HP Proliant MicroServer–Running 16GB Memory with vSphere

HP Proliant MicroServer 16GB MemoryI run a mixture of white-box and entry level HP Proliant servers in my VMware vSphere home lab environment.  I have been running a number of HP Proliant Microservers in the past 18 months as they have offered exception value for money at £100 (approx. after cash back), as at this price-point you’d be hard pushed to even build a PC/server white-box.  For more information on the HP MicroServer check out my hands on review here.  A number of people have emailed me asking whether it is possible to take the HP MicroServer past the “official HP” 8GB memory limit so I have put together this post that I hope helps answer this question.

HP MicroServer VMware vSphere 5.1 MemoryDespite not having the fastest CPU (AMD based dual core 1.3 – 1.5GHz) in the world, only taking a maximum of 8GB memory and not having any hardware based RAID (which would be highly unlikely for such an entry level server or micro-PC), the HP MicroServer has been adopted by many for use as home media centers, file servers and home/work lab servers.  In my VMware vSphere lab environment I predominantly run Microsoft Server VMs, with later versions of this popular OS consuming more memory than ever.  I generally don’t run CPU intensive workloads on any of my VMs so physical memory on the ESXi host is generally the first to be consumed before CPU and disk capacity/throughput resource.  This has meant that without wishing to experience too much memory paging down to disk, and the subsequent hit to VM and ESXi host performance, I have had to limit the number of VMs I run on my  MicroServers before consuming all of the 8GB of physical memory.  VMware technologies such as Transparent Page Sharing (TPS) and memory ballooning definitely help in oversubscribing the memory and allow me to run more VMs, though this only goes so far before all of the modest 8GB of physical memory is consumed and paging to disk does start to occur.

The following is a quick video I put together that demonstrates the installation and running of VMware ESXi 5.1 on the HP MicroServer (N36L model running BIOS 041 – 27/07/2010) with 16GB of memory.  As I mention in the video I have found a particular brand (Kingston) and model (KVR1333D3E9SK2/16GB) of memory to work well (which I buy my tried and tested supplier of lab kit, ServersPlus).

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IMPORTANT: Before outlaying your hard earned money on some 8GB DIMMS make sure they are of the correct specification (ie: DDR3 240-pin ECC PC3 10600 or 1333) and most importantly ONLY try memory that others have reported working ok. I have used the Kingston DIMMs mentioned in the video and personally found them to work just fine.  Though be careful as it can be something of a minefield, as some people have reported a particular make/model of DIMM to work in their MicroServer whilst someone else has found it not to work in theirs.  My advice is to do your homework first and a quick search of forums, etc for any threads where people are discussing which particular make/model of DIMM has worked for them, and to buy your memory from a reputable seller who you can go back to in case you find the memory doesn’t work and you want to swap it out for another set.

I hope you found this post of use, there are more VMware vSphere and lab videos and posts to follow ….  Have you tried a different memory make or model, why not let us know by leaving a comment below?

  • FillDee

    I too have the HP running with 16GB memory. I used the Corsair 8GB DDR3 DRAM 1333MHz 240-pin PC3 10600 (CMV8GX3M1A1333C9) which was reported to work on a few sites.

    I have, however, found that sometimes (no pattern found as yet…) it boots and sees only 8GB. If it boots and sees 16GB, then it’s fine until the next reboot, when it might, or might not, see all 16GB.

    It not a great issue for me, since a reboot fixes it 9 time out of 10. If I’m at the console, then I can see immediately. remmotely…not so much.
    Great little box though.
    Running 2 x 1.5TB and 2 x 2TB Mirrored with an HP P212 SAS RAID card. Running at about 70 watts.

    • http://techhead.co/ Simon Seagrave (TechHead)

      Thanks for the comment.

      From what I’ve read elsewhere, this appears to be a common problem experienced by others. I have heard that often swapping out the memory for replacement DIMMS ( same make/model) fixes the problem. The MicroServer seems to be highly sensitive to getting the exact memory conditions met.

      This problem also seems to occur more in the N40L model than the N36L model – may be a BIOS memory timing thing? Though don’t profess to being an expert in this area.

      What model are your running?

      Cheers,

      Simon

      • Andrew Hancock

        there is a common fault, which is on all Microservers, N36L, N40L and N54L, which is the BIOS on storage controllers, conflicts with the BIOS on the MicroServer, and the result is random reboots at post, or you cannot get into the Storage Controller BIOS to setup RAID, this also occurs with HP’s own Smart Array Controllers e.g.P410, HP Support have been informed, but seem not interested to do anything, due to low cost of Server. We’ve tried and confirmed this occurs on P410, LSI SAS 9211i-8i, 9211i-4 and LSI SAS3081E-R

        • http://techhead.co/ Simon Seagrave (TechHead)

          Hi Andrew,

          Thanks for the heads-up. That has definite implications even in an entry level/low cost server. I haven’t run any PCIe based storage controller cards in any of my MicroServers yet, as I run my VMs off of a NAS, though I can see this being far from ideal for many/most MicroServer owners.

          Hopefully HP will come out with an updated BIOS or similar to resolve this issue.

          Cheers,

          Simon

          • Andrew Hancock

            We logged a call with them, when the HP ProLiant N36L first came out. We have tried all the BIOS releases since, and also noticed similar issues with later MicroServers, HP Support seems to be, this server is so “cheap” why would you want to upgrade it, and you would probably be better of using a larger ML series, which does not have any issues with expansion cards. We don’t use them with storage controllers for ESXi, we use iSCSI/NFS, but does cause an issue when creating ZFS based NAS using Solaris, but then we do not use the storage controller in RAID mode, just as an SCSI initiator (JBOD), ZFS does the ZRAID. Good thing because there is no way to get at the Storage Controller BIOS, we did have some success, in disabling the onboard NIC, and disable the PXE BIOS on the MicroServer. Then you can get at the Storage Controller BIOS, configure it, and re-enable, it’s a bit of a HACK, but something with BIOS or BIOS mapping/space is causing an issue.

        • DanielNTX

          I was having this issue where my N54L would just hang on the P410 when booting connected to my 2.5″ 4 disk SAS enclosure and wouldn’t respond to any keyboard input or allow me to go into the Storage Controller text ACU. Updated the P410 firmware to 6.0b and this issue went away.

  • http://twitter.com/martinsharp_uk martinsharp_uk

    Works like a dream. Moved our mini lab to 8 of these so we can build model office replicas for clients. Even handles the Galactic requirements seen by SharePoint 2013 these days.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • Concerned reader

    Your content protection paranoia is a bit overboard. All it does is prevent regular people from using their browser (for example select, right click and search to find the freaking memory module you recommend). I would really like to know how you arrived at the conclusion that it would be a bright idea to block text selection and right clicks. If anybody wanted to steal your content, they could simply google for countermeasures to your excessive use of javascript. All you accomplish by this is piss people off.

  • Laurent Weil

    Hello,
    Did like very much your video for the microserver for the 16 Gb.
    Have you had any chance to make it RAID0 and that it’s recognize by vmware as a raid ?
    If not, do you know a cheap raid card I could use who would do the trick ?
    Thanks in advance,
    Laurent

    • http://techhead.co/ Simon Seagrave (TechHead)

      Hi Laurent,

      Glad you liked the video – thanks for the feedback.

      The HP MicroServer uses onboard software based RAID which isn’t compatible won’t work with VMware ESX/ESXi. Your only option is to use a hardware based RAID controller card such as the HP P410. I have read about others using this card and it apparently being ok.

      Check out this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3lgdnFi9Rw

      I personally have never used a hardware based RAID card in my MicroServers, as I use an external NAS device to run my VMs from (eg: Iomega PX4 or OpenFiler), so can’t really comment how good they are.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,

      Simon

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  • Simon

    Hi Simon, from Simon,
    This is great and, since e-buyer have the microserver n54l at £210 with £100 cashback at the moment, I have one on order. My question is about hard disk size in the HP Microserver. The Quickspecs say the disks can be up to 2TB but I see on other forums that people are using 3TB drives. I am cautious of this due to experience with an ML115 G5. The Quickspecs for the ML115 said 750GB Hard disk maximum but I put 4 1TB drives in and they worked – until the used space passed 750GB at which point files started to break and performance died. I have since been told this is due to a chipset limitation. SO I have two questions; can you safely use 3TB drives in the Microserver N54l and, is there a way to use larger drives in the ML115 G5 (Which is still working fine.
    One contribution I can make is about disk cooling which is part of the ML115 design that was pretty poor. I cut away the front panel plastic of the ML115 case in front of the disk cage and fitted a 120mm fan. This reduced drive temperatures by fully 10 degrees centigrade and means I have no disk failures in many years of operating the server. It even looks passable!

  • http://www.eoptionsonline.com/ Albert Gray

    Great..HP Proliant MicroServer–Running 16GB configuration is nicely elaborated.However Hp products are explored all around the world.

  • Dbld

    Anyone had experience with:

    Manufacturer: Corsair
    Part Number: CMZ12GX3M3A1600C9
    Size: 4 GB
    Type: DDR3
    Speed: 1333 MHz