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Hard Drive Trays for HPE Servers: What to Look For

Posted by Michael Ramirez on 22nd Jan 2021

Often, we get questions about hard drive trays for the various types of hard drives we sell or what servers the trays are compatible for. In this post I will discuss the common hard drive trays that you will find on the market and what you can expect compatibility-wise for these drive trays. Making sure you purchase a drive tray that is ideal for your server configuration is essential as you want to prevent product returns, which can lead to server downtime.

Nearly all HPE Server enterprise hard drives come with a tray, but the trays are often abbreviated in the product title. With abbreviations such as "SC" or "QR" or "LP", it can be quite difficult to determine exactly what tray comes with the purchased hard drive, especially if you don’t know the acronyms. For example, hard drives that have the abbreviation "NHP" in the product tile are non-hot-pluggable, meaning it will not come with a tray. Before we discuss the different types of trays, we need to clarify two terms that often get mixed up, hot-swapping and hot-plugging.  

What does Hot-Swap mean?

Hot-Swap means to pull out and replace a defective drive in the system while the system is currently running. Hot swapping is often used when a hard drive fails and needs to be pulled out of the system and replaced with another hard drive with very little interruption. This makes HPE SAS/SATA hot swap trays ideal for servers since hard drives can be pulled out of the system and replaced without having to power the server down. Simply open the tray and pull the drive out while the system is currently running. You can then add or slot in another spare hard drive. Hot swap trays are required for enterprise server applications that need to be up and running constantly since hot swap trays can be inserted and removed from the system without having to stop, shut down, or reboot the system. 

What does Hot-Plug mean?

Hot-Plug means to add components to the system without having to stop, power down, or reboot the system. Hot swapping and hot-plugging are not the same as hot swapping involves the replacement of a component, while hot plugging is the addition of a component. Hot-Plug trays are often referred to as "HP trays" and basically mean the drive is ready to be plugged into the server. Hard drives bundled with a hot-plug tray can be inserted into the system and are immediately available for use as soon as they are plugged into the server. 

Now that we have clarified these two terms, let us examine some drive trays that are often used in specific server environments and are bundled with newly purchased server hard drives.

picture of hpe smartcarrier drive tray

SmartDrive Carrier Trays

HPE SmartCarrier trays (also known as SmartDrive Carrier trays) are often abbreviated as "SC". HPE SmartCarrier trays feature SmartCarrier Authentication technology to verify that both the drive and tray are HP-qualified options. This means you will not be able to use the SmartCarrier tray with a third-party drive since the SmartCarrier Authentication will make sure you are using genuine HPE server hard drives. SmartCarrier trays will not fit in older generation HPE ProLiant servers produced prior to Gen8 servers. HPE SmartCarrier trays are available in 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch form factors. SmartDrive Carrier trays have part numbers, which are the 651314-001 for 3.5 drives and 651699-001 for 2.5 drives. 

HPE SmartCarrier trays (caddys) have LED lights that display the current status of your plugged-in drive. The beauty of SmartCarrier trays is that they proactively warn against data loss, meaning they display a "do not remove" icon which prevents you from pulling drives out of the server on the tray. SmartCarrier trays also have a green activity ring that spins a green color clockwise to indicate the server is currently writing data to the drive. Pulling an active drive while it is writing data could lead to a significant loss of data. Finally, a flashing amber light will indicate that the attached drive is predicted to fail, and a solid amber light means the drive has failed.

HPE SmartCarrier converter tray bracket

SCC Tray

SmartCarrier Converter trays (SCC) tray adapters designed to house select 2.5 Inch hard drives and 2.5 Inch solid state drives. SmartCarrier Converter trays are adapters used to convert 2.5 inch drive form factors to 3.5 inch form factors. You can easily re-purpose a drive that is compatible with 2.5 inch drive storage bays, insert it into a SmartCarrier Converter tray, and place the drive into a server with 3.5 inch drive storage bays.

When converting a 2.5" to a 3.5", you remove the drive and place it inside the adapter, then you screw the adapter into the SmartDrive Carrier tray. This allows you to place and use 2.5" storage devices in select ProLiant Servers with 3.5" (LFF) drive bays. Below is a 2.5 (SFF) solid state drive mounted on the 2.5 to 3.5 adapter converter that is attached to a 3.5 SmartDrive Carrier tray. 

smartcarrier tray adapter

low profile carrier tray

Low Profile Carrier Trays (Apollo Trays)

Low Profile Carrier Trays (also referred to as Apollo Trays) are compatible with select Gen10 HPE ProLiant servers and select HPE Apollo systems. Low Profile Carrier Trays (LPC) drive trays are often abbreviated "LP" which stands for "low profile". Low Profile carrier trays are only available in 3.5 large form factors. They are different from SmartDrive Carrier trays as they are missing the "do not remove" button and the Activity Ring. Despite their icon simplification, HPE Low Profile Carrier Trays use very similar LED definitions and can predict if a hard drive will fail much like the SmartCarrier trays. The part number for the Low Profile Carrier tray (Apollo tray) is 774026-001. Below is a general outline of the LED definitions for the Low Profile Carrier tray.

The first LED is the Fault/Locate light that indicates the following Status:

Solid Amber: The drive has failed and needs to be replaced.

Flashing Amber: (once per sec) The drive has failed or a predictive failure alert has been received for this drive. Replace the drive as soon as possible

Flashing Blue: (Once per sec) The drive has been identified by a management application

The second LED is the Online/Activity LED which indicates the current activities of the drive:

Solid Green: The drive is online and has no activity.

Flashing Green (4 flashes per sec) The drive is operating normally and has activity.

Flashing Green (Once per sec) The drive is undergoing activity such as Rebuilding, RAID migration, Logical drive extension or erasing.

Basic carrier tray caddy

Basic Carrier Trays

Introducing the next generation of HPE hard drive trays, the HPE Basic Carrier tray, often abbreviated as "BC." The basic carrier tray is very similar to a SmartCarrier tray, but features a more simplified design. The Basic Carrier tray is missing the spinning activity ring that was present in the SmartCarrier tray, which displayed the activity of the drive. Basic Carrier trays also differ from SmartCarrier trays based on their compatibility. Basic carrier trays are only compatible with Gen10+ HPE ProLiant servers whereas smartcarrier trays are compatible with Gen10 and backwards compatible with Gen9 and Gen8 HPE ProLiant servers. The HPE P03761-001 Basic Carrier Tray is the tray that is often accompanied with Gen10+ hard drives.

G7 hot plug drive tray

G7 Trays

Gen7 trays are hot-swappable SAS/SATA legacy-style hard drive trays for Gen7 and older generation servers. These trays are often referred to as "G7 trays" and have a great range of compatibility as they are compatible with gen5/gen6 ProLiant servers as well, which makes these trays very versatile. These trays often include a blue or silver bracket on the bottom called a "sled" which allows air to circulate throughout the drive. G7 trays are available in both 2.5 small form factor and 3.5 large form factor. The part number for G7 Drive trays is the 378343-002.

quick release tray for Hard drive

Quick Release (QR Trays)

Pictured above shows a hard drive that is bundled with a Quick Release tray, often abbreviated "QR" in product descriptions and product titles. These trays are silver trays that hard drives are inserted into and secured without the use of screws. The drives are instead secured by the tray itself and can be quickly released from the tray and pulled thus the name quick release trays. Quick Release trays are available for both 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch drive form factors.

HPE 3PAR hard disk drive tray><br>
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HPE 3PAR Hard Drive Trays

HPE 3PAR hard drive trays are specifically designed for select HPE 3PAR StoreServ data storage systems, which are a flash-optimized data storage array. What makes the 3PAR tray so unique is the fact that it supports 2.5-inch hard disk drives despite the tray being very long. HPE 3PAR trays feature a silver bracket that allows air to easily flow throughout all the drives attached to the server to prevent issues with overheating. HPE 3PAR Hard Drive trays also have LED status icons to indicate the status of the drive while it is plugged into the StoreServ system. This tray's part number is 710386-001. To purchase this caddy, checkout the 710386-001 HPE 3PAR drive tray.

820033-001 in the smartcarrier tray

Part Stickers

Every Drive tray attached to an HP Enterprise storage system or HPE ProLiant Server will have a part sticker on them. The part sticker tells you what specific drive is plugged into your system as well as the specs of the plugged-in drive. Most of the time, the part sticker will be the spare part number of the drive. And you can use the spare part number to search the specs of the hard drive or solid state drive online. Nearly every drive tray will have a part sticker that shows the storage device's spare part number on the tray. The drive above has the part number "820033-001" in the part sticker, which is the spare part number of the hard drive. This makes it easier for end users and IT professionals to easily identify which drive needs to be replaced in their system as they can easily search for the spare part number on websites such as HPE Part Surfer.

In conclusion, there are a ton of trays for server hard drives that offer a different kind of functionality depending on your current configuration. For Gen8 ProLiant servers and older, most will use a SmartDrive Carrier tray and all hard drive titles will include SC in the product title to indicate that the purchased drive will be bundled with a SmartDrive carrier tray. We carry all trays above on our website and we only carry genuine HPE drive trays.