at InteropITX, with a conversation on video with them later on about the state of out-of-band management.

Moving ahead into 2018

I’ve been getting back into hardware (as opposed to getting surrounded by hardware, which I’d been excelling at for years). This has been partially due to a renewed interest in cryptocurrency mining, so there are a couple of posts in the posts-in-progress folder about some hardware designs and a beginner’s guide to cryptocurrency mining.

There are also a couple of project machines (like the Microserver Gen 8 that I finally upgraded to a Xeon E3) that are overdue for coverage as well. I have some other interesting gear in the lab that may make its way onto the blog as well (especially if I can figure out how to reset a particular SDN device to factory defaults).

Invoking Bartles and Jaymes…

As always, I appreciate my readers’ support in any form. Comments and feedback here, on Twitter at @rsts11, or Facebook at @rsts11 help me target and track coverage for the blog. Buying things through my Amazon links (like an Omnicharge 20, or pretty much anything through an Amazon link on the site), or taking advantage of other referrals listed on the support-us page can help fund acquisitions for review, cover the minimal ongoing costs of the blogs, and maintain respectable caffeination levels along the way.

Where do we go from here?

Let me know what you’re looking for from rsts11 this year. Would you watch videos, and if so, what sort of content are you looking for? Maybe you want more product reviews (retail and enterprise?), or system and solution builds?

 

 

Five fun and useful uses for an extra PCI slot

Anytime I pick up a “new” desktop/server/workstation class system, I check out the available PCI slots to see what my I/O options will be. There’s usually some open space there, and sometimes (especially when I’m building a system from board+case) there will be available “slots” on the case with no corresponding PCI slot on the system board.

Based on a recent home office closet cleaning, I’ve been inspired to share my top five uses for a spare slot.  Continue reading