HP ProLiant MicroServer Fun with Ubuntu

I recently took delivery of a new HP ProLiant MicroServer which I wanted to use for various small/home office server type tasks. It’s a cracking little server, ideal for small offices and home users who want a small, low-power server. With only one fan in the case it’s fairly quiet with most noise coming from the hard disk supplied, and any more you put in it.

The reason I got it was because HP are currently giving £100 cash-back (until end of January 2011) on the ProLiant MicroServer. Given how cheap it already is the cash-back makes it even more attractive! It’s not super powerful and certainly not “pro server grade” kit, but perfect for my needs.

  • 1.3GHz Dual-Core passively cooled AMD CPU
  • 1GB RAM (maximum 8GB)
  • 160GB SATA hard disk (3 additional drive bays with drive caddies (but no screws! screws are in the bottom of the door))
  • 7 USB ports (two rear, four front, one internal)
  • 1 gigabit ethernet port
  • 1 eSATA port
  • 1 VGA port
  • 2 PCI Express (x16 and x1)

If you want to see more technical info then I’ve put online the output from lspci, cat /proc/cpuinfo, dmesg and lshw.

Update: I’ve added the results of running Unixbench here.

As is common with many servers, the device ships with no operating system installed and it has no optical drive so I chose to install Ubuntu 10.04.1 (LTS) from a USB key I had kicking around. On my desktop PC I simply plugged in the key & started up unetbootin and chose “10.04_NetInstall_x64″ from the list of distributions and my USB key from the list of drives, then clicked OK.

The BIOS on the HP MicroServer is a little quirky when dealing with boot devices. I had to fiddle about a bit to get it to boot off of the USB key, but once booted I was able to go through the installer with the server connected to the network and install a base Ubuntu Server on the single 160GB internal disk. I chose to install onto a 10GB root partition with some swap space allocated but the rest of the disk left blank for now.

One mistake I made during installation was to install the grub boot loader on /dev/sda which at the time of install was the USB key, and not the 160GB internal disk! The result was I couldn’t boot Ubuntu Server without the USB key attached. D’oh! I fixed this with the grub-install command to install it on the internal disk (once I got the right device name from sudo fdisk -l) and from that point I could yank the USB stick and boot normally.

I had a few spare 200GB disks kicking around that I had from an old server, so I added those into the mix and then used LVM to create one big disk across the 3x200GB disks and the remaining space on the 160GB disk. I didn’t use any RAID at all because I’m just playing with it for now. In the future I might invest in a couple of bigger (~1-2TB) disks and maybe use RAID 1, but not for now. It’s also worth noting that this is initially going to be a backup server so I don’t care too much if a disk fails because the data exists elsewhere.

I have the large LVM volume mounted under /srv and am storing all backups in that location. I’ll cover how that all works in further blog posts. For now I’ve put the server away in a cupboard where it’s humming away connected to my wired LAN via Devolo dLAN Adapters.

So far I’m running offlineimap and rsnapshot on it to do backups, and I’m playing with a few other applications which I may blog about later :)

21 thoughts on “HP ProLiant MicroServer Fun with Ubuntu”

    1. Running now. Interestingly I’m not seeing the CPU scale up above 800MHz in Byobu whilst the unixbench is running. Wonder if I’m missing a power scaling app/module on this box.

      Edit: Probably because the gcc failed due to -fforce-mem now being deprecated. Fixed makefile and recompiled and running now.

  1. All the screws for the additional drive caddies are on the inside of the door when you open it – along the bottom, hidden in stealth black. Note there is a BIOS update on the HP website too.

    1. Haha, so they are! I spotted the four for the optical bay near the tool, but not the ones along the bottom. I did notice a BIOS update, but had real difficulty installing on one server, tried under Ubuntu and CentOS to no success. Turns out the NIC was broken and I had to send it back. How did you install the update on yours?

    1. I hadn’t but thanks to your comment I now have :)

      Yes, I woke it up from my Ubuntu desktop using “etherwake” At first I thought it hadn’t worked but it turns out my desktop has two interfaces so I had to specify the right one :)

      1. Thanks! The dmesg output lists: ACPI: (supports S0 S4 S5)
        Have you used Suspend-to-Disk to let the Microserver sleep? Is Suspend-to-Ram disabled in Bios or not supported by the ACPI implementation for the hardware?

        Apart from that I think I’ve found me a home server ;)

  2. With a little machining, I managed to get an old 3.5 in a 5.25 adapter to fit up top, where I mounted the included drive. I was then able to put 4x2TB drives in the cages, giving my client a nice little server.

    She has great backups, so we took the risk of software RAID 5 with these large drives.

    1. I do like the sound of having the boot disk on top and four large disks inside. I’d probably start with one 2TB disk and configure it for software RAID with one disk missing then migrate up to two disk RAID, then 3 and then 4 as needed.

  3. I wish I would have known they make these microservers – I’ve been dying for a form factor similar to WHS systems but with a VGA port and ended up with an external RAID enclosure + an old PC.

  4. Interesting post and comments. I have literally just been handed one of these microservers from the courier, along with 2x2TB drives. I had been looking at QNAP stuff for a NAS but with the £100 cashback this seemed too good to resist.

    I have ZERO knowledge of linux/install/any fiddling around OSs but intend to, somehow, get this box to be my central file location/NAS and web host with RAID1. I think software RAID as that seems to allow more flexibility. I have alot of reading to do and a very steep learning curve! That or it’ll be the most expensive brick I’ve ever bought.

    @Rod – thanks for the screws comment, I hadn’t seen them.

    Alex

  5. Hi Popey,

    I’ve the same server and the same HP Microserver.
    The most things are running well.
    But at the moment I’m trying to attach USB-Devices. Some things like HD or a special “Radio device” (cc1101-usb).
    But ubuntu is not able to attach a correct device (like /dev/sdd or /dev/ttyACMO)
    with lsusb everything is ok.

    My question:
    Is this running well on your server?

    Thanx in advance from germany

    Juergen

  6. Hi there,
    your article has been very helpful to me, for a few points that saved me time:
    – unetbootin
    – net install ISO! I tried first with the USB software recommended on Ubuntu docs and a full ISO: a waste of time, plus I needed a larger USB flash, etc.
    – the USB key is mounted as first HD, and GRUB ignores that!

    Thanks again for reporting!

  7. Hi,

    Do you know if these machines support RTC wakeup / wakealarms under linux?

    Is there even a BIOS setting to set a RTC alarm?

    Thanks,
    Ben

  8. After reading your article I have been toying with the idea of buying one of these for a while. However, I don’t really need another server. But…. Ballicom are now selling these for £150 and HP have extended their cash back to May 31st, so the final price is a stunning £50. I just couldn’t resist!

    Ian.

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