In a Nutshell
- Small, powerful server with fast processors
- Built-in tape drive
- Large amount of storage
- Solid Linux hardware support
- HP’s included value-add software does not support Linux
- Tape drive is too small
- Dual 866 MHz Pentium III processors
- 2x 9 GB 7,200 RPM Ultra2 SCSI hard drive
- 24 GB DAT-24i tape drive
- Three-year next-day on-site warranty
Alot of power in an unpretentious
package — that’s our verdict on the NetServer E800, one of Hewlett-Packard’s new mid-level x86 servers. The NetServer E800 is designed to work with many versions of Linux, as well as a number of other operating systems, including NetWare and Windows. With this new machine, HP has picked a good combination of power, storage, and expandability, and even includes a tape backup system. On top of all of that, they have the Linux support situation nailed with only one exception.
All the Trimmings
The E800 we looked at came in as a basic tower system, but it can be converted to a 4U (7-inch) high-rack system with an option kit. The system can support one or two Pentium III processors running at up to 933 MHz, has a 133 MHz bus, and has a built-in Ultra2 SCSI (80 Mbps) disk controller. The machine we tested had two 866 MHz processors, 256 MB RAM, and two 9.1 GB hard drives. There’s room for four internal drives; none of them are hot-swappable, which is fine for nearly all applications except for a high-end data center.
What stands out about the E800 is the built-in HP SureStore DAT-24i internal tape drive, included with most models. It’s a small tape, only able to hold 24 GB (compressed), but it does include Linux drivers and a Linux version of Yosemite Technologies Inc.’s TapeWare application. More about the tape drive in a minute.
Linux Support Issues
Although HP says that the version of Red Hat Linux supported is 6.2, the 7.0 release went on without any difficulty, booting from the server’s 40x CD-ROM. Although it’s a server, we set it up with GNOME; the 4 MB of video RAM on the ATI Mach64 card makes for a good 1024×768 desktop. Red Hat immediately recognized and installed support for both the SCSI controller and the Ethernet controller. No sweat.
What’s not to like? Well, the fact that Linux runs on the E800 is to the credit of Red Hat (and the other Linux distributions) and Yosemite, not HP. The company’s NetServer Navigator, the utility designed to help an administrator automatically install an OS, only helps with NetWare and Windows. So you’re on your own there. Similarly, Hewlett-Packard includes management software called TopTools, but it’s Win32 code. Frankly, you don’t need NetServer Navigator or TopTools, but it’s annoying having “free” value-add software included that you can’t actually use.
Now, back to the tape drive. Thanks, HP; the drive works great, and it’s good to have a backup solution in the box, because so many companies don’t bother to install one. But c’mon, nobody buys 9 GB hard drives, especially when you offer both 18 GB and 36 GB sizes. So what’s the value of a 24 GB tape that holds less than one disk worth of data? And let’s not even talk about backing up a maxed-out system with 145 GB storage. At least offer an upgrade option to your 40 GB DAT-40 drive or to one of the 80 GB DLT drives.
With the exception of the small tape drive, the E800 is an attractive server. Dual fast processors, dual fast SCSI drives (Ultra2 SCSI is fine for just about all applications), and important Linux support where it counts make this machine a keeper for a department looking for a file/mail, small app, or Web server.