HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen11 Server Tower Review

May 24, 2024 0 By Lorena Mejia

The HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen 11 Server Tower (SHOP NOW) supports the 4th generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors for improved performance across the board. Plus, support for DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0. 

The HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen11 Server Tower is designed for small to medium sized businesses and apparently is also a good choice for larger businesses looking to support their remote or branch offices. As with seemingly all of the new servers, this tower can also be used for AI, Machine learning, and data analytics. Take off the cute little feet and add some rails and this flexible platform can also find a home in the data center server enclosure.

With ample storage, dual processors and support for GPU accelerators it can easily support a number of different workloads. Storage scenarios include 3.5-inch drives and 2.5-inch SAS, SATA and NVMe options. There is even an option supporting up to 12x E3.S drives, which is new to this platform. Also new to this platform, aside from the 4th gen CPUs, up to 8TB of DDR5 memory, and PCIe 5.0, is support for integrated Lights Out 6 or iLO 6.0 and a M.2 NVMe boot device.

This tower has also been outfitted with the latest grill featuring that mysterious X pattern on the front, possibly representing the unknown in mathematical formulas. We think Elon would be quite proud. You have X, formerly known as Twitter, Space X, and his son’s incomprehensible name, X Æ A-12. 

Underneath that bezel on the HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen11, the chassis is arranged with a control panel/media bay with an optical drive, then 3x other sections below. The control panel has a DisplayPort 1.1a, USB 3.2 Gen1 port and iLO service port. Beside those an LED/Button for the unit ID, just in case this unit is rack mounted at some point. Then health status LEDs for NICs, General Health, and Power ON standby button with integrated LED.

There are three storage/media boxes below. Box 1 at the top with optional media bay between box 1 and box 2. Box 3 is at the bottom. Box 1 can be outfitted for storage or left empty. It can also support up to 3x additional media bays depending on how the system is configured. In other configurations Box 1 is loaded with storage. 

Storage on the HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen11 is flexible. A chassis with 3.5-inch drive bays holds 4x 3.5-inch drives by default in box #3 however Boxes 1 and 2 can also be outfitted with a drive cage with each supporting 4x drives for up to 12x 3.5-inch drive bays. And yes, they will support a mix of 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives. Although, there is also a 2.5-inch chassis that can support up to 24x 2.5-inch bays with all three of the storage boxes outfitted with 8x 2.5-inch drive bays. Again Boxes 1 and 2 provide space for optional drive cages while Box 3 is the default drive cage. Box 3 is also the default for an NVMe U.3 drive kit or the 12x EDSFF E3.S drive bays. With that last one, you cannot install additional 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives in boxes 1 or 2 and you will need both processors to install E3.S drives. The system will also support a mixed drive configuration using 4LFF drive bays in box 3 paired with 8x SFF drive bays in box 2 and also one with 8x more in box 1. Outfitted with a tri-mode controller or just using direct attached storage enables up to 4x NVMe or U.3 or 4x U.2 NVMe drives. System board connectors only allow for SATA drives. 

On the back of the platform at the very top of the chassis is a place for an optional NS204i-u NVME hot plug boot Optimized Storage device. It has two 480 GB NVMe SSDs, and automatically creates a RAID1 mirror volume for redundancy. It’s totally plug and play and requires no set up. Not much else to say about that. To the right dual redundant PSUs, in a number of supported wattages depending on how the system is configured. Below those, a VGA port, then an OCP 3.0 card slot offering PCIe 5.0 compatibility and a x8 connector. Then a serial port, RJ45 integrated Lights Out management port, 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 ports and another OCP card slot again compatible with PCIe 5.0 but offering a x16 connector. The upper OCP card slot is specifically for a network interface controller, while the lower OCP card slot can be utilized for a NIC or OCP card form factor storage controller. A Unit ID button is squeezed in between the lower OCP card slot and the two USB ports. There are a bunch of PCIe slots on the other side starting at the top of the chassis with the two tertiary riser slots.

Popping that side cover off, you can see that tertiary riser at the top the secondary riser in the middle and the primary riser at the bottom. Then the fan cage with 2x high-performance fans in 4x slots for 8x total. A slight glimpse of the motherboard, and then the upfront drive cages with Box 1 on top, box 2 and box 3 at the bottom.

Those risers support a mixed configuration with all with PCIe 5.0 with either 2x x16 risers and 4x x8 risers. Each of them can be placed in either the Primary or Secondary riser slots.

The one with 2x x16 PCIe slots also has auxiliary GPU power connectors for those high-end double-wide GPUs. The slots themselves can also be bifurcated for support of say an M.2 card with multiple M.2 drive support. The tertiary riser has 4x SlimSAS connectors only two of which are supported on this server. It features 2x x16 PCIe 5.0 slots that can also be used for GPU support plus some auxiliary RDX power connectors for a removeable disk drive for backup. All slots will support 75W of power so if you install a single-wide GPU like the NVIDIA A2 or a Tesla T4, it can be powered directly from the slot without the need for additional cables. 

Our specific configuration from HPE has 8SFF storage bays, a single Intel Xeon Scalable Gold 5418Y processor, 1x 32GB of DDR5 RDIMM memory modules, an HPE MR408i-o storage controller and one 800W PSU. We bolstered that with the addition of 7x more memory modules for 8x total and 256GB of memory plus 4x 3.84TB SAS storage devices for up to 15.36TB of storage. At full capacity, the system can be outfitted with up to 8TB of memory with all 32x memory module slots fitted with 256GB memory modules and two processors installed. The supported memory speed ranges from 3200MHz to 4800MHz like with the installed modules on this system.

The controller is a Gen 11 controller, just like the system and supports 8x PCIe Gen 4.0 host lanes. It comes in both an OCP NIC 3.0 form factor or for a PCIe mount with a half-height, half-length form factor, and is based on Broadcom MegaRAID tech. With the “P” suffix extension on the name it is a PCIe card. Ours has an “o” for mounting in the OCP slot 14. It supports a full range of RAID options with support for SAS, SATA, and NVMe storage devices. With 4GB of cache, this particular controller does require an HPE Smart Storage Energy pack or hybrid capacitor. 

With just a single processor configuration, only 3x fans (2-4) are installed with a blank. There are a bunch of other fan options depending on configuration including the need for external fans 9 and 10 mounted on the back of the server when high-power GPU accelerators are installed. There are various fan configurations in between those extremes. 

A row of 8x SlimSAS ports are equally divided between the CPUs with CPU 1 in charge of 4x and CPU 2 in charge of the other 4x. As mentioned, two more SlimSAS connectors in tertiary riser 3. VROC, or virtual RAID on CPU is also supported providing Enterprise-level hybrid RAID support with a VROC key and the CPUs internal storage controller. VROC is used for direct attached SAS and NVME SSDs and is only compatible with storage devices of the same form factor and the server boot mode set to UEFI. An internal USB connector is on the system board that can be used for additional storage by iLO or to boot the system. This system now features iLO 6.0 and can be managed at chassis using a KVM switch or by connecting a keyboard monitor and mouse directly. Once the iLO port is connected to the network, the system can be managed remotely through a standard browser. 

For versatility, the HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen11 delivers with several storage options, plus support for 4th gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors and the upgrades that come with it. Depending on how it’s configured it can support small, medium and even enterprise business needs.

If you are looking for a server upgrade or replacing some legacy hardware, check out our website. Have any questions on this platform or any other, post them in the comments section below.