How Do HP vs Dell Servers Compare?

HP has been my defacto  "gold standard" for enterprise servers, while Dell holds the crown for PCs. However, poor HP service experiences has me taking a hard look at Dell for servers. At the end of the day, how do  Dell vs HP server lines compare for enterprise class servers?  Key factors I'm considering here are:  processing power,  scalability and reliability.
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I personally MUCH perfer Dell servers over HP.  From a linux point of view I really like their management features.  Using openmanage from the command line I can monitor all aspects of the hardware (fan speed, cpu temp, raid status, etc).  I have the hardest time doing that on HP (and IBM) servers.

Processing power these days is a wash.  They all use very similar hardware.  They don't have the massive amounts of daughter boards for memory, etc... that they used to.  Up to a certain point, I think Dell scales great, but they don't have the massive gigantic mainframe type machines that HP has.  They do have a good selection of high-performance network interface cards, network attached storage, SANs, etc.  And most manufacturers in turn support Dell, which is also a plus.  I've always found Dell's storage (from their basic raid cards on up) to be much better than HP or IBMs.  I also love their Blades, but I've heard arguments that IBMs are much better - but you pay that much more - I haven't ever used an IBM blade.

Reliability wise I think Dell is just middle of the line.  But I don't think they're any worse than HP.  HP used to make great stuff, but I think they leave a LOT to be desired these days (both in hardware and the company in general).  Everything, no matter where you go, is made cheaper these days to compete with lower prices.  But their service is fast and great, so as long as you have redundancy if a drive fails at 2am they'll be there in 4 hours or less popping a new one in (or motherboard, backplane, etc).

People could argue this all day, but my 2 cents is that Dell kicks HP's butt.
I would agree with arrkerr, I don't think anyone is significantly better than anyone else. If you have all HP right now, there's no reason to switch to Dell, and vice versa. The key is getting a good price for similar spec'd servers, configuring them to have redundant PSU, RAID, etc, and get silver or gold 4 hour support.
>>Key factors I'm considering here are:  processing power,  scalability and reliability.

Actually a machine is a machine is a machine.  If you are looking at the 3 factors you have listed, take your eye off of a brand name and start looking at the horse power underneath the hood.  (Don't get me wrong, I am not plugging clones here)  But the true value of the branded machines are uniformity and support.  Paying extra for a quad core processor does little for you if your application is single threaded..  so if you're looking for Processing power, match your multicore proc, with your multi thread application running on your multi threaded operating system.  Then run your system on a raid array of 15k drives with a sizable swap file and a ton of memmory.  Once you have eliminated the potential for resource starvation and conceivable bottlenecks, place bids to HP and DELL and someone else...  When the quotes come back and you see that the same equipment is a few hundred dollars less on the DELL quote... you will see, it's not about the name... it's about the hardware...   And if it's about the money... then Dell is the way to go.  A ton of consultants I know try to sell you HP equipment so they can get a lil cash on the side from the sale...  there is no similar kick back for Dell sales.  

And lastly...  consider the support...    because when you run into a snag, knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel REALLY helps
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David WallCommented:
This is from a UK viewpoint I work in a mixed hp\dell enviroment moving towards a wholely HP enviroment .

We use HP carepacks to maintain our servers and when we do have issues (mainly the odd disk  and tape drive) it is repaired\replaced within 4hours ( what we have carepack for) they will also take our word when we say something is wrong and take our word as proffesionals.

With Dell we find we have to jump through varios hoops before we can get service, i.e is it the latest bios no then please update still doesnt work have you tried this that and the other which you do then they will send a engineer and that is when they start clocking the four hour responce time where as HP seem to be from the first call.

Dell support just seem to be script monkeys and if you try to shortcut the script they are lost.

The above is how I find it in the UK  
WallD... grow some b***s...  (not trying to tell the dell tech support that there is a problem and the clock is ticking.   I have defined what the problem is and refused to jump through the hoops, and demanded they fix it... They sent a tech out immediately.  Everybody has commented on tech supp (myself included) but the issue wasn't compare tech support among the vendors...  ;)
The main differentiation is not the kit or support but the managability. Dell's OpenMangler is always a couple of years behind HP's SIM.

As far as price is concerned there's little difference when you buy from a reseller but from the web Dell is always cheaper; the direct sales approach of Dell undercuts the distributor/reseller channel which means that you generally buy direct from Dell so you only have one port of call and miss out on the advice of the VAR when buying since Dell's web server isn't going to ask the important pre-sales questions so you end up buying the wrong thing.

Going from single server to cluster, can you take the data disks out of the server and shove then in a SAN and expect it to pick them up? Not with Dell since the SAN isn't made by them, the RAID controllers aren't even compatible with each other. With HP you can generally do that as long as you haven't bought the 100 series of junk. (OK, it's a bit dificult at the moment to take SFF disks out of the server and put them in an entry level SAN but that's only because the SFF entry level SAN isn't released yet). Entry-level is a bit of a misnomer; if you have a DL380 with 300 SFF disks on it running SQL or Exchange it's hardly entry-level even though the SAS enclosures are listed under entry-level storage.

As far as blades go Dell don't have enough DIMM slots in theirs, their latest attack on HP blades is the amount of cardboard boxes they come in because they haven't got any ammo as far as the kit goes.

Yeah, I know I'm biassed as I work for a mainly HP VAR but I quite like IBM as well.
David WallCommented:
the_b1ackfox I dont think you should have to get all gordon ramsey to get something done!

I sort of lost my line with the maintenance issue, part of my disatisfaction with Dell support is that I have called them more than HP, therfore on the reliability front I would give the HP a thumbs up. The dwindelling estate of Dells we have is  not very reliable.

II have limited experience of IBM servers though the few I have sen seem to be well built, and I have a new colleague who rates them highly both for reliability  and scalability. He also reckons they are competitive on price also.

Today in El Reg - - Dell has finally admitted how much it needs the channel and has launched a worldwide programme to help dealers and systems integrators to push its kit.

The vendor, which pioneered the direct PC model, appears to have stopped short of publicly offering channel players discounts...

LOL, if we don't get discounts (or kickbacks as the_b1ackfox calls them) why should we sell them rather than HP and IBM servers?

IBMs are good, don't get any remote control included as standard though whereas HP gives you that on the motherboard in the hope you'll buy the license to activate the advanced iLO features.
Enterprise Class Server on Dell?? Are you kidding me? JK!

Yeah, honestly I wouldn't do that. Go for HP! I don't have to duplicate the above HP's guys. I am US. We have a large Data Center with 50 Dell, 800 HP, and 200 IBM servers. All of our Windows clusters and Exchange clusters are in HP. All of our UNIX SAP heavy transaction are in IBM. Dell server are using for backup application and test. HP hardware is more opening for SAN intergration. HP smart array storage controller are flexible and reliable compare to Dell perc (Perc does not support drive expansion) so if you want to upgrade your disk in the array, you format or image your OS instead of hot swapping the drives.

Go HP. Period.


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More info on remote access for all three servers. Most of the enterprise servers nowadays come with remote access adapter (built in).
- Dell: DRAC (Dell Remote Assistant Card )
- HP: iLO (Integrated Lights Out)
- IBM: RSA (Remote Supervisor Adapter)

These capility are equal among these competitors.

Point was that RSA II is an option, it's not always fitted as standard, at least didn't come with our new IBMs; same with DRAC.

e.g from
(.)   None  
( )   Dell Remote Access Card, 5th Generation for PowerEdge Remote Management [add $299]
  May delay your PowerEdge 2950 ship date
I use HP 99% of the time for servers (Mainly ML370 and DL380.)  

I find in Windows, the HP is a much better box (Not that I find Dell better elsewhere, but we only use them for Windows.)  The HP ILO (remote access) card is light years ahead of the latest Dell DRAC offering.  We've found support better with HP (Less jumping through hoops), and HP's management software is much better.  We testing the Dell management software and a lot of it is a Java mess, memory hog, etc.  HP has a nice built-in utility that fires emails any time an HP event is thrown, Dell doesn't have this unless you have their remote access card and that interface is clunky as well.

Dell also doesn't have anything like the Proliant Support Pack.  If you need to update drivers on the Dell, good luck.  I'm sure some people like that they can go out and download the individual drivers for what they need, but we'd rather download a set, push it out over the network, and have the correct drivers for every Proliant where we need them.

I'd stick with the HPs.  Dell's service and support is definitely not any better than HP!
adauserAuthor Commented:
I left "off the table" the issue of support because i have had HP horror stories for SAN support over the last view months which have shaken my confidence in HP, hence the question I posted.  At same token, I've watched dell replave virtually every component in a server before finally recognizing I had a lemon and replacing the entire server--a direction I recommended 5 days prior.
David WallCommented:
Management features and software aside (since you can find 3rd party stuff that beats anything that comes with the servers from the manufacturer), these simple facts are why I'll always sell HP over DELL:

1) It's a fact that Dell purchases hardware in lots of whatever they find that is cheapest at time of purchase.  Thus their hardware is not consistent, nor high-quality as they look for the cheapest supplier at the time.  

2) I've had Dell regional sales reps outright admit to me that they are embarrassed by the level of customer support.  Keep this in mind... when your server crashes, do you really want to argue with some guy in Bangladesh over whether changing your drive cables will stop the drive from smoking and catching fire (ACTUAL EXPERIENCE I've HAD!!!).

3) Dell started of my making cheap personal PC's for the masses, and then got into the server area.   HP was one of the fore-fathers of the computer industry and had been designing servers since day 1 of the computer era that it started.

4) HP servers (generation 5 and the new blade infrastructure) is radically awesome!  The DL generation 5 servers are easy to admin, physically designed in a much improved fashion.  HP's blade systems use a solid-state backplane (unlike IBM), that is rated to last over 100 years before failure.  

My 'expert' opinion as a VAR (selling HP, IBM, and Dell), is that I'd always recommend HP 1st and foremost.

1) agree.

2) Disagree totally.

I had one part (msa60) with firmware 1.50 on it and an identical part but with firmware 1.42 on it and HP support from India sat on my call for over a month refusing to believe that the version of firmware supplied on my kit was greater than the one they had on their web to download. A request for firmware that matched the other disk shelves was closed with "surely the customer believes there is later firmware" rather than them acknowledging that what I told them I could see on my screen was really true. Had to wait for another batch of servers to come in and send them screenshots and photos before they believed me.

3) agree but it's a sales pitch.

4) solid state backplane???????
Solid state implies transistors or ICs and there aren't any of them on HP's backplane as far as I can see (and I don't want to see them)

Has anyone had to contact HP server support recently?  

HP has moved server support from Canada to Costa Rica, and the support COULD NOT BE WORSE!!!  It's so absolutely terrible words cannot describe it.  Not only are they technically incompetent, they also don't have any understanding at all that they're supporting enterprise gear that HAS to be up and running pronto!  

This is far and away the worst business decision HP could possibly have made with regard to their servers.  Support used to be the benchmark that delinated HP from Dell, but unfortunately, HP has now set the bar so low, you might as well talk to the cashier at your local Wal-Mart for support... they're likely to have more knowledge.

As an interesting side note, you get to enjoy South American hold music now and you'll also get a good chuckle everytime someone tells you about the 4M Level 2 ka-che (cache).  It really instills you with a sense of confidence in their ability.

Unless this is rectified, we've seen the end of the HP Proliant... it's just a matter of time.

What hath HP wrought?!
well here's my 2-cents. We are a Dell shop here, about 3-400 servers total.. We've had all sorts of problems here and there with some of the older DAS arrays. and a fair amount on the older 7 series 1U servers. But they've really shaped up over the last 4 years or so..

If you buy Gold support, you don't get the run around, all the technicians are competent, speak English and reside in the US. for the most part we don't have any issues with them... Although.. we are eying HP for a complete infrastructure rebuild.

From my point of view, I'd say go Dell if you have a tighter budget and remember to buy Gold level support. if you do whatever problems you have will always be fixed quickly.  
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