Compaq Proliant DL380 Generation 1

I was given a Compaq Proliant DL380 (Generation 1 or G1) as part of an exchange for doing some filesystem recovery for a customer. It came with 2x800MHz/256K SECC2 Pentium III CPUs; 512MB PC133 CL3 SDRAM DIMMs; five Compaq 18.2GB Ultra2 SCSI hard disks (two failed); a Compaq “Integrated Smart Array” onboard RAID controller; a floppy drive, slimline CD-ROM, and single 275W hotswap Compaq power supply. Here are HP’s specs for the system. Here is where you can find manuals and documentation for the system. Now, this isn’t a bad machine as-is, but let’s turn it into a beast with some smart buys on the used market.

Before moving forward, I upgraded the firmware and system software. This is one of the older style Compaq machines that keeps the diagnostic utilities on a hidden “F10” partition on the hard drive, rather than in ROM. Since the machine was given to me with a failed RAID array, the hidden partition had been lost. In order to restore this partition, download and burn to CD the SmartStart version 5.5 — it is the last version which will install the missing Diagnostics Partition. Once this is done, download and burn to CD the “Firmware Maintenance CD” of the latest version available. Boot from this CD and install any firmware updates recommended for your system. Also, if you have the Slimline CD-224E, there is a firmware update SP16293.EXE that fixes problems with reading in DMA mode.

I then booted off a Debian “netinst” CD and made sure that the kernel did not have any trouble with the system hardware. Everything was detected, the RAID was set up, and seemed fine. So I proceeded to go on bargain hunting.

I purchased the following:

  • 2x1GHz SECC2 Pentium III CPUs, the highest supported, in matched steppings, from eBay – $10
  • 4GB (4x1GB) PC133 CL3 SDRAM DIMMs, the maximum supported, from eBay – $17
  • An additional 275W hotswap power supply, from an eBay seller – $25
  • An additional hotswap drive bay (Compaq P/N 144087-001), adding two hotswap bays, from; comes with 68-pin LVD Ultra2 SCSI cable for chaining to existing bay, and 12-pin “Point to point” cable (Compaq P/N 402615-001) – $32
  • One IBM Ultrastar 146Z10 146GB and seven Fujitsu MAP3147 147GB 10,000 RPM Ultra320 SCSI 80-pin SCA hard disks, in IBM server trays (removed) – $40 each
  • Three Proliant SCSI hotswap trays for a total of eight trays – $28

Unfortunately, similar disks tend to fail in bunches, so I bought eight disks such that I would have six on-line disks and two cold spares at any given time. I found out that the Integrated Smart Array (ISA) has a limit of 502GB per volume. You can create multiple volumes but no single volume can exceed 502GB. So you cannot put more than 4 147GB drives in a RAID5 including hot spares. A “fifth generation” Smart Array controller is required to support larger volumes. But the DL380 G1 has only 5V PCI and PCI-X slots, and the more complex Smart Array controllers require 3.3V PCI slots.

A cheap workaround is the Adaptec ASR-2120S. It can be had for less than 5.00, supports larger volumes, and has an onboard 64MB cache. It also supports operation at either 3.3V or at 5V. It does not, however, have expandable memory or multiple internal SCSI connectors, nor does it have the ADG/RAID6 capabilities of some of the more complex RAID cards in the Smart Array series. The battery backing module is available, but very expensive. Also, being a 66MHz card, it is slightly crippled by plugging it into the 33MHz PCI bus of the DL380 G1. But all in all, this card is a good choice. (The ASR-2200S is a higher-performance version of the same card.) It uses the aacraid driver of Linux which is supported by Adaptec. After installing this card, you might want to remove the Integrated Smart Array card since it is of no further use. You should also strongly consider buying two identical SCSI RAID cards such that if one fails, a replacement can be immediately installed. Also, in case you have problems, here is a thread that will help you troubleshoot the 2120S. It has been noted that the RAID processor (Intel IOP 80302 @ 66MHz) gets very hot and the Linux driver uses it more efficiently than the Windows driver, possibly too efficiently, so heatsinking the RAID processor may be required for stable operation. Other cards using this same Intel I/O processor are shipped with a heatsink, so its omission seems to be a cost-cutting measure by Adaptec.

(Note:  I have had problems with the older generation ASR-2120S with the RAID processor that looks like a PPGA Intel Celeron CPU and a shipped firmware revision of 5xxx or 6xxx.  These cards eventually become unstable in Linux and even in the BIOS, perhaps due to heat effects over time.  There is a newer version of the card which is marked RoHS on the product label, has a shiny-surface RAID processor, and ships with the latest firmware v8208.  I recommend using this card instead.)

I like this system. It’s well-built, rack-mountable, and easy to use. The hardware, while over 8 years old at the time of this writing, is still sufficient, and quite cheap to upgrade to its maximum capabilities. All of the hardware, with the possible exception of some of the proprietary hardware monitoring subsystems, is completely supported by open-source software. As higher-capacity SCSI drives become cheaper, a new array can be rotated in, using a single large S-ATA drive as a temporary storage medium for the array contents while the new array is built. A new array will probably require a better RAID controller. Fortunately, all the Smart-Array controllers have compatible RAID metadata, so no data will be lost in an upgrade or replacement.


Q: My system won’t power on anymore! There is a red light on the mainboard and the power supply fan is running, but it won’t power on!

A: Push the PCI riser card FULLY into the slot on the mainboard. Whack it if you have to.

Q: How do I monitor the system variables like power supply load, temperature, etc under Linux?

A: Check check_hpasm as well as CSPM.

Q: What’s with ADG on the Smart Array 5302?

A: Go here.

2 Responses to “Compaq Proliant DL380 Generation 1”

  1. James French says:

    Hi, your post is helpful, but I can’t boot from CD or find the firmware maintenance. The Smartstart was installed when I got the DL-380 G1, but I mistakingly thought the smartstart was on ROM, so I rearranged the drives as I had two DL-380s, one working and one for parts. Unfortunately I rearranged the “hotswappable drives and apparently the smartstart was installed on one of them in Drive 0 Raid.

    The Cd drive will not recognize anything. Any advice as to how to proceed and were exactly to get the drivers/firmware update/repair/maintenace would be greatly appreciated. I am studying IT and don’t have a lot of money, and thought this machine would be good. I didn’t realize how difficult this would be.

    I like the built like a tankness of the DL-380s, but I wish I hadn’t of screwed it up. I have dug through mountains of materials on HP’s site and I am at a loss?

    Thanks if you

  2. nemesis says:

    I will post this ISO since it is apparently nowhere to be found. I hope nobody complains. Here is the SmartStart 5.5 diagnostic tools ISO and the firmware maintenance 7.50 ISO the latest available for the DL380 G1:

    As for the CD drive try cleaning the pickup lens with 90% or greater isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab, it’s likely just dirty.

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