back to article HP claims ProLiant server audits to stop 'competitive misuse'

Hewlett Packard is auditing ProLiant Server customers to stamp out “misuse” of its firmware intellectual property in a wide-ranging clampdown on who can support its servers. The news has come to light in a confidential document meant only for HP partners that’s been seen by The Register. The document is earmarked: "HP …

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Hang on, so it's now illegal to not sell a HP contract even if the customer chooses to not give a shit about the removal of firmware?

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Anonymous Coward

Presumably savvy customers locked into HP will simply buy HP an support pack for 1 of their many servers to access firmware updates for all of them....

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HP think they are in a dominant position because of trouble at Dell and IBM...

I guess they feel that Dell and IBM will fall in line. My feeling is that the generic server biz is in a race to the bottom. My money is on Dell. Time will tell.

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Had one of these already

We received vague threats from HP recently (see my previous post) about this, stating that if firmware updates are applied by third party companies (those who do not pay HP to provide support for HP products) it may risk voiding the manufacturer warranty and of course all the risks involved with applying firmware updates to those servers which are not in a support contract. Guess they're making good on this threat.

Expecting to see serial numbers, phoning home upon applying a BIOS/EFI updates any day now.

Think this is pretty much pushing our people to either stop recommending/purchasing HP kit or remove all HP kit in fear this will also apply to switches, printers and their other hardware (should I stop? - think that'll give them ideas?).

It's a terrible end to a once great company. IBM and Dell are not exactly mimicking what HP are doing, far from it. First they talked about leaving the pro-sumer business workstation business, then personal computers and now I'm not sure what on earth they're doing with their server business.

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Not a good idea.

I've always liked Proliants, going back to the days when they were beige and wore Compaq badges. They were reasonably priced and well designed and built.

Trouble with this is that many customers won't tolerate this model and will go elsewhere. Dell kit is vastly better than it user to be and the combination of low price and the lack of a contractual lock-in like this is bound to drive people into there (and other) hands.

The fall of HP continues one nail at a time...

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This is pure greed on the part of HP. The cost for a 1 year 24x7x4 post warranty care pack on a DL360 G5 is £661. Hardware in general is more reliable than it ever has been. 9/10 incidents are typically hard drive failures or an occasional mobo that more often than not end up getting refurbished and end up back in the spares pool. To compare, you get the same asset covered by a firm in the supply chain business for about £50 per year or a complete break-fix contract for a fraction of the price. Dealing with HP 1st liners is like pulling teeth. I don't want to submit pages of log files when the red light on the flipping disk has been showing for 3 days and my SIM is spewing out alerts - it's buying time and it's annoying. I don't want your proactive care nonsense rammed down my throat - I have my own systems management tools or I'll outsource it to an MSP who is providing additional value to my business already. HP is trying to take over their world with a greater push on services (reactive and now proactive) - perhaps to offset losses or dwindling sales elsewhere? - either way it's time to re-evaluate our position with HP.

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Shove off, HP

Specced my first two Dell servers instead of the usual ProLiants just yesterday, reading this garbage today just makes me 100% determined - HP aren't getting another penny from any of my customers. Just who do they think they are? What they're insisting on has to be beyond what they're legally able to.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shove off, HP

You do understand that customers will get access to updates, via the 3 year standard warranty that is included in the price of the tin?

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Re: customers will get access to updates

Fiddlesticks!

I use to work in a screwdriver shop (going on 15 years back now). Most of our clients were small businesses with no tech knowledge whatsoever. They were willing to pay $75/hr on the occasion when they needed it to have someone come out and apply the appropriate updates. HP were charging at least twice that. We'd go out, check the parts, the serial numbers, and the download sites, then download the appropriate bits and apply them. HP are trying to outlaw the $75/hr guy doing the work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: customers will get access to updates

There is nothing to stop the $75/he guy downloading the various bit and bobs on the behalf of the customer, and installing etc, as long as the kit is under warranty then customer and the kit are entitled to get the updates.

Who actually downloads the packages is not at issue.

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Re: Shove off, HP

No they don't - none of the servers I've bought from HP have ever had a 3 year warranty included, it's been a very expensive add-on every time. Are you suggesting that being permitted to download fixes for only the first year of a server's life is in some way acceptable?

Besides the article appears to have been edited - I'm sure the suggestion was that if HP suspected that firmware updates had been applied by someone other than one of their overpriced agents they would cease to honour any warranty. Either way I really don't care - the very fact that they're even thinking along these lines is enough for me, and already my (or my customers') money is going elsewhere as a consequence.

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WTF?

Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Re: Shove off, HP

"....none of the servers I've bought from HP have ever had a 3 year warranty included...." Really? Every server we buy from hp comes as standard with a warranty, the length of which depends on the kit itself. But even bits like SATA disks get at least a year's warranty. But we don't just relie on the warranty, we usually buy a proper support bundle with each bit of kit.

Having worked at a uni (many years ago, I admit) I've worked with old kit outside its warranty or support, and witnessed some of the 'cost-savings' offered by maintenance service providers, and then seen some of the botch jobs poorly trained and unaccredited MSP 'engineers' can do. I also know how expensive it is for many companies put their engineers through hp accreditation programs so I'm not surprised hp would want to make their investment worthwhile.

It seems the people moaning loudest are either Dell resellers or those MSPs that don't want to have to increase their prices by actually training their engineers, which kinda begs the question what are you actually getting if you're buying support from them?

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Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Shove off, HP

Oh come on - it doesn't take a genius to apply firmware updates as required, nor to swap out faulty hardware. There's nothing magical about HP servers or even anything particularly different about them compared to any others - they're just basically fancy PCs. In fact, if anything they're even designed to be _easier_ to maintain.

And I didn't say ProLiants don't come with a warranty, obviously that's not legal - but they don't sure as anything don't usually come with a full three year support package as suggested above.

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Boffin

Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Shove off, HP

"....it doesn't take a genius to apply firmware updates as required, nor to swap out faulty hardware...." So you'd think. I used to work with a company that made telecoms appliances based on the old, cream-coloured Compaq Proliants (yeah, that long ago!). We had one company that had a lot of performance issues and they were threatening to sue, until we found out they were plugging in non-Compaq hardware and trying to flash it with Compaq firmware. Apparently it was cheaper than buying the upgrades from us. Going for the cheapest support and services you can find is often twice as expensive in the long run. Cardinal rule, especially in mission critical environments, is do not introduce risk for the sake of a few pennies.

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Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Shove off, HP

I suspect that many commentators are not managing large server estates. I spend some time being pressured by management to reduce our supporst costs. At the time we had some servers up to 6 years old.

Year one, a basic support contract with supplier 1 on anything out of warranty and without a CarePack:, Cheap, rubbish support and forget any meeting of SLA if it was anything other than a disk.

Year two, consolidate everything into a single contract with supplier 2: Cheaper than buying new with CarePacks but again, no depth of support on anything other than disks. If the item was in warranty, all they did was log the call on our behalf with HP. Complete waste of time.

Year three, HP direct contact on everything: Still cheaper than CarePacks, great service, SLAs always met and HP supplied software is included (Insight Control, SIMS etc).

All those moaning are probably not managing large server estates. If you have a few servers and then run them beyond 3 years, you either pay for spares, buy a CarePack or have a support contract. If your hardware is under warranty (3 years) then you get firmware and software updates anyway. I fail to see where this move is going to cost me more. If I am buying support through a third party on out of warranty kit, the likelihood is that if it is dirt cheap, then it will not be providing the quality HP would want. Often these cheap contracts are supporred on reused kit (eBay) that has been given a quick clean to get the old dust off. Based on that, why should you be entitlted to firmware support? There has to come a point where cheapskate resellers offing services like this have to be brought to account.

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Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Shove off, HP

Newsflash for those living in cloud cuckoo land - most companies are NOT managing large server estates. Those that are are no doubt well placed to fork out limitless money on shiny manufacturer's support contracts (which actually aren't all that brilliant once you move away from the larger population centres.) HP then appear to be saying that all they care about is big business - that's fine, smaller businesses have other options and will use them.

Why _shouldn't_ customers who have spent plenty of money on a product get fixes for the flaws built into that product once HP eventually admits to them and produces a workaround? That kind of behaviour is pretty close to extortion...

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Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Shove off, HP

@hoola so if you aren't managing a large server estate you don't matter? Groovy.

We am the unpeople.

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Boffin

Re: Pottie Re: AJ McMakeStuffUp Shove off, HP

As I understand it, whether you are running a large estate or just a few servers, hp wants you to use the Software Update Manager application. Now, the good news is the app checks the hp servers you point it at and then specifies the correct, pre-tested bundles of firmware and drivers to bring them up-to-date if required, neatly getting around the 'if I upgrade this do I need to upgrade that' question. If the firmware or drivers required are not on the local device it even goes off to the hp website and downloads the firmware and drivers for you and handles the flashing of multiple servers at once. The bad news for those without a support contract or warranty is that the app checks the warranty status before downloading anything, and I'm guessing it will not install firmware onto servers it thinks are not supported (don't know for sure as I've only seen it run against servers under support).

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Anonymous Coward

Poor move HP

HP systems has now elevated itself into one of those companies that "hates" its customers.

They have said that you will no longer be able to go to their support site to look up troubleshooting information and download a fixed firmware (i.e. the product you bought was broken, but you have to pay HP a significant amount of money to give you access to the fix they have already produced).

With a company full of HP PCs and a number of server room full exclusively of HP servers from every generation we will now be switching to Dell.

And once we have there is almost no chance of HP getting our business back.

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Re: Poor move HP

All HP needs to do is look at how well that plan worked out at Oracle after they bought Sun.

I never worked on the big iron, but I have friends who do. Oracle doubled the price of the support contracts and made the paperwork maddeningly difficult even for governmental types who are more use to dealing with maddeningly difficult paperwork than the rest of us. The places where my friends worked on those Sun systems are all now running Linux on their servers instead of the proprietary stuff that was originally delivered. Redhat mostly I think, but that doesn't really matter. Point is they would happily have continued to part with the dosh for the originally priced contracts rather than undertake the conversion work (even the smoothest upgrade takes a fixed amount of time and some troubleshooting for unforeseen issues).

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Unhappy

"Auditing customers", eh?

I wonder who they think they are? TSA goons out for a good fondle? Himmler's Quality Assurance squad? Mao's "rejuvenated revolutionary thinking" inspectors?

Frankly the mind boggles.

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Anonymous Coward

poor firmware developers

You all have it wrong: you think that HP is trying to increase their funds. That's not it at all. They are looking for a reason to lay off all their firmware developers. You see, once you have to pay for support, then they'll better be able to track how many customers are committed to firmware updates. Then when ISS sales drop further, and support contracts fail to grow, Meg can turn around and say "we don't need so many firmware developers anymore" and she can bump her layoff plans by another 5k.

The folks that I feel really bad for are the owners of the microservers. Just think, they'll be paying 2x the cost of their systems for support … I was considering the purchase of one of those systems, but not anymore!

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I recently found an HP drive in the bin at a datacentre. It was a Seagate NS series near-line-sata. The controller was still alive, and I could read all the SMART data, but the disks were toast.

Had it been bought from Seagate directly it would still have been under warranty, but it had an HP sticker on it so Seagate's RMA site disclaimed responsibility. HP's site told me the warranty expired, because they only provide a one year one as standard.

A replacement drive from any online seller would have been much less than £100 and comes with a 5 year warranty. HP stick on an HP label, charge three or four times the price, and only give a one year warranty.

IBM do the same AFAIK.

Do Dell do that too? I wouldn't be surprised.

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Anonymous Coward

drives

Yes, everyone does that except the "whiteboxers".

You can use regular drives on the big players' servers *IF* you can get a hold of a drive caddy.

Proliant warranty covers all internal storage. If that HDD was in a server with active warranty you could have had a replacement on Next Business Day if not faster.

If you buy an off-the-shelf HDD it will work just the same, but how fast can you replace it? Seagate does Premium Advanced Replacements (only in NA) which according to Seagate website takes _two_days_ and costs $10. Nobody likes having a degraded mode on any RAID system.

HP basic warranty is NBD. With a more expensive Carepack (=warranty) you can even have a same day (or night) replacement 24/7. There's a reason why you pay a premium for a branded product. Same goes with IBM, Dell, Cisco etc.

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Re: drives

Not for their mid level and low level range. In fact without Proliant care pack support it's best effort only - it's not guaranteed, in fact their KPI for only warranty cover is only measured / reported against but there is no guarantee for NBD delivery or that the replacement will be installed NBD. The part MAY arrive sure, but not the engineer to install it if you rely upon HP for your IT support.

Sorry but the HP basic warranty only on certain higher level servers and attached equipment is guaranteed NBD, Carepack can range depending on contract between same day, 12 hours, 24 hours, NBD as higher end tier. Again depends on the contract signed with HP. Not talking retail care packs of course, not entirely sure about their retail care options.

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The document is earmarked: "HP Restricted. For HP and Channel Partner internal use only."

Doesn't that just invite the document to get up and walk out?

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