HP Proliant ML110 G5 – VT or not VT? That is the question… (When wanting to run a Hypervisor).

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About six months ago HP downgraded the hard disk size and length of warranty on the their HP Proliant range of ML110 and ML115 G5 servers.  Where you used to have a 3 years warranty you now were given 1 year and the hard disk went from 250GB SATA to 160GB SATA as the standard offering.

Neither of these things were really a big deal though it does indicate that HP was trying to make savings on these great little entry level servers which would in many instances meet the requirements of many a small business.  Another very popular application for them is for work or home IT test labs running VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V and the like. 

The prices, as you are probably aware – at least here in the UK, for both these servers sporting server grade (Intel) Xeon or (AMD) Opteron CPUs have always been very reasonable (ie: <£250) which must have cut into some potential 300 series Proliant sales for HP. HP ML110 G5 VMware Hyper-VThe good news is that there haven’t been any further reductions to the specification of either model of server since, though the purpose of this article is to make you aware that the stock here in the UK of HP Proliant ML110 G5’s seems to now predominantly consist of those ML110 G5’s with a desktop Intel Pentium Dual Core E2160 processor.  The Xeon based ML110 G5’s are increasingly hard to buy new now which means one of two things. 

Either HP are permanently downgrading the ML110 G5 to make further cost savings or they are trying to minimise the impact that these 100 series Proliants have on SMB 300 series Proliant sales.  The second possibility is that they are offloading the last of the ML110 G5 stock to make way for a new G6 model.  With the ML110 and ML115’s being some of the last remaining Proliant servers to receive a G6 make-over the latter option is highly likely though it’d be interesting to see what price-point and specification a new G6 model would have. 

Where’s my VT?

At prices of approximately £160 the ML110 G5 models with the Intel E2160 processor still offer great value though you should be aware that this particular model of CPU, as opposed to the ML110 G5’s usual Xeon processor, does not have Intel’s Virtualization Technology (VT) on the die.

Below: Available CPU’s with the ML110 G5.

HP Proliant ML110 G5 Processor Type

Below: Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) is not available on the Intel Pentium E2160 Processor.

image

So what does this mean? 

Firstly for a description of what Intel VT provides to those of you wishing to run a hypervisor on the server see this overview from Intel here or check out this informative easy to follow article.  Another worth while read is this VMware Forum thread that discusses why Intel CPU’s (64 bit) require VT to run a 64 bit VM where an AMD (64 bit) CPU does not need AMD-V.

IfMicrosoft Hyper-V HP Proliant ML110 ML115 you are looking at running Microsoft Hyper-V on a server then one of it’s pre-requisites is that it have a 64 bit processor with Intel’s VT or AMD’s AMD-V onboard – it won’t allow you to install without this.  This unfortunately rules out the ML110 G5 E2160 model.

VMware ESX 4 on the other hand  requires that you have a 64 bit processor VMware ESX HP Proliant ML110 ML115though it will still you allow you to install 32 bit VMs (ie: and not 64 bit) even if the CPU doesn’t have the virtualization extensions (VT or AMD-V).  The E2160 CPU found in most ML110 G5’s being sold here in the UK have the EMT64 bit instructions onboard though no VT so you will be able to install and use VMware ESX 4 but only with 32 bit VMs and even then they will be running in a legacy binary mode – so for anything but lab use this wouldn’t be ideal due the potential reduction in performance.

 

How do I know if I have an HP ML110 G5 with an E2160 CPU?

Upon start-up go into the ‘Main’ screen of the BIOS and you will see the following in the ‘CPU Type’ and ‘CPU Speed’ fields:

HP Proliant ML110 G5 VT ESX Hyper-V

Alternatives?

As mentioned earlier in this article I consider the E2160 based HP Proliant ML110 G5 to still offer good value for money though if you want to run a hypervisor on it then you should maybe consider the AMD based HP Proliant ML115 G5 server which comes with a 64 bit Quad Core CPU, has AMD-V and is also VMware Fault Tolerance (FT) compatible. 

The best deal I know of for an ML115 G5 Quad Core is still ServersPlus who have an attractive bundle deal (see the TechHead ‘HotDeals’ section for more details).  Also, I was talking to ServersPlus the other day and they inform that they can ship worldwide – so with current poor strength of the English pound  this may be a cost effective deal for those of you living outside of the UK.

I hope this article helped avoid any potential disappointments with a new HP Proliant ML110 G5 purchase and I will let you know should I hear anything about the release of a new G6 model. 

As always I am keen to hear from you about your experiences with your HP Proliant home or work labs so why not leave a comment.  :)

 

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About Simon Seagrave

Simon is a UK based Virtualization, Cloud & IT Technology Evangelist working as a Senior Technology Consultant and vSpecialist for EMC. He loves working in the ever changing IT industry & spends most of his time working with Virtualization, Cloud & other Enterprise IT based technologies, in particular VMware, EMC and HP products.

As well as on this site, you can find him on Twitter and Google+

Comments

  1. Great article, have used this one and other Techhead articles as basis to build my VMware vSphere lab. Thought I would share some of my decisions and experiences on putting it all together. My plan has always been doing it on the cheap and over time rather than doing one big outlay, since this is my money I am spending and not a large companies!!

    So first thing I did was purchase two ML110′s with the Pentium 1.8Ghz processors and 1Gb in each. Bigger plan is to get them both up to 8Gb but at the moment I have added 2 * 2Gb chips to each to give 5Gb in each servers, I was able to purchase each 2Gb chip for around £40.

    I decided to go with ESXi rather than ESX since thats the direction things are going. Going in that direction I decided to go the USB route and created two USB disks with ESXi on them and install them in the internal USB sockets, both successfully booted up the first time and running perfectly. Highly recommend this way as it does give you that extra bit of local disk space to play around with for VM’s.

    My next step was the processor, I decided to upgrade sto something a bit more meaty, looking @ prices and considering longevity I decided to go with the Xeon X3360′s running at 2.83Ghz, so purchased two of them on ebay for a price of £210 by far the most expensive part of the whose setup. On delivery they come with there own fan/heatsink, after reading the ML110 documentation I decided to stick with the fan/heatsink that came with the server as it is compatible with all CPU’s that can be used on the motherboard. Installation could not have been easier disconnecting fan power and then unscrewing four points on fan/heatsink and taking it out and then replacing CPU on the motherboard and put everything back together.

    On first bootup checked the BIOS for VT option that I was hoping to find and sure enough it was there and disabled, so that was promptly enabled for some virtulisation jazziness.

    ESXi had no issues on rebooting after changing the CPU and now showed the new faster CPU on the summary tab and the VM’s all proceeded to be that bit more responsive.

    My next improvement was to networking as I wanted to improve the capacity and through put, after some digging around I found the perfect solution, and purchased two Intel Pro/1000 MT Desktop Adaptor’s for each of the single PCI slots in the ML110′s, I was able to get them for £10 each off ebay. These guys show up perfectly in the Network Adaptors section on the Configuration Tab.

    My next plan is to get the iSCSI storage sorted out, which I am looking @ OpenFiler or FreeNAS, although I am thinking of blowing the bank and going for a 4 * disk based NAS solution for the additional features.

    Hope some of this is of helpful to someone. :-)

    Andy.

    • Hi Andy,

      Thanks for the detailed outline of how you got on with upgrading your ML110 G5′s – this is certainly one of the biggest modifications I’ve heard of being done on one of these servers. You’ve probably got one of the worlds fastest ML110′s now. :)

      The upgrade sounded so easy that I am tempted to give it a go myself. I’ll just have to keep an eye out on EBay for a cheap Quad Core Xeon.

      I’ll be doing some performance benchmark related articles using the likes of iometer and SISoft Sandre soon so I’d be interested to see how these results compare to what you can get out of your ML110.

      Cheers,

      Simon

  2. Luke Glazebrook says:

    Hi Guys,

    I can see you are also a ML110 G5 enthusiasts like myself. Don’t suppose you have ever come across anyone using an Intel Xeon X3380 3.16Ghz Quad CPU in an HP ML110 G5 server? According to the Q & A’s on this link ….

    http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/pscmisc/vac/us/en/en/proliant/ml110g5-qanda.html

    the ML110 G5 supports speeds up to 3.16Ghz which happens to be the speed of the X3380 suggesting it is supported. The X3380 also would also appear to have the same supported voltage requirements and socket as the X3370 which is also listed as supported here …

    http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/quickspecs/12867_na/12867_na.HTML

    The reason I ask is the X3380 is not listed on this document, however this may simply be due to its age, I know in theory it would work however I would like confirmation it will be detected within the BIOS. What is also encouraging is the fact that Intel state that the 3200 + ICH9 series chipset is supported which the ML110 G5 has.

    Btw

    I’m also planning to put two Intel Solid State X25-E’s in mine Raid 0, that should rock :)

  3. Selim Atmaca says:

    Hi, Thanks for the article!
    I already tried to install 2008 server x64 on to HPML110 via Wmware ESX. It does not work, I am stuck. So, I would not call this piece of crap as a server, even not a entry level.

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  1. [...] point to note (as outlined in my post here) is that not all ML110 G5’s come with the Intel Xeon Processor so if your ML110 has one of the [...]

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