SBS 2003 server case study: HP ML-350 implementation

Hiya folks – I am the co-author and publisher of the Advanced SBS 2003 Best Practices book – and I am happy to have you on-board here for my virtual book reading. LEt’s rock on this hardware case study section. BTW – my new SBS 2008 book is now HERE!

A Server Case Study: HP’s ProLiant ML 350 G4

You’ll find that there are numerous differences between servers (even with entry- level machines) and desktop PCs. The most obvious differences are apparent by examining a server chassis. HP has provided a fourth-generation ProLiant ML 350 to model the server’s innards and to give you a more tangible idea of how the hardware I’ve already discussed works together in an SBS environment. Figure 2-5 shows the front of the server, opened to expose its highly-accessible drive bays.

Figure 2-5

HP’s ML 350G4 offers plenty of room for storage expansion. My test platform included three SCSI drives built in.


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Visual Inspection

The ProLiant ML 350 is based on a free-standing tower design. Rack mount servers are also available from HP, though they are generally used in multi- server deployments. In its fully configured form, the ML 350 weighs more than 75 pounds. The server’s steel construction is the biggest contributor to this weight; however, a rugged drive bay populated with Ultra320 SCSI disks and two 700 W power supplies also add to the system’s heft.

With the ML 350’s door open, notice the CD-ROM and floppy drives mounted up top, with spare 3.5″ bays covered. Power and Unit Identification (UID) buttons are located just below, with indicator lights sandwiched between. The lower half of the system’s front side is equipped with bays for SCSI drives. The example here features three 36.4 GB disks in a RAID 5 configuration.

Trotting around to the system’s back side reveals redundant power supplies for uninterrupted operation, twin PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard connectivity, one serial port, a single parallel port, a 15-pin VGA connector, two USB 2.0 ports, and an RJ-45 connector that interfaces with the platform’s integrated Gigabit Ethernet controller. The 120 mm fan mounted on the server’s back panel pushes up to 220 cubic feet per minute out of the chassis, easily dealing with whatever thermal output might be generated by the 15,000 RPM hard drives and dual-processors contained within. The obvious byproduct of that airflow is significant fan noise. Fortunately, the cooling system is variable, so the fan only spins at full speed when it needs to. Figure 2-6 shows the 120 mm fan relative to the server’s back panel. Figure 2-7 shows the server’s modular power supplies, which serve to prevent hardware-related down time.




CHAPTER Chaper 2 1 So Understanding You Want to Hardwre Be an in SMB the SBS Consultant?!?! Environment

Figure 2-6

Cooling and connectivity. The back of the ML 350 looks like your typical computer system, save for the redundant power supplies.

Figure 2-7

If one of the 700 W power supplies were to fail, you’d simply pull it out and replace it, while the other kept the server running.


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Cracking open the side cover unveils the ProLiant in one of its default configurations: a single 3.2 GHz Xeon with EM64T and an 800 MHz front side bus, 512 MB of registered DDR333 memory, HP’s Smart Array 641 Controller, and a motherboard centering on Intel’s E7520 chipset. There’s clearly room for another processor, should an upgrade prove necessary. Further, populating an additional memory slot with 512 MB of memory would boost memory bandwidth on the dual-channel platform up to 5.3 gigabytes per second, a significant improvement over its existing 2.7 gigabytes per second. The motherboard itself provides four PCI-X slots, a pair of PCI Express connectors (one each of x4 and x8), an integrated dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI controller, and the ATI Rage XL graphic accelerator. Figure 2-8 is a candid of the ATI Rage XL included with HP’s ML 350. Figure 2.9 shows the server’s expansion possibilities.

Figure 2-8

Though it isn’t a 3D powerhouse, the Rage XL is an inexpensive graphics

accelerator that delivers a stable platform for integrated display support.


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Figure 2-9

There’s plenty of room to upgrade the ML 350. Notice the vacant processor socket, the three empty memory slots, PCI Express, and the PCI connectors.

Up and Running

In our case study using the ProLiant ML 350, now that we’ve completed our visual inspection we can plug everything in and fire up the server for its initial configuration. There are actually two setup routines to check out, though both should be preconfigured when the machine ships. The first setup is the initial BIOS sequence, which is accessible by pressing the appropriate function key when prompted. Figure 2-10 shows the welcome screen that appears when you enter the ML 3 50’s primary system BIOS. Figure 2-11 includes a list of settings that are available after clicking System Options. Figure 2-12 displays all of the installed PCI devices, enabling a quick hardware lookup without opening the server’s chassis. Figure 2-13 shows the order of boot devices, which can be shuffled around to boot from different devices. Finally, Figure 2-14 shows where you can enable a custom POST message to display on the server as it starts up.


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Figure 2-10

Ifyou’re used to working in a desktop machine’s BIOS, this shouldn’t be too difficult. The welcome screen gives you relevant information about the server, and a list of available options.




Figure 2-11

Whereas most workstations give you multiple options for configuring hardware, most of the choices here consist of enabling and disabling features.

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Figure 2-12

Other screens are purely informational, such as this list of installed PCI devices.

Figure 2-13

If you have multiple boot devices, the boot menu allows you to reorder them in the proper order. You can even boot from the network!

Visit for the latest updates for any Microsoft product.



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Figure 2-14

Add a custom message in the message field, such as the name of your consultancy and its phone number. Or, a simple “Welcome to SBS 2003” will suffice.



Server BIOS files are far less configurable than those of your everyday desktop. You’ll generally see a few details about the installed hardware, and will be presented with a handful of options for switching components on and off. The ML 350’s first BIOS screen conveys the software version, memory capacity, and processor information. Delving one level deeper into System Options generates a list of relatively low-level features that you can toggle. A PCI device list identifies connected peripherals, and a boot-order menu allows you to shuffle bootable devices around for an optimal boot sequence. Without belaboring the system BIOS, additional screens provide controls for setting thermal thresholds, employing Hyper-Threading Technology, and customizing welcome messages.

The RAID controller card has its own BIOS as well, which you can use to view connected SCSI drives and configure them to your liking. As you can see from the figures, the HP ProLiant ML 350 features the three previously mentioned 36 GB drives in a RAID 5 configuration for 67.8 GB of total capacity. If there

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were an additional drive, it might be designated a spare, should one of the three primary drives fail. Figure 2-15 shows the options you have available upon entering the RAID card’s own BIOS file. Figure 2-16 is the View menu, which displays the current status of the ML 350’s RAID 5 array. Figure 2-17 displays a breakdown of each drive in the array, and its current health status.

Figure 2-15

With only three options, it isn’t difficult to create, monitor, and delete RAID arrays. The toughest part is deciding what RAID technology to use.



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Figure 2-16

The overall drive status page reports on the array’s status. Explore further by hitting the Enter key for a breakdown of each drive in the RAID array.




Figure 2-17

In the event of a failure, this menu let’s you know which drive to replace, because the drive’s health would no longer be ‘OK. ’

CHAPTER Chaper 2 1 So Understanding You Want to Hardwre Be an in SMB the SBS Consultant?!?! Environment


Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation (

MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here!




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One response to “SBS 2003 server case study: HP ML-350 implementation

  1. Pingback: Talking about the ML350 G4 : Blade Watch

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