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Comparing VMware Home Lab Solutions: Cisco UCS C220-M3 Rack Server vs HP ProLiant DL360p Gen8 Server

June 8, 2014

My experience with the HP ProLiant DL320e has been short-lived, the maximum memory support of 32GB isn’t enough to support the large number of VMware virtual machines that I am using in my test lab simultaneously.  Replacing my home lab solution due to memory limitations has been a reoccurring theme.  I have finally decided that I need to find a solution that has the ability to expand memory and computing power, it’s time to go big or go home!

This time, I will be looking for a solution that meets the following requirements for my Home Lab environment:

  • Hardware must be on the VMware HCL
  • Energy Efficient, Support for low-voltage 1.35v Memory, low wattage CPUs, and energy efficient Power Supplies.
  • Quiet, it will be located in a closet but I don’t want to hear it.
  • Lightweight, light enough to be rack mounted on a wall.
  • Powerful, support for a minimum of two Intel XEON CPUs and the ability to support a minimum of 64GB of RAM.
  • Affordable, Neither of these solutions will be “affordable” for a Home Lab, but I’m looking to spend less than $2,500.
  • Pre-built, out-of-the-box ready although I would be willing to upgrade memory or and hard disk drives.
  • Dual-nic Support, Must be able to support two NICs with at least one supporting WoL.

This review will focus on two solutions that are both currently listed on the HCL.  The two candidates I have identified for my new Home Lab include the HP ProLiant DL360p Gen8 Server and the Cisco UCS C220 M3 Rack Server System.

HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 Server

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.26.25 AM

The ProLiant DL360p Gen8 server is an outstanding home lab candidate however it is more suited for the workplace.  Measuring in at (H x W x D) 1.7 x 17.1 x 27.5 inches and weighing 38.4 lbs (see the HP QuickSpecs Overview) this rack mount server would feel more at home in your datacenter, not your home office.

Kevin Obrien wrote an outstanding review of the HP DL380p (the DL360p’s “taller” brother in 2U form-factor) you can read his article HP ProLiant DL380 Gen8 Server Review at StorageReview.com.  Andrew Beattie also posted a several great up-close photos in his bLOG post HP DL360 Dl380 Gen8 Review at tug.com.  I also found a few interesting facts about the Gen8 in the bLOG post HP ProLiant Gen8 Technical Deep Dive by Hans De Leenheer.

Today, the base Hewlett Packard HP 748300-S01 DL360P GEN8 SFF x/2.6 6C US Server Smart Buy retails at $2,599 and is currently offered at Provantage for $2,334.86.  It is outfitted with the Intel® Xeon® Processor E5-2630 v2 (15M Cache, 2.60 GHz) which consumes a miserly 80 watts of power.  Unfortunately, the Smart Buy only bundles 16GB of memory.  A Kingston 16GB memory upgrade KTH-PL316/16G 1600MHz is available at NewEgg for $166.99.  Although the E5-2630 v2 CPU maximum memory speed is 1600MHz if you plan on upgrading the server CPU in the future you may wish to consider KTH-PL318/16G 1866MHz upgrade available at NewEgg for $207.54.  Use of the 32GB Modules reduces memory speed to 1333MHz.The

DL360p is ready to go out-of-the-box, no CPU upgrade required.  It supports up to 768GB of RAM, and has a quad port 1Gb 331FLR Ethernet Adapter.  The SmartBuy configuration with three additional 16GB memory modules to bring memory total up to 64GB is $2,845.86.  With the bundled 3/3/3 – Server Warranty which includes three years of parts, three years of labor, three years of onsite support coverage that is an attractive price.

Management using HP Integrated Lights Out (iLO) is available with the DL360p, however remote console is only available for pre-OS tasks. In order to continue using remote console you will need to upgrade to the HP iLO Advanced including 1yr 24×7 Technical Support and Updates Single Server License 512485-B2 for $399.

Cisco Systems UCS C220 M3 Rack Server

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.25.35 AM

The Cisco UCS C220 M3 Rack server is an enterprise-class server that is available in a High-Density Large Form Factor (LFF) with support for up to four 3.5″ Hot plug disk drives, or a High-Density Small Form Factor (SFF) which supports up to eight 2.5″ Hot plug disk drives.  Dimensions are (H x W x D) 1.7 x 17.1 x 27.5 inches and weight is 28.5 lbs (see the Spec Sheet) which is almost 10 pounds lighter than the ProLiant DL360p Gen8.

The UCS C220 M3 was designed to managed independently in stand-alone mode or as part of a larger UCS system.  When used with the Cisco UCS Virtual Interface Card (VIC) 1225 the UCS C220 M3 Rack Server can have single-wire management support in Cisco UCS Manager 2.1.  The VIC also provides Cisco Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) virtualization support.  Colin Lynch of UCSguru.com details the benefits of VM-FEX in his video VM-FEX Introduction Part 1 on YouTube.  The VIC 1225 is an optional PCIe card required to connect to a UCS system or to provide VM-FEX virtualization support.  In my stand-alone configuration I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of these features.

According to Intel, this server currently holds the World Record for 2-Socket Performance.  In fact when it comes to performance the UCS C220 M3 tops several charts see Cisco Performance Benchmarks. In the past limited amounts of memory and CPU performance have prevented me from moving to a nested lab environment, however these performance numbers are encouraging.

It is important to note that the embedded MegaRAID controller is not listed on the VMware Hardware Compatibility list.  If you are planning on using the UCS C220 M3 for VMware ESXi you will need to purchase the LSI MegaRAID PCIe 3.0 SAS 9271-8i (UCS-RAID9271-8I=) available at Provantage for $582.77 or the more expensive flash backed cache equivalent LSI MegaRAID PCIe SAS 9271CV-8i (UCS-RAID9271CV-8I=) for $691.99.  Another alternative is the Cisco UCS RAID SAS2008M-8i mezzanine card.  Since the SAS2008M-8i requires your server to have two CPUs installed, this was not an option for me.  I was surprised to learn that the LSI MegaRAID PCIe 3.0 SAS 9271-4i was not listed as an option since the UCS C220 M3 LFF has a maximum of four hard disk drives.    For those of you considering the LSI MegaRAID PCIe 2.0 SAS 9266-8i (UCS-RAID9266-8I=) you may want to reconsider, the End-of-Life Announcement was June 1, 2013.  Although, both 9266-8i and 9271-8i use Dual Core 800Mhz PowerPC chips with 1GB 1333Mhz DDR3 Cache, the 9271-8i is a PCIe 3.0 host interface and the 9266-8i is a PCIe 2.0 host interface.  The 9266-8i has also had a history of overheating, the Cisco Field Notice – FN-63542 reports that PCIe cards installed in UCS C220 M3 systems may overheat when the system is idle.  The issue has been observed only with LSI 9266 RAID Controllers installed in UCS C220 M3 chassis.  Cisco published a document to help you navigate your RAID controller options, for more details review RAID Controller Considerations.

Unlike HP, Cisco doesn’t require an additional software license for its management software, Cisco Integrated Management Controller (CIMC).  However Cisco only offers 90-days of warranty on the UCS C220 M3.  For additional support a Cisco SMARTnet Extended Service Contract (CON-SNT-C220D351) must be purchased, currently 8 x 5 Next Business Day – Exchange – Physical Service is available at Nextwarehouse.com for $252.59 per year

Here is a quick comparison of the two servers:

HP ProLiant DL360p Gen8 Cisco UCS C220 M3
Form Factor 1U 1RU
Processor Intel Xeon E5-2600v2 Family Intel Xeon E5-2600v2 Family
Chipset Intel C600 Series Chipset Intel C600 Series Chipset
Memory Max 768GB; 24 DIMM slots ECC 512GB; 16 DIMM slots ECC
Storage (4) LFF SAS/SATA/SSD or; (10) SFF SAS/SATA/SSD or; (8) SFF SAS/SATA/SSD; Hot plug (4) LFF SAS/SATA/SSD or; (8) SFF SAS/SATA/SSD; Hot plug
Storage Controller SmartArray P420i Embedded MegaRAID
Network 1Gb 331FLR Ethernet Adapter 4 Ports Embedded dual-port Intel i350 PCIe-based Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics Integrated Maxtrox G200e  Integrated Maxtrox G200e
Expansion Slots (1) PCIe 3.0 x8 LP & (1) PCIe 3.0 x16 (1) PCIe 3.0 x8 LP & (1) PCIe 3.0 x16
Power Supply Dual 460W, 750W, or 1200W Dual 450W or 650W
Dimensions (W x D x H) 17.11 x 27.5 x 1.7 in 16.9 x 28.5 x 1.7 in.
Weight 38.4 lb 28.5 lb
Server Management iLO4 CIMC
Warranty 3-year 90-days

The Winner!

I have always been a fan of HP Servers, I have had many of them in my home lab.  The HP DL360p offers more memory (up to 768GB vs 512GB), more storage (up to 10 SFF disk drives vs 8 SFF), more network ports (Quad Port 331FLR vs Dual-Port Intel i350), larger power supply options (up to 1200W) and an extensive warranty (3-years vs 90-days).  In terms of expandability and warranty, HP the clear winner.  In the end almost every server purchase is decided based on cost.  If I wasn’t able to purchase the UCS C220 M3 server (UCSC-C220-M3L) at such a low price I would have selected for the HP solution. The included 3-year warranty and VMware ESXi supported SmartArray P420i RAID Controller were desirable features that were difficult to dismiss.  Unfortunately the cost of the HP solution was $630.87 more ($2,845.86 – $2,214.99) than the Cisco solution and since I do not plan on using more than 4-disk drives in my configuration cost was the deciding factor for me.

Here is a breakdown of the components I ordered:

QTY Description List Cost Total Vendor
1 Cisco Systems UCS C220 M3 Rack Server (UCSC-C220-M3L) $2,680.00 360.9 360.9 eBay
1 Cisco Systems MegaRAID 9271 without Supercap 2×4 Int SAS (UCS-RAID9271-8I=) $1,311.00 582.77 582.77 Provantage
1 Cisco Systems Xeon E5-2620 V2 6C 2.1G 15MB DDR3 1600MHZ 80W (UCS-CPU-E52620BC=) $1,249.00 511.36 511.36 Provantage
4 Kingston KCS-B200B/16G 16GB 1600MHZ ECC KIT (UCS-MR-1X162RY-A) $199.99 164.99 659.96 NewEgg
4 Cisco 3.5″ Hard Drive Sled n/a 25 100 eBay
Total $5,439.99 $2,214.99

I’ll post an update once I have received all of the parts and assembled the new solution.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Bogdan Voiculescu permalink
    July 7, 2014 10:37 am

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the post. Great article, but just to add, Cisco has standard 3 years warranty on all servers, including the C220 M3.

    Thanks.

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