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Various: How to build a decent low power VMware ESXi server based on the HP Proliant N36L Microserver and the HP P410 RAID controller Part 1

Posted March 14th, 2011 in Various and tagged , , , by dirk adamsky

This post is about something that I wanted to do for a long time.
I was one of the first persons to post on theHP N36L microserver.
At that time I already was interested to run VMware ESXi on it.
Unfortunately I did not have the time to buy and build one.
That’s untill now.
A couple of weeks ago I purchased the next items:

  • HP Proliant N36L microserver (price 285 euro incl 19% VAT, price now is down to 245 Euro)
  • HP Smart Array P410 RAID controller with 512MB memory (with battery) (price 265 incl 19% VAT)
  • Kingston memory 4 GB (KVR1333D3N9/4G) – 2 pieces (price 80 Euro incl 19% VAT for 2 pcs)
  • WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS, 300GB – 2 pieces (price 270 Euro incl 19% VAT for 2 hdd’s)

Total cost is in or about 900 Euro (1250 USD based on Dutch prices, US price will be lower)

I have read a lot about the N36L microserver and it’s VMware ESXi capabilities.
Other people have combined the server with various RAID cards (Adaptec, etc.).

In my job as system administrator I mostly work with HP hardware.
So I decided to combine the HP N36L microserver with a decent HP RAID controller.
I have very good experience with the HP P400 RAID controller.
For this setup I decided to buy it’s successor, the P410 with 512 MB memory and battery backed cache)

I was uncertain if the RAID card would fit (the HP N36L case is very small).
Luckily it did.

This part of the post is about the assembly of the server + raid controller + extra memory + new harddisks.
The HP Proliant N36L is sold with 1GB internal memory and 1 250GB SATA harddisk.
The first thing to do is to remove both memory and harddisk.
After that I took the P410 RAID controller card and changed the normal profile bracket with a low profile one.
After that I removed the top of the case and the front door to get some working space.
With the server comes a small Torx screwdriver.
I released the screws at the front of the mainboard and carefully slided the mainboard outside.
I then removed all connectors except the power connector.
With the board outside the server I removed memory and hdd.
Then placed the P410, 2 x 4GB internal memory and the WD raptors.
The WD raptors fit in the plastic hdd brackets.
I then connected everything (the RAID controller works with a mini-SAS connector which fits nicely).
With everything in place it was time to get it back.
To do so you have to release a small handle at the back.
After the release you can change the most outer blank bracket so that the P410 RAID controller will fit.
The last thing was to start the server: BIOS and RAID controller BIOS lokked fine: everything was detected.
The P410 RAID controller had a simple option to create a RAID 0+1 array with the raptors which I did.
The next part will be on the installation of VMware ESXi 4.1 (vSphere) and some performance info.

1. The HP Proliant N36L Microserver + P410 RAID controller + Kingston memory + WD Velociraptors

2. The open HP N36L Microserver + cables removed + standard memory + standard SATA disk

3. Another one: The open HP N36L Microserver + cables removed + standard memory + standard SATA disk

4. The open HP Proliant N36L Microserver + P410 RAID controller + Kingston memory already on mainboard + WD Velociraptors in plastic brackets

5. The backside of the frontdoor with Torx screwdriver and extra Torx screws

6. The backside of the microserver with open bracket (for the fixation of the HP Smart Array p410 controller card)

7. Everything in place

8. Case closed, ready to run

Happy scripting (and maybe building).

Best regards,

Dirk Adamsky


73 Responses so far.

  1. Jeroen says:

    Great server for a low price. Got mine about a week ago. Did not add an addiotional RAID controller but using the onboard SATA controller. The stock 250GB is used for VMware Hypervisor 4.1 and the VM’s. I added 3 WD Green 2TB for storage. Only disadvantages are the 2TB disks can not be partioned as one large volume (256GB limit for Hypervisor).

    Running VM’s:
    - SBS 2008 with Exchange 2007
    - Windows 2008 R2 with SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 Web Apps
    - Windows 2008 R2 with some media server software (streams audio and video to mobile devices and the PS3)

    Very low noise, very low power. at 90% load and all disks active only 38W power consumption.

    • Tino says:

      Jeroen says:
      15 March 2011 at 10:41
      Great server for a low price. Got mine about a week ago. Did not add an addiotional RAID controller but using the onboard SATA controller. The stock 250GB is used for VMware Hypervisor 4.1 and the VM’s. I added 3 WD Green 2TB for storage. Only disadvantages are the 2TB disks can not be partioned as one large volume (256GB limit for Hypervisor).

      That’s not true actually. I have several datastores of 1TB each. It’s all about the block size :)

      See my article here:

      http://forza-it.co.uk/installing-esxi-on-an-hp-microserver-part-1-windows-home-server/

  2. Hallo, i’m matteo from Italy. I purchase a server too.
    Can i write a personal email for question and tricks?
    10x

  3. Ildar says:

    Hello. I want to buy a 410 for Microserver. This controller is easily placed in the server? Are there any problems connecting cables behind?

  4. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Ildar,

    The controller is relatively easy to place in the server.
    First you have to take off the top and the front door of the server.
    Then you can release the 2 screws (with plastic cap) at the front of the mainboard.
    The next step is to remove 3 connector cables on the right side of the mainboard (as seen on the photo).
    Then you have to remove the mini-sas connector from the mainboard.
    It is now possible to slide to mainboard out of the server case.
    The mainboard is still connected with the power cable (no need to disconnect it).
    Replace the 1GB memory with the new memory modules.
    You then have to remove the expansion card bracket at the back of the server.
    Take the p410 card out of the box and remove the normal profile bracket with a torx screwdriver.
    Then place the low profile bracket with the torx screwdriver.
    Place the p410 on the server board and slide it in the server for 75% (not fully because you have to reconnect the cables.
    Then connect the mini-sas connector to the p410 and connect the 3 cables on the server board (everything has corresponding colors).
    The next step is to slide the board and p410 fully in and tighten the 2 mainboard screws.
    Be careful to look at the back of the server to see if the p410 card bracket is at the right spot.
    Then you can screw the p410 bracket to the server case.
    Last thing to do is to change the harddisk for the new disks.
    When you have a p410 with battery module you have to connect the battery to the card, that connector is very small and a little tricky to connect.
    OK, seems very time consuming. But in fact it’s not that difficult: when you have done it once it can easily be done again in 15-20 minutes.

    Best regards,

    Dirk Adamsky

  5. Steve berube says:

    Dirk;

    I ordered a p410 with FBWC and 512mb memory to do a similar setup. Were the SATA
    Cable lengths that came with the micro server adequate?

  6. Steve berube says:

    Ended up ordering mini sas to 7p sata cables off eBay for 10$ hope those work. Everything should be in next week. I take it esxi had the p410 drivers?

  7. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Steve,

    you don’t need extra mini-sas-sata cables.
    Just unplug the mini-sas from the mainboard and plug it in the p410.

    Best regards,

    Dirk Adamsky

  8. Steve Berube says:

    Oh great! Based on the size of my array I will also need to split up the LUN size. HP has an ACU offline cd for that if you ever need it
    http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/SoftwareDescription.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&prodTypeId=0&prodSeriesId=1121516&prodNameId=3288134&swEnvOID=2065&swLang=8&mode=2&swItem=MTX-f0790470403f4da3bd94126308

  9. Jae Calliahan says:

    Dirk, you mentioned you have a lot of experience with the HP P400 RAID controller. I would like to use an HP P400 (not the P410) in the HP Proliant N36L. Unfortunately as you know the P400 has dual SFF-8484 connectors and the N36L backplane terminates into an SFF-8087 connector. Can you recommend a cable (or connector) to connect SFF-8484 (host) to SFF-8087 (target)? I would prefer not to have to rewire the backplane if possible. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you for this series of articles.

  10. Steve berube says:

    Dirk where did you put thte battery for the p410? Is it just laying inside of the micro server or was there a better place to place it?

  11. Steve berube says:

    I ended up using Velcro and mounting it behind the DVD drive. I also installed the cim tools so i could monitor the p410 raid status. You will get PSOD after doing it but a few small file edits fixed it. Rock solid now and speed is great.

  12. Surbi says:

    I have bought HP Smart Array P212/256.
    Do you have a Low profile connector for me?

  13. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Surbi,

    Unfortunately I do not have a low profile bracket available (used mine already).
    With the p410 you get both (low and normal profile bracket).
    Maybe ebay has something for you.

    Best regards,

    dirk adamsky

  14. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Steve Berube,

    The velcro solution is effective.
    I have the batterypack at the upper left side of the case.
    I will also try the cim tools.
    Do you have an url with the necessary file edits?
    Thank you in advance.

    Best regards,

    dirk adamsky

  15. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Jae Calliahan,

    These guys sell a lot of converters/cables:

    http://www.pc-pitstop.com/sas_cables_adapters/

    Best regards,

    Dirk Adamsky

  16. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Steve Berube,

    I already found your post on techhead with the link for the cim installation:

    http://forum.lettronics.com/forums/thread/1273.aspx

    Best regards,

    dirk adamsky

  17. Jeppe says:

    Hi Dirk,

    Great post. I plan to buy the N36L Microserver and has been searching for good prices.
    Where did you buy your P410 card? It’s like $1000 here in Norway :(

    Regards
    Jeppe

  18. Nogin says:

    Hi,

    I have this server too with 4 x 2tb drives. I would like HW Raid 5 and have opted for this controller “SuperTrak EX-4650″. Does anyone know if this will work too ? I will try it in a few days when it arrives and let everyone now.

    Linky to controller
    http://www.promise.com/media_bank/Download%20Bank/Datasheet/Promise%204650_8650DS_rev2.pdf

    Thanks
    Nogs

  19. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I’ve read about several other cards being used:

    HP E200
    Adaptec 2405 SGL
    LSI MegaRAID 9240-4i

    I don’t know if they do 3gb/s.

    Best regards,

    dirk adamsky

  20. JD says:

    Hi,

    great post, a nice little server!
    Would you know by any chance if your setup would also handle the remote access card…?
    Also, do you think this server is quiet enough to be put in a bedroom?

    Thx,
    JD

    • dirk adamsky says:

      Hi JD,

      I don’t know if it’s possible to put an ilo card in the server.
      It certainly is quiet enough for the bedroom.

      Best regards,

      dirk adamsky

      • JD says:

        The documentation describes the managment card (615095-B21, 70€) going into slot 2 (the pci-e x1).
        I just wanted to know if the P410 was not too thick so that it would overlap on slot 2 space…
        But, from looking again at your pictures, slot 2 seems to have enough room…

        Thx,
        JD

  21. Chris says:

    Anyone noticed that a p410 and stock install of esx on the HP micro server results in no visibility of the RAID health – other than at boot time, how are you checking the raid status whilst esx is up and running???

  22. Chris says:

    Thank you! I followed the HP instructions, downloading the off line pack from here (this is for ESXi 5)
    http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/SoftwareDescription.jsp?lang=en&cc=US&swItem=MTX-dd492ace50c6427389678df8be&mode=4&idx=1&prodTypeId=15351&prodSeriesId=4248009

    Once uploaded to /var/log/vmware I ran the esxcli command to install, reboot and it all works ok, without any manual changes. I now have RAID health being reporting in vsphere client. Which means I should be able to SNMP query it, or alert on any disk failures.

    Thanks again!

    P.S. Since ppl have been so helpful – is anyone else having problems getting SNMP data from the ILO card on these N36L servers? I have set the community string, but I don’t get any SNMP responses (v1 or v2) from queries on the same LAN … maybe for another blog? (I’ll keep searching)

  23. Ax3l says:

    Dear Dirk,
    are you still happy with your configuration and does everything work as expected? I’m thinking about buying the N40L and to equip it with the SA P410.
    I wonder, if it’s possible to boot W2K8R2 from an array of the SA P410. I support you have no hint for me as you’re running yours on ESX.
    Best wishes.
    Axel

    • dirk adamsky says:

      Hi Axel,

      I am sure that w2k8r2 will boot from the p410.
      When the raid controller driver of the p410 is not included you can add it to your w2k8r2 iso with a tool like Nlite.

      Best regards,

      dirk adamsky

  24. Lesta G says:

    Would a P411 work just as well??

    • dirk adamsky says:

      Hi Lesta,

      I think the p411 will work.
      But beware: that controller only has external connectors (the p410 has only internal connectors).
      Basically the p411 is for connecting external storage cabinets.
      I think you are better of with a p410 because you already have 4 drive slots.

      Best regards,

      dirk adamsky

  25. Leon Cargile says:

    I may have missed it in the earlier thread(s), but… When connecting the P410/512 BBWC Controller in the N36L, do you connect from the P410 mini-SAS connector to the N36L motherboard mini-SAS connector with a mini-SAS-to-mini-SAS cable?

    • dirk adamsky says:

      Hi Leon,

      you can disconnect the SAS cable from the mainboard and insert it to the P410.
      That’s it.

      Best regards,

      Dirk Adamsky

      • Leon says:

        Thanks Dirk! Feel a bit foolish.
        Made things much more complex than necessary.
        Everything’s up and running.
        ESXi 5.0.0 & HP P410/512 w/ BBWC.

  26. ws2000 says:

    Hello

    Would the HP Smart Array P410/512MB with BBWC – storage controller (RAID) – SATA-150 / SAS – PCI Express 2.0 x8 provide acceptable performance with a couple VMs in ESXI? I know the recommended one in this article was was a SATA-300 but I’m trying to keep costs down.

    Thank you

  27. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi ws2000,

    the price of 253 USD sounds reasonable to me.
    I buy the p410 overhere in the Netherlands for 214 Euro inclusive VAT which is around 272 USD at current rates.
    I think they make a mistake with the specs of the controller, i think it is a SATA 300 one.

    Best regards,

    Dirk Adamsky

  28. ws2000 says:

    Hello Dirk Adamsky

    I have my P410 card installed in my N40L Everything seems to be good until I hit the screen that says Slot 1 HP Smart Array P410 Initializing …..

    It hangs here for quite a while but I’m never given a prompt to configure the RAID. No F8 or Control S option. How do I configure the RAID? Do I need to download software from HP? What about firmware updates on the HP P410? Is that a potential issue?

    Thanks!

    • ws2000 says:

      One more thing. What is the best way to update the firmware on
      the HP 410 when the N40L is not a supported server by HP for
      this card.

      Thanks

      • Søren says:

        Did You get it working?

        • ws2000 says:

          No… I’m still stuck. I have tried HP diagnostics
          and firmware updates. Both utilities report that there
          is no supported device found. I have posted around on
          various forums and I will post back if I find anything.

      • Marty says:

        I have used the HP Firmware DVD to update the P410 raid controller firmware.
        HP has a separate download with firmware for the Microserver bios.

    • dirk adamsky says:

      Hi ws2000,

      unfortunately I only have experience with the n36.
      Maybe one of the other readers can help you?

      Best regards,

      dirk adamsky

  29. Søren says:

    I have the same problem as ws2000.

    Please help.

    • ws2000 says:

      Some news to report on the p410…

      It appears that my 512 memory module is bad. I pulled it out
      and the card started working as advertised. I was able to update
      the firmware to the latest version. I then tried using the
      memory module again and the card hung on initializing.

  30. dirk adamsky says:

    Hi ws2000,

    that’s good news.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Best regards,

    dirk adamsky

  31. Rutger says:

    Hi Dirk,

    Many thanks for this very useful blog! Last week I bought a N40L with a P410 512/FBWC.

    I’m running ESXi 5 on it. I’m very happy with the server. But…

    Yesterday I bought myself a energycostmeter to check the power consumption. It’s using 68W idle, and about 82W full power. That looks a bit high, comparing to others that using only 30W (or less) idle! What’s the power consumption in your setup?

    My setup:
    N40L
    2x 4 GB ECC
    1x 250GB stock hdd
    3x 1TB Seagate 7200rpm
    HP 410 512/FBWC
    HP 112CT NIC

    Thanks! Also greets from the NL ;)
    Rutger

  32. Andreas says:

    Hi

    Just got a N40L and a P410 controller. However, when entering the configuration for the p410, I get a fatal error and sometimes the screen goes blank (no reboot). Sometimes I get so far that I can see my drives, sometimes not (this happens with and without drives attached to the controller)

    Anyone with similar problems?

    Best regards,

    Andreas

    • dirk adamsky says:

      Hi Andreas,

      sounds like something is wrong with memory (internal of the raid controller) to me.

      Best regards,

      dirk adamsky

  33. Søren says:

    Hi

    I had my cache-module replaced too – and now everything works like a charm.

    Thanks ws2000 :-)

    Cheers,
    Søren

  34. ws2000 says:

    I finally got my card replaced also… and I am up and running. It has been a long road.

    I found this very straight forward post on how to install the HP ESXi Offline Bundle for VMware ESXi 5.0 http://cosonok.blogspot.com/2012/02/installing-hp-offline-bundle-for-vmware.html

    It worked for me.

  35. vtg says:

    Looking to build the micro server with the p410
    The p410 is a 6Gb/s SAS controller, am i to assume that this combo can handle 6Gb/s SAS drives (at 6Gb/s SAS speeds)
    Also want to use 4 drives in a Raid 10. Any know problems?
    Thanks in advance!

  36. [...] ESXi 5.0 A nice write-up on specs and ideas on what the MicroServer can do AMD Turion II Neo N40L The MicroServer and ESXi ESXi 5 Part 1 ESXi 5 Part 2 The MicroServer vSphere Lab MicroServer and vSphere compatability An [...]

  37. David says:

    I just wired up a remarkably similar setup, see here: -

    https://plus.google.com/117407690550157397568/posts/5XeKB7zo4mg

    Still waiting on extra RAM and a second SAS to SATA connector for the 5th drive in the array.

    I’m curious if you have noticed the RAID controller (i’m using RAID5) when idle accesses the harddrives for some reason? As soon as I log into the box it stops – any ideas what might be going on?

    David.

  38. Sam says:

    Hi

    Will a Low profile P400 RAID controller do the job?

    Sam

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