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

Opengear switches things up at Interop ITX 2017

Opengear, established in 2004, is one of those companies whose products aren’t always visible, but tend to be there when you need them. Starting out with traditional serial console servers used to provide remote out-of-band management access, they’ve expanded that scope over the past 13 years to include monitoring software, Ethernet and cellular failover, centralized management of their appliances, and zero-touch provisioning from the systems themselves.

I sat down with Todd Rychecky, VP of Sales for the Americas business at Opengear, during Interop ITX 2017 in Las Vegas in mid-May to get a feel for how things have been going for Opengear lately.

Let’s just say they’re going well.

The business itself has been growing 50% year-over-year for the past 9 years–and Rychecky’s sales force has been expanding along with the company’s engineering team. This was impressive to hear, for a technology that many don’t even think about anymore. But following the needs for the technology is what has kept Opengear going for the past decade, driving the company to over 30% cellular deployment in 7 years of integrating mobile data networks.

Larger businesses with hyperscale infrastructure have been coming to Opengear for the highly resilient, centrally manageable SmartOOB devices they provide. Having bidirectional fault-tolerant connectivity options (including Ethernet, multiple cellular connections, and even POTS-based modems) helps in environments where reliable in-band connectivity may be more of a dream than a reality. And the growth in hyperscale infrastructure deployments has spread into traditional large enterprise.

They’ve also added to their industry expertise with the recent addition of CTO Marcio Saito, formerly CTO at Bay Area pioneer Cyclades (later acquired by Avocent). With sixteen years of adjacent experience, including the sorts of growth that Opengear is going through now, Saito looks to be an interesting accelerator for the business.

But what’s on the truck?

Opengear announced the newest member of the IM7200 Infrastructure Manager family, the IM7216-2-24E line of hybrid serial-and-Ethernet devices.

2017-05-17 16.22.32 Opengear New 7200 back

Featuring a 16-port serial console segment alongside a 24-port Gigabit Ethernet switch, the 24E products offer WiFi, v.92 modem (pictured here) or multi-carrier-friendly LTE, and copper/SFP gigabit uplink ports as well as dual power supplies.

2017-05-17 16.22.41 Opengear New 7200 Front

The IM7200 systems come with 16GB of internal flash storage, expandable via a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the front. If you’re using these boxes as install servers, which would be a great use for the Ethernet switch, you can set up your ISO or package repositories to serve up OS and configuration, from DCHP to deployment.

im7216-2-24u-dac-rear

For users wanting to manage the growing volume of devices with USB-based consoles, the IM7216-2-24U line offers 24 USB type A ports instead of the Ethernet switch. This product came out since Interop 2016 (around the time of Cisco Live US in 2016 to be precise), and I’m not sure how I missed it at that time. The 24U models offer Gigabit Ethernet uplinks, v.92 modem, WiFi, and optional multi-carrier LTE like the other models in the IM7200 product family.

So where do we go from here?

Opengear is continuing to go up, increasing their staffing, opening a new office in Silicon Valley to support hyperscale and enterprise businesses here, and finding new opportunities to supplement and replace legacy console servers going out of sale.

I’ll be putting one or two of their smaller devices through its paces this summer in the lab. Last year, Opengear provided me with a four port Resilience Gateway to explore, and back in January I mentioned that I’d be trying it out with Google’s Project Fi data-only SIM as well as Verizon for the cellular functionality. Enterprises are unlikely to use the Fi option, but home lab and POHO users may find it easier to implement than a Big Four cellular contract.

Be sure to catch up with Opengear at Cisco Live US in Las Vegas. They’ll be at booth 937 between the Collaboration and Cloud/Data Center villages, near the Cisco Live broadcast studio.

Have you found an interesting use for Opengear’s gear? Or are you out of the console world these days? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Disclosure: I attend InteropITX as independent media, unrelated to and unaffiliated with my day job. Neither UBM/InteropITX nor Opengear have influence over or responsibility for any of my coverage.

Photos of the 24E device by Robert Novak (C)2017. Photo of the 24U device courtesy of Opengear.

Found Out There – 2013-02-03

I’m going to try to push myself toward blogging more by adding an every-two-weeks (or every week) list of interesting links I came up with over the past so long.

I don’t have ads on my site, partly because nobody’s begged me to take their money, and partly because I think the clean look is more enjoyable and requires less maintenance and tracking.

But if you’d like to help my geek gadget (and caffeine) habit, feel free to shop through my Amazon.com affiliate link or use the links on the lower right side of this page. I also occasionally put things in my Amazon aStore, and link to them here. Buying those things (or anything through those links) also gets me a few bucks that can go toward a pound of loose-leaf tea or a new hybrid hard drive. Thanks in advance for those of you who choose to do this.

So here are my interesting links for the week ending 2013-02-03.

Gratuitous self-links:

Other things I’ve found of interest:

What did you find this week, that you think I should be reading?