HP ProLiant MicroServer – Not Quite There Yet?

When HP announced their new ProLiant MicroServer, I really hoped that it would be the perfect answer to a specific use case I’ve been looking at lately.

Basically, what I’m looking for is a small chassis, low noise branch office server that would be used to host a single virtual machine, offering Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) and Distributed File System (DFS) file-shares.

Initially it looked to fit the bill perfectly:

  • Small footprint; Check
  • Low Noise levels; Check

But, sadly, that’s where it stops. The first version of the HP ProLiant MicroServer comes with one CPU offering, namely theAMD Athlon II NEO N36L which isn’t all that much to run even a single-VM ESXi instance on.

The current tech spec page does not go into much details about the storage controller, other than it’s an “Integrated 4 port SATA RAID Storage Controller”, which makes it impossible to check for compatibility on the official VMware HCL.

The 1GbE NC107i NIC supplied with the server, seems to be supported by VMware though, at least according to the ProLiant option VMware support matrix.

I understand that HP created this server for a different use-case than the one I’m outlining here, and you can’t really criticize them for that, I just hope that this is just the first of several offerings from HP and that the next version comes with better CPU offerings.

A proper CPU would make this baby the perfect entry level, small footprint, low noise branch-office server.

Update: Simon Seagrave has posted as “somewhat” more verbose analysis of the HP ProLiant Microserver: New HP Proliant MicroServer – a decent vSphere lab server candidate?. His conclusion is pretty much the same as mine though; give us more CPU and a vSphere supported RAID controller and we’re all set. I couldn’t agree more.

Using the WANem WAN Emulator Virtual Appliance

During preparation and preliminary information gathering for a new internal project, I had a need to emulate various networking conditions and scenarios. More specifically I’m looking at the possibility of running the vCenter Client over high latency satellite links, with varying bandwidth availability and even packet loss scenarios.

Obviously the best way of testing this, in a controlled environment, is to use some kind of WAN emulator that lets you control the various networking characteristics. WANem is a free WAN emulator and it even comes as a VMware virtual appliance.

Setup is pretty straight forward, and I won’t get into the detailed instructions at this point. If someone requests it, perhaps I’ll make a HOWTO post later on.

After the WANem Virtual Appliance has been started and setup in your network environment, all you have to do is to route your traffic through it. In my test environment, I decided to route all traffic between my local computer and my vCenter Server through the WANem appliance. Doing so is pretty straight forward; Open up a cmd window, with administrator privileges, on your local computer and use the route command to force traffic through WANem:

the command itself is:
route add {destination IP} mask 255.255.255.255 {WANem IP}

To tune the network properties of the traffic going through WANem, open the WANem admin page in your browser and work some magic. The screenshots below are from the advanced tab:

WANem Advanced Mode Screenshot #1WANem Advanced Mode Screenshot #2

As a simple test, I decided to add 500ms latency (delay time) and a packet loss of 25%, and as you can see from the video below it works as expected


(Video has been scaled to fit, watch it in fullscreen mode for details).

Conclusion

If you need to test out how your applications or networking infrastructure works when issues like latency, jitter and even dropped packets affects your clients, WANem seems like an easy and free route (pun intended) for testing purposes.

SolarWinds VM Console

SolarWinds has released a new free vSphere tool called SolarWinds VM Console.

    Free VM Console Highlights:

  • Bounce (shutdown & restart) VMs without logging into vCenter or vSphere
  • Get end-to-end visibility into your VMware environment—from vCenter through ESX hosts to VM guests
  • Track the real-time up/down status of your VMs from your desktop — without logging into VMware apps
    Additional VM Monitoring Features:

  • Take a snapshot of your VM prior to shutdown
  • Search on VM names or IP addresses
  • Use your vCenter/vSphere credentials to view a top-down hierarchy of your virtual environment

I’m not sure why you as an admin might want to use this tool instead of the vSphere Client, but in environments where you have delegated control over certain VMs (like a test environment etc.) it might be a useful addition to your tool-belt.