back to article Just as we said it would: HP clamps down on server fixers

Hewlett-Packard’s policy of clamping down on third-party and budget server support has swung into effect. According to a message sent to HP Proliant customers and seen by The Reg: Starting February 2014, an active warranty or contract is required to access HP ProLiant Server firmware updates. View your existing contracts & …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes

    "This type of support provider may appeal to budget-conscious procurement managers"

    Yes, yes it does... Not all of us with HP servers are Fortune500 clients, some of us are small shops with a shoestring budget and we just want somebody to stockpile some spare parts (ie - spinning rust drives) for our older machines. Simples. We don't necessarily need the touchy-feely masturbation that HP sells.

    1. Phil W

      Re: Yes

      As far as I can see there's nothing stopping anyone providing parts, especially compatible but non-HP parts, and there's nothing stopping third parties providing you with troubleshooting support etc.

      All HP are doing is requiring you to pay if you want firmware updates beyond the initial warranty period. Really you can't complain about them not giving you on going benefits of their research and development for nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes

        Really you can't complain about them not giving you on going benefits of their research and development for nothing.

        R&D? More like fixing the defects that were in their product in the first place.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yes

          So they design-in an "end of life", refuse to support it after that unless you pay a silly amount (and if it's a firmware bugfix, any amount is a silly amount). Didn't Lexmark - to choose a printer company just as a random example - do that for years?

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Yes

          >More like fixing the defects that were in their product in the first place.

          Can't really call firmware updates to support new CPU's, drives etc. that become available after the original server was manufactured 'defects'.

          Mind you, I've learnt that even with IBM/Lenovo, firmware updates for systems more than a few years old need to be applied with care, so perhaps they are doing their customers a favour...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes

        Really you can't complain about them not giving you on going benefits of their research and development for nothing.

        So you buy a server which should be fit for purpose, upon which they later discover a firmware bug which prevents you using the server attached to another manufacturers device, or which prevents you running a certain piece of software, and somehow it's your responsibility as a customer to pay for HP to fix the bug in their firmware?

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, when you buy a system from one of these companies you only license the code it contains... you don't ever own it... so how on earth can you be financially responsible for fixing it?

        I think this needs to be challenged, I think some enterprising young chap/ess should set themselves up fixing the bugs in HPs firmware, and sell it to HP customers as a commodity product.

        Lets see HP invoke their license terms and explain their practice of locking customers in to HP, by refusing to allow them to buy firmware for HP hardware from another company.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes

        "As far as I can see there's nothing stopping anyone providing parts"...

        Not yet ... that's coming. Oracle, HP, and others are actively working to prevent users from using non-original parts ... or original parts installed by non-vendor people, particularly in the U.S. The initial strategy is a combination of brute force, legislation, and FUD (hey, that part might have Chinese spyware in it!)

        U.S.A. readers might want to sign the petition at http://www.digitalrighttorepair.org

        The auto industry faces the same problem, although they don't seem to want to extend their asked-for rights to the electronics/computer industry :(

        http://www.righttorepair.org/main/default.aspx

    2. Nate Amsden

      Re: Yes

      Not likely you need those firmware updates either if all your looking for is spare parts.

      Most of the el cheapo places will end up just putting one server in support and using that contract to get to the goods.. since HP has for a while at least distributed their firmware update CDs that support a massive swath of server gear. Time will tell if HP goes through the trouble to make it difficult for those folks to work. I suspect that is more trouble than it's worth for them. This will catch most of the low hanging fruit.

      I haven't applied any firmware updates myself on my HP gear in about 18 months now (all of it is 20-24 months old now). Everything is still under 24x7 4 hour on site support ( and will be extended to at least a 4th year -- haven't had to use that either in 16 months when I had to get all of our NC523SFP 10GbE cards replaced to fix the manufacturing flaw in the Qlogic chipset). All of the equipment is 3-5,000 miles away from me in remote data centers though so I require on site support. HP support was quite masterful in replacing our NICs, I was surprised they managed to re-plug all 11 cables into each server correctly across all of the systems. Not even I'm that careful.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes

      Presumably the HP content on TPB will become somewhat more popular and more regularly updated...

  2. Missing Semicolon
    FAIL

    Typical greedy monopoly justification.

    HP wrote: “This type of support provider may appeal to budget-conscious procurement managers, but the support doesn’t match the breadth and depth of HP’s support expertise or global parts supply chain nor does it give our sales reps and partners the added loyalty that comes from an ongoing relationship built over time between HP and the customer, an attribute which often goes unrecognized.”

    Isn't that what the market is for? Surely, the aforesaid "budget-conscious procurement managers" are free to decide what level and quality of support they are prepared to pay for. If HP support is being supplanted by third parties, maybe the "breadth and depth of HP’s support expertise" isn't worth the price.

    In the car market, this kind of dealer-only servicing has been stamped out by the regulators. Why not for computers?

    1. pPPPP

      Re: Typical greedy monopoly justification.

      The problem is, when you get a component replaced by a third-party alternative, and that component subsequently fails spectacularly, or causes other things to fail, who do you turn to? If it's the vendor who supplied you that component, then fine. If you go back to HP then they probably have a right to tell you where to go. The problem for them is they probably spend a lot of time and money before they realise what you've done, and they're not going to be able to charge you for that time and money that they've spent.

      Using your analogy, it's like engine remaps in cars. I waited until the warranty ran out before doing mine, but plenty don't, and then moan at the manufacturer if there's a failure of any sort.

      Of course, they shouldn't be able to force you to go to them for support, but equally there's no reason I can see for them refusing to support you if you're paying someone else for support. Generic servers aren't that difficult to build and many of the big players do exactly that. The reason people buy from the likes of HP is for the support.

      Of course, withholding firmware updates is another thing. It's just something to factor in when you're choosing which vendor to buy your kit from.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Short sighted

    I bet Lenovo won't be holding back firmware/drivers if they think it will give them an advantage. Shame I use HP servers and switches, but will need to look elsewhere now.

  4. Mikel

    Interesting choice

    So no firmware updates for out of warranty HP servers. That is an interesting choice of strategy. It should be a crushing blow to the market in used HP servers.

    It will be interesting to see what it does to the value proposition of new ones. Cutting off the long tail is not going to sit well with SMB.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting choice

      Yes, given the iLO bugs we've run into, the non-availability of fixes for these product defects will certainly swing our business towards vendors whose stuff will run for 6 years without attention & consequently no need for a service contract.

      Note to HP: these are commodity servers, not superdomes...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Interesting choice

      >It should be a crushing blow to the market in used HP servers.

      Not so sure, servers that have been kept up-todate (ie. had all firmware updates applied before sale) are likely to have a small premium over those which haven't. Likewise any 'reputable' reseller of used HP servers will (unless HP prohibit this) simply apply all necessary firmware updates before resale...

    3. P Taylor
      Happy

      Re: Interesting choice

      Ive just gone to the HP support site and downloaded the latest Firmware DVD and PSP for a ML370 G6 and it downloaded fine.

      Didn't ask for any auth, or serial number checks.

      Maybe its not all kit...

  5. RonWheeler
    Devil

    Just say

    ...to Dell with it all.

    1. Grogan

      Re: Just say

      Yep, not only small businesses but I'd bet that a lot of web hosting companies will avoid HP server hardware. Dell Poweredge or machines built in house.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just say

      There's nothing to stop 3rd party maintainers accessing these updates they just need to be HP accredited, which really they should be anyway to maintain your HP kit.. I think this is as much about restricting the free support available to grey market kit as it is about pushing HP's own support services.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just say

        "they just need to be HP accredited"

        Just? As in "minor detail"? Have you looked at what they want you to do before you claim to know how to work their kit?

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Just say

          If it's anything like what they required waaay back in 1999-2002ish (which was the last time I did any HP authorized work for the company I was employed at), there was an online quiz for the technician to take and pass for each model or family before they'd get authorization to do warrenty or service work on those machines. That' was also the technician point of view- I don't know what hoops the company had to jump through from that perspective. HP did require that all techs (even for printers!) to be A+ certified before they'd allow them to even take the basic tests.

          FWIW, in order to do warranty work for Dell (we participate in their parts only dispatch service for large corporate customers on our desktops and servers) there's a test involved as well.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I think they need to see a doctor

    Looks like a suicide note to me.

  7. Nya

    Meanwhile...

    Lenovo enters the server market (properly) at the same time. And what happens next will be a bunch of suits wondering what happened to the sales.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fit for purpose

    So they supply a faulty product, then you have to pay to have it fixed.

    Can we return their faulty machines for a full refund then?

    1. Cian Duffy

      Re: Fit for purpose

      If you can convince the courts here (Ireland) that you were a consumer and not a business, yes - either full or pro-rata depending on age up to 6 years old. A firmware fix would be very much admitting a manufacturing fault as defined in Irish law. Doesn't apply in the same way to B2B transactions, but Proliant servers do get sold to consumers from time to time.

      We're in the middle of transitioning from white-box PCs, Acer laptops and Dell servers to HP across the board - may be worth hauling back before it's too late; was already a concern over similar priced servers having either 1 or generally 3 years warranty compared to 5 with Dell.

      1. usbac

        Re: Fit for purpose

        I don't know why you would buy HP? We moved from HP to Dell a long time ago, and have been very happy since! Servers are cheaper and run forever without problems.

        The original reason for switching was HP nickel and dime'ing us to death. With Dell we can custom configure a server online at one reasonable price. With HP you have to buy the base configuration, and start adding parts at huge markups. IBM was like HP also.

        1. Cian Duffy

          Re: Fit for purpose

          Reasons for leaving Dell were times, perceived reliability issues by management (really down to Seagate disks and bad OS builds by other staff here) and that our main business software vendor refuses to support anything else. Easier life, or so it seemed.

  9. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Once upon a time

    You used to get a full set of schematics with your computer.

    My how times have changed. For the better, Not!

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Once upon a time

      And a full BIOS listing as well (OK on paper, but still...)

      Somewhere we still have the IBM AT manuals with all of that.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Once upon a time

        >And a full BIOS listing

        Interesting example of what can happen to open source over the years, any one seen a full listing of a recent BIOS?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The policy also applies to those receiving Service Pack for ProLiant (SPP).

    Don't care about downloading the whole SPP as a single unit, but all the parts are easily available still from HP's website or at least were around about lunch time today when I last looked.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until customers stand up and say "I'm sorry we won't be buying anything from HP, because every purchase from HP effectively locks us into spending whatever money you chose to charge us for the entire life of the product we buy" to every HP employee they meet HP won't understand what they've just done.

    If I have a rack full of HP servers, running older levels of firmware, and I can find a standards compliant card which doesn't work in them, I should be able to demand a full refund for the product, as being "not fit for purpose" shouldn't I?

    I don't own the firmware, I'm only allowed to license it from HP, so I can't be financially responsible for fixing it, can I?

    1. DRTRlady

      You nailed it. This policy, and the same policies from IBM and Oracle, has created new and indefinite revenue streams in order to use their products. This is licensing, not ownership. Everyone that thinks they own a piece of HP kit no longer owns it. No one is going to buy used HP equipment, so the used value has just evaporated. Everyone accounting for HP products is now depreciating "air" and every financial statement is now in error.

  12. Gronk

    I've been downloading firmware updates for IBM servers without having to put in a serial number or support ID for quite a while.

    This crap from HP started with their Integrity systems. Entering the special maintenance mode requires a secret code which is generated on the fly, which means some parts replacements can't be done by the end user, so no self-maintenance.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP's statements don't hold water

    HP’s statements about unsolicited 3rd party support don’t hold water. They are blocking the firmware updates from the owner of the equipment, not just some support company acting on the customer’s behalf when they download it. The support company isn’t the customer, the person who bought the server is the customer. The customer should be able to choose whomever they like to support it, including their own internal staff, or perhaps a company that can support both their HP and Dell equipment, or whatever hardware mix they might have. A company making unsolicited offers doesn’t even know if the customer has HP equipment, they are just fishing, and blocking their CUSTOMERS from firmware updates isn’t going to stop that.

  14. Donn Bly
    Thumb Down

    HP is effectively stating that Proliant servers are no longer fit for purpose

    As the majority of my servers are HP this really sucks. I used to own an HP-Authorized service center (sold it about 6 years ago) and was certified on every x86 server they produced from the old NT 3.5 days onward, picked up all of the Compaq certifications when the merger occurred, and am fully capable of the physical maintenance on my current mix of G4 and G6 servers and Procurve switches.

    However, when I buy a server the manufacturer generally implies that the product is fit for purpose. In the past, that means that they provide hardware fixes during the initial warranty period, and software fixes over the life of the box.

    Now if I have to buy a new motherboard I can’t even flash it to match the firmware of the old one. That means that any HP Proliant server over a year old now has to be considered disposable.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I generally run a server longer than a year, and I don’t buy disposable servers. I don’t expect them to warranty the hardware forever, but I do expect them to provide software fixes for as long as that model is still eligible for support. It is only fair, after all we paid a PREMIUM for HP Servers up front.

    By limiting the software fixes for the warranty period, HP is saying that their Proliant servers are only fit-for-purpose for that 1-year (or depending on model, 3-year) warranty period.

    Since the life cycle in the business market is longer than that, HP is effectively stating that Proliant servers are no longer fit-for-purpose for ANY business unless you pay their “rape the customer” extortion/support fee, and they are making that statement RETROACTIVE against ALL EXISTING PROLIANT SERVERS.

    1. MondoMan

      Re: Flashing new MBs to match old ones

      Donn, just save a copy of the current BIOS image, and use that to flash any new replacement MB you need to swap in.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thinking about it this must already be covered by competition laws.

    This policy means that the only people who can bid in any competitive bid process are the manufacturers, because no one else can fully support any pre-existing HP system, let alone new stuff.

    So this doesn't just fuck TPMs, this fucks anyone who isn't the manufacturer of the proposed solution. Capita, Fujitisu, Computer Centre, etc. etc.

  16. Phil Koenig

    Whitman lives up to her reputation. Hello Lenovo...

    HP has steadily become a stupider and stupider vendor for commercial products, and this is the final straw for me.

    Most of the businesses I support are smaller businesses who inevitably have some hardware in use older than 3 years old, and who don't see the value in paying half the cost of a server every year for support which is mediocre at best. With the older stuff, we can just keep a used spare and swap it out if need be, far cheaper than buying a whole raft of new hardware every 3 years and re-configuring everything.

    As soon as I saw the new generation of Proliants were designed with "pretty faceplates" like Dell used to do, I figured it was only a matter of time before Whitman completely ruined the enterprise products division. That day has come in my opinion.

    This is exactly what Oracle did when they took over Sun's hardware division, and Oracle has been driving customers away from almost all of Sun's product lines ever since. I only wish I had seen the Reg article about this back in December.

    Yes, companies like Cisco and Juniper do this, but they have outstanding products with unique technology that cannot be obtained anywhere else, and they do an excellent job of support if you're paying for it. But they also are not draconian about things like firmware updates, the restrictions are not designed to be bulletproof.

    Excellent timing though - may as well light a bigger fire under Lenovo's rocketship, after their recent announcement about taking over IBM's x86 business.

    I've never been much a fan of Dell or IBM servers, Dell because there's no engineering behind them to speak of and because its a stupid organization, IBM because of their convoluted and arcane bureacracy.

    I was skeptical of Lenovo's buyout of IBM's consumer PC division but as it turns out they have done an excellent job with it. I think Lenovo has gained an early adopter of their new server products.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The company also justified the restriction as bringing the company in line with industry practices. Cisco Systems, IBM and Oracle also restrict access to server updates."

    Dell is shedding staff left and right, is HP going to do that too? How about IBM selling their x86 server line, is HP going to do that as well?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oz consumer law

    The mail we received detailing this change here in Oz has this paragraph tacked on the end:

    Notwithstanding the above, our products come with consumer guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Nothing in this letter excludes or limits any right or remedy, or any guarantee, warranty or other term or condition implied or imposed by the ACL which cannot be excluded or limited. Therefore, if you are a consumer within the meaning of the ACL you may still be entitled to server firmware updates and SPP in accordance with your rights under the ACL even if you do not have an active support agreement, HP CarePack or HP Limited warranty. Please visit Contact HPand call our technical support team so that we can assess your entitlement. For further information on consumer rights, visit www.accc.gov.au/consumerguarantees.

    So does this mean that next time we log a support call and HP tell us to download and install a new firmware before they will provide further help, we can just say "sorry, we don't have a support login. You will have to send on onsite engineer to update it."

  19. AZHippy

    Can we have a firmware only payment option?

    We left HP support not for the cost but for the lack of responsiveness. While it is true that we saved a great deal of money by moving to third party support that is not why we started looking for alternatives to HP's own support. HP stopped stocking parts locally which meant that while the engineer was onsite within the contracted 4 hours, we sometimes had to wait for the next day for the part to arrive. This is not a good option when our business critical system was going to be down for 24 hours, we found a company that had the parts locally, they came out the same day and fixed our problem. We have been using them now for the last 15 years and are quite pleased with both the responsiveness and cost.

    If HP would improve their service, maybe so many customers wouldn't be looking at alternatives.

  20. MAH

    The problem with this policy is that if they or a partner sell me a Server and it has a flaw...call it one with ability to randomly lose data on the array controller they don't find for X years and my server is no longer under HP warranty (since it makes sense to self warranty), they are telling me I have to either pay their fee, or its my problem and I will have to live with the risk of not fixing it (or paying one of their "HP Partners" to come in and fix it for me at my cost.

    Really, its all to protect their "Partners" from the 30,000 people who can do the job cheaper and just as well as a partner.

    Now, imagine if they sold cars. I have a gas tank that could explode anytime due to a manufacturing (or software defect) but since I am not under warranty, its my problem to pay to get it fixed the recall only covers people who are under warranty.

    How fast do you think they would get sued for stupidity like that?

    I have no problem with them saying, hey, we have a firmware that can increase performance by 20%, but you can't have it because you ae not under warranty...thats an enhancement, not a fix for a defect.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is an organization forming to fight exactly this type of move.

    Please check out http://www.digitalrighttorepair.org/. Protect your rights to repair your own equipment. If the manufacturer won’t let you fix your things, you don’t really own them. Add your name to their list of supporters.

    1. DRTRlady

      Re: There is an organization forming to fight exactly this type of move.

      Every one of us can contact our legislators and ask for laws to protect us. The request is simple - make sure that vendors that sell IT hardware provide public access to service documentation, all patches and fixes that impact specifications, and sell parts on a non-discriminatory basis to owners for 7 years after product introduction. Owners can then decide whom they want to fix their equipment including themselves.

  22. Glenn Hunt

    What HP is forgetting is that IBM, Cisco and Sun are not in the x86 server market. So they are actually getting "out of line" with the competition.

  23. Tim Bates

    This could be interesting...

    What are they doing for servers purchased BEFORE this came into effect?

    Are they leaving up any firmware updates they had previously posted so customers can still get updates to the time this came into effect?

    It will also be interesting to see how they react to Australian customers who invoke the Australian Consumer Law too (businesses buying for their own use are consumers under this law). If HP knows of a fix in firmware, they could be forced to supply it for free even if the warranty is over.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook OSS Switches and servers...

    The horse is well and truly gone, cannot even see the stable anymore.

  25. Stretch

    "differentiated experience tailored to their needs and enabling a proactive support experience"

    Surely such unmitigated bullshit should be illegal

  26. theblackhand Silver badge

    Market share

    My expectation for the x86 server market is that the big three (HP/IBM now Lenovo/Dell) would see one of them drop back to the rest of the pack (i.e. drop from the pack earning more than US$2b/quarter to the pack earning less than US$1b/quarter).

    Lenovo seem to be very good at picking up market share in a declining market with their PC business and I expect to see that continue with their server business.

    Which leaves Dell and HP - before this move I would have picked Dell to drop now it's back to 50/50.

    I thought HP had a better understanding of their customers.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    microserver

    It'll be fun to see how quickly the micro server bites the dust, when folks see that they have to pay 200% more than the micro server's cost to pay for a support contract.

    When HP sees how unwilling some customers are to pay for firmware support, it'll also be interesting to see how quickly the firmware R&D organizations get RIF'ed.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's like saying you can't fix your own car or take it to an independent dealer.

    I imagine the EU or DOJ will have a look at this one soon.

  29. AJ MacLeod

    Got this last night

    and that's me convinced - I won't be buying HP servers again. It's a shame because I'd only just settled on them in the past year or two and was pretty happy (notwithstanding having to pay extra for iLO to be usable - and even then it's a bit iffy unless you're using old versions of IE)

    I was buying desktops and laptops from Dell anyway, might as well add servers to the list.

  30. jmarion

    Great Way to kill your residual value

    If HP is the only company that can offer tech services on their products because they are the only ones who can obtain software releases than HP can force customers to buy their latest products by making the maintenance costs so high that it doesn't pay for the customer to keep the product.

    Unintended consequence. They kill their residual value. And when a customer gets nothing for their used HP product, does HP think that customer will buy HP again?

    Joe Marion

  31. nichomach

    Congrats, HP

    No more Proliants here. Ever.

  32. Smoking Gun

    "Yes, yes it does... Not all of us with HP servers are Fortune500 clients, some of us are small shops with a shoestring budget and we just want somebody to stockpile some spare parts (ie - spinning rust drives) for our older machines. Simples. We don't necessarily need the touchy-feely masturbation that HP sells."

    Totally agreed. I also don't want the Proactive Care rubbish rammed down my throat.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coporate Greed

    I crafted a nicely worded complaint to the UK MD on this very subject last night after receiving my email. This afternoon I had a email reply from one of his minions asking me to ring the ProLiant helpdesk if I had an issue. Pah........

    I agree with all the earlier comments about resell value and support.

    All I want is to be able to obtain less broken driver & firmware updates for my expensive servers.

    It seems as if Dell are looking better every day.

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