Technical Support Services Blog
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Customers for life

This week, HP announced that effective February 19, 2014, we will provide firmware updates through the HP Support Center only to customers with a valid warranty, Care Pack Service or support agreement. 

 

This decision reinforces our goal to provide access to the latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property, for our customers who have chosen to maximize and protect their IT investments.  We know this is a change from how we’ve done business in the past; however, this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for our customers and partners.

 

Our customers under warranty or support coverage will not need to pay for firmware access, and we are in no way trying to force customers into purchasing extended coverage.  That is, and always will be, a customer’s choice. 

 

At the end of the day, we want you to know that you can continue to count on HP. And we will continue to provide an easily accessible way for our customers to download firmware updates.  Our intention is to offer differentiated and long-term value in the products and services we provide. 

 

If you would like more information please click our FAQ here.

 

**UPDATE**

I provide more context for the decision, answer some questions and hope to address some of the concerns you raised on this article.

 

 

Mary Mc Coy.jpgMary McCoy

Vice President, HP Servers - Support

Technology Services

 

Mary has been with HP for over 30 years, where she has held leadership roles in HP Solution Centers, HP Expert Centers, HP Education and HP Consulting. 

 

She currently manages the HP Technology Services business for HP Servers.

In the fall of 2013, Mary was appointed to the Board of Directors at TSANet (Technical Support Alliance Network), the industry’s largest vendor-neutral support alliance. 

 

Comments
Grant Slater | ‎02-07-2014 02:43 PM

Will HP continue to make firmware updates available to UK (and EU) consumers for out-of-warranty HP Proliant servers for known defects under United Kingdom Sale of Goods Act 1979?

William Plein | ‎02-07-2014 02:46 PM

I find this move amazing, and not in a good way.

 

The other major server vendors do not have this policy. They make firmware and driver downloads available free of charge without requiring a service contract.

 

The effect is several fold:

 

Small customers like myself (I own one HP server for a home lab, paid for by myself and not my employer) will not purchase HP gear if they require an ongoing service contract for simple software downloads. This extends upwards through the SMB market.

 

Extremely large customers, who have a single service contract, will need to find some way to give access to their hundreds of technologists that need access to drivers. This means that you, HP, are creating new management issues for them in their environment, even if you create a nice multi-tiered login process that allows for such hierarchical permissions for a single contract.

 

I can't imagine this is going to improve your sales of equipment. I can imagine that HP things that they are going to make more money on support contracts.

 

Try putting a service contract on my next purchase of a home server, which will likely be from IBM or Dell.

torck | ‎02-07-2014 08:03 PM

I think this is bad practice. Should keep it the way it was it's not broken why change it?

Michael Graziano | ‎02-07-2014 08:13 PM

"this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for our customers and partners."

 

Would you mind expanding on this a bit? 
Specifically, how is restricting the availability of firmware upgrades aligned with industry best practices? (IBM for example continues to make firmware updates available to the general public.)

 

Having machines with outdated firmware in the field certainly seems like a bad practice to me as someone who has to manage the equipment once it's been deployed, and under this new policy the only way we can get updates would be to purchase extended support contracts to cover equipment once the initial warranty expires.

That's an added cost for customers which  impacts the economics of long-term deployment of HP hardware.

Reid | ‎02-08-2014 02:48 AM

Unfortunately, it will still be an utter nightmare to access the support website, link our portal accounts to our company's ID, make sure our systems' serial numbers are linked with the company account, and so on.  Huge mistake.  You obviously have no clue how difficult it is get around your own company's site.  

 

Not a knee-jerk reaction; I'll give you a chance and see how it goes, as we do keep all of our machines under support.  From there I'll analyze what to do with our business.  We're not a huge company, but it would be trivial to switch our >$1M in annual purchases to another vendor.

Joe Belian | ‎02-08-2014 07:31 AM

Fireware is to fix functionaly over 90% of the time, not to add benifits to the product.  Your firmware updates are because there is a problem with a product and you are fixing it.  By doing this, you are forcing people to pay for coverage for an extended period of time to fix issues that you failed to notice or resolve in a timely fashion. 

Thank you for informing us of this.   While every laptop I have ever purchased (probably one every two years) has been an HP, I now know that you don't care about your customers.  I no longer work retail, I now regret that when I did I usually recommended your products over any others, that will not be the case ever again.  I will never be purchasing another HP product again.  Simple as that really.  

Not sure why I'm writing this, you don't care for my business anyways. 

Have a good day. 

Joe Belian | ‎02-08-2014 07:37 AM

I would like to apologize for my failure of basic reading.  After checking the FAQs, I realized this is all servers.  Working in that industry, I realize this is 100% in line with a lot of other server companies as well.  

Please ignore my last comment and feel free to delete both.  Have a great day. 

Eric Symail | ‎02-08-2014 07:44 AM

So given that you are giving " valuable intellectual property" to your customers who are under warrenty, I assume that this includes a license that allows them to improve and modify said  valuable intellectual property to their heart's content? If not, how has that cost HP anything, I'm slightly confused if I should bother renewing my ~50 servers worth of warranties given the machines are quite old.

Rob Arundel | ‎02-08-2014 08:21 AM

I would like to see HP clarify this further, will security related firmware be included in this change of policy?

If security updates are not immune to this then the decision will impact by purchasing decisions as we shall need to revise the projected TCO for the lifecycle of HP products.

 

@HP - can you advise ?

 

 

Akash | ‎02-08-2014 10:10 AM

Does this means that we have to purchase extended warranty for sticking to the latest updates?

Jonathan Wood | ‎02-08-2014 10:32 AM

This does (to me) seem to be trying to push consumers into buying long term support packages.

 

I'm not sure why this is described as 'Best Practice'. This seems to me to be the worst kind of misuse of that term. How is this better in any way than alowing all of those who have decided to invest in HP technology at the time of purchase to benifit from ongoing updates. Is there any evidence that suggests witholding updates from those not in support contracts is Best Practice?

 

This announcement does allow firms and individuals to make a choice between suppliers who will be offering updates without the need for ongoing contracts and those who will not such as HP. 

 

 

 

 

ssvenn | ‎02-08-2014 10:37 AM

Please don't do this! It will make IT workers everywhere annoyed about having to punch in a ton of unneccessary details on a website to download a simple driver kit, will make it hard for people buying and training themselves on old ProLiant servers for home use, and will push many customers over to your competition!

 

There's absolutely ZERO benefit for the customers, and the current system was working just fine. I've been a ProLiant advocate for many years but this is a total gamechanger.

Martin Lester | ‎02-08-2014 12:34 PM

It will be entirely transparent to the majority of owners of HP hardware that this *is* an attempt to coerce them into buying extended coverage. If they want the latest security updates (and who would seriously suggest running an unpatched server with known vulnerabilities?), they have little other choice. To say otherwise, and to do so in such language, only serves to add insult to injury.

 

As for being "best practice", would you care to name the other major computer hardware vendors with this policy?

 

From a sales perspective, it is indeed desirable to offer "differentiated value" in the marketplace, but to do so by charging for a previously free service, to the disadvantage of customers, seems a strange thing to be proud of.

 

From an ethical perspective, the existence of bugs and security holes in firmware represents a failing on the vendor's part, even if it is inevitable. Owners rightly expect vendors to make up for this by releasing updates at no cost. Going against this convention will seriously harm your image and customer goodwill.

 

I appreciate that writing firmware is difficult, and that maintenance can be costly. But this cost ought to be included in the development of the product. That said, your announcement might have been better-received if you had said: "Maintaining firmware is really expensive. We need to start charging for it so we can put more money into fixing bugs and security holes. Sorry." But instead of apologising, you try to present it as an advantage!

Hans Frankenstein | ‎02-08-2014 05:11 PM

Does this also applies to consumer products, where only just 1 year warranty well be granted out of the box?

 

Really?

 

 

Kevin Schoonover | ‎02-08-2014 06:59 PM

I've read your statements above several times and I really don't see why you would do this. What is the benefit to HP or their customers? I do think HP should charge for any help desk or support calls on products that are out of warranty or do not have a service contract. Drivers and firmware are a self-service model, I can't see where this has a huge impact on HP. I assume most midsize and up companies have service contracts on the majority of their equipment. People that do not have contracts tend to be small businesses, home users and tech enthusiasts. By taking the steps you have outlined above you will kill off the three segments I just mentioned. Although these may not be big pieces of business for you this is the farm team for other IT departments. People hone their skills at home with servers and storage products they picked up used. I believe it is a huge benefit to HP to have people learn VMware on HP micro server with a smart array controller in their basement. Later when they have a job in an IT department or when they move to a bigger company they are in a much better position to position HP technology. First hand experience because of my comfort level with HP smart array raid controllers I recommend them frequently to people who would normally buy Adaptec and LSI. These of course are used cards, but there is also no impact to HP support group. We go to the website we download the latest firmware latest drivers wer'e up and running. Oracle did the same thing to Sun a few years ago. Now Solaris is all but dead in the entry-level. I have all HP servers at home, all HP laptops, all HP desktops, HP monitors, several HP tablets, I seldom call HP support, but I do rely on drivers and firmware and now you're turning that off. I'm sure you have reasons why you're doing this but I think you're missing the forest for the trees.

jjkusaf | ‎02-09-2014 02:34 PM

So, this is just for enterprise products and not consumer goods....right?

Robert Miller | ‎02-09-2014 06:22 PM

What do self maintainers need to do to get access to firmware and driver updates in the future?    

Kevin Chen | ‎02-09-2014 08:47 PM

Let's say there's a security vulnerability in HP firmware and HP issues an update to fix it. Only people who paid for extra support will get it, and everyone else will have to run their servers unpatched? 

 

How does this "align with industry best practices"? 

Michael Smith | ‎02-09-2014 11:18 PM

I'm sorry....How does this align with best practices? How is making servers more vulnerable by but making the patch available to all a best practice?  

José David Gea | ‎02-10-2014 12:22 PM

As an owner of several HP machines. I warantee this is not how to treat customers. Critial firmware updates are usually product of design failures and should not be charged to clients. There is no other company doing this.

Jeff T | ‎02-10-2014 04:13 PM

Dear Mary,

 

Since no one from HP has been willing to take the time to address our questions via phone and we could not find another way to contact you regarding this issue, we are using this comment mechanism to respond to this change in policy.

 

As a government entity with civilian departments, we are much more like a Fortune 100 company than that a government organization.  We do not purchase on contracts, we purchase what we need as we need it.  We purchase four our needs, and we purchase for other organizations throughout the continent.  As a policy, we maintain hardware support for 2 years from the date of purchase; servers older than that are typically replaced, or have service done by our staff.  We have more than 1000 servers, and they have been a mix of HP, IBM and Dell an a small number of other special purpose manufacturers; we have the technical staff to do our own maintenance and keep costs down.  We have suffered, like many customers, through the wait for HP firmware to support new server OS releases from time to time.  We purchase new servers monthly, but we also have 6 and 7 year old servers that provide their services still exceeding our SLA requirements.  Contract support is not an economical solution for servers more than 2 years old.  We believed it before and now we have proved it, not just to ourselves, but to OUR customers AND our management who fought us every step of the way in implementing this policy.

 

So why explain all this?  The answer is really simple; not will we not, but we cannot afford to pay for service contracts just for HP software/firmware updates.  Other companies have tried (and failed, and not just with us) this strategy, and they have either dropped it, or they have provided us with little or no charge updates in order to keep our business.  In the case of HP this problem is more critical for us as software support is only 90 days and is already of very poor quality.  What happens when a fix exceeds that time frame, as has frequently been the case with HP?

 

Ethically, no customer should EVER be forced to pay just to keep from experiencing issues created by the manufacturer of a piece of equipment.  Not ever.  IS MS releases a patch and if breaks a server, which has occurred to us many times with HP storage drivers over the past 5 years, we are not going to pay to get it to work.  So the choices HP has are quite obvious; either drop this requirement altogether, or add a reasonably priced organization wide fee for such services.

 

It is imperative of us, especially in the current economic climate,  to contral unneccsary or unacceptable costs.  IT costs are alreadt out of controal for virtually all compnaies large and small.  Many of our customers are small goverment organization, non-profit non polical organizations and research groups.  These costs simply cannot be handled, and if the HP policy is goice to be to require these hardware contracts, we are forced to simply remove HP from our list of companies, and to prioritize the removal of our current HP servers.  We did this before and it has not hurt us in any way; it in fact has proven to us the value our our methodology for our customers and for our organization itself.

 

It is our sincere hope that HP will re-evaluate this decision and make the appropraite changes; we like the equipment and it has proved reliable, hench the real lack of requirement for hardware maintenance beyond the first 2 years.

 

We look forward to HP's prompt decision regarding the futre of this policy.

 

Regards,

J.T.. Joe, Dyland and Marianne

Rick Beldin | ‎02-10-2014 04:46 PM

Hi Mary...

 

 

I'm curious about details of the implementation.  Will customers without contracts be able to see the changelogs, tech notes and the like for firmware without download ability?  Or will that be blocked as well?

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

 

Rick Beldin

 

Linux ERT

Underwhelmed HP customer | ‎02-10-2014 08:30 PM

 "latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property" - except that most firmware updates are either bug fixes for your own hardware or security patches for your software (such as ILO vulnerabilities).  As a longtime HP purchaser of Proliant, Lefthand, and Equallogic systems, I made the decision to make a white box solution today.  The ONLY other vendor doing this is Oracle, and I don't purchase their software either.

HP Reseller California | ‎02-10-2014 10:08 PM

I find the title of this post extremely telling, "Customers for Life". Where HP's true goal, is to extend the one-time hardware purchase event into a transaction which spans a Life-time.  That is, if you want to continue using your physical property/asset, securely, and bug-free.

 

Even for the simple case to support a newly released Intel CPU, for which the BIOS isn't coded to support (yet).  Let alone keeping a company's infrastructure bug and corruption free, and security fixes in place.

 

We have been a 12 year HP reseller (posting under a vague name/email, to protect our business), and we have already been very hard pressed to display the value of HP "vanity servers", over and above "commodity" servers from lesser(??) competitors.  These competitors who have caught-up to HP, in the topics of BMC (iLO), remote management, and performance per dollar. Your customer's view, is this policy shifts HP equipment from the Asset column further into the Liability column.

 

As for industry standard, the only companies which I know of that lock a customer into a subscription as a bounty for fixes are: Oracle, and Cisco.  I'm sure there's a couple more. But, the vast majority of vendors are happy to correct their bugs/MISTAKES post sale.  As it ADDS value and trust to their brand.

 

HP, (and Mary), please consider retracting this monetization of the existing product support stream.  Say, 'you have heard your customers, loud and clear'.  I know you have spent millions on the infrastructure to implement these business rules.  I truly enjoy selling the HP brand, but there are plenty of suitable replacement brand-names out there; which don't intend to "protect their IT investments" via their customer's bank account.

 

We can see this policy as possible (maybe valuable?) in the NonStop, and Integrity product lines; but when applied to the consumer driven Proliant product line, this is just bad strategy.

 

Sad day for a very loyal HP partner (and customer).

Stephen M | ‎02-11-2014 02:15 AM

From an IT professional's point of view, this is sure a royal pain in the neck. I am among just 14 field engineers and the effect on us is major. We are now having to determine what id to link all our logins to for fw updates etc. If I link it to 

mine, the other 13 potential engineers won't have access to the same fw pool if they are sent to the same client.

 

 

We're talking several hundred clients, virtually all of whom we've recommended and installed HP products. As previous commentators have noted, it is YOUR FW updates being installed on YOUR products that resolve issues and optimize YOUR products thus making YOUR customers (and the IT vendors / staff who support them) happier long term customers. The new policy jeopardizes that overall client satisfaction factor perhaps more than you realize or  accounted for when you met at HP to come up with this policy and you KNEW that there would be a back lash- you just weren't sure how much.

 

 

As with others, most all my clients have up to date coverage. Even with that, it is by no means easy to get driver and firmware updates due to your change.

 

 

Please, please streamline this process in some way to help us all out. 

Thanks.

Tyler Hart | ‎02-11-2014 05:11 AM

We spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on HP switching alone, and buy at least 2-3 Proliant servers a year. The Proliant line has been a favorite of mine for years, and I'd prefer not to change that, but this certainly would make me look at other manufacturers.

 

The HP website is a nightmare, and having to budget for and track so-called entitlements and service contracts from one more vendor is the last thing that I need. This is a poor decision that will alienate your customers, particular SMB customers and MSPs who are recommending and deploying your products. 

TS_Guest | ‎02-11-2014 05:37 AM

We have provided more context for the decision, answer some questions and hope to address some of the concerns you raised on this article.

Mark Marra | ‎02-11-2014 01:48 PM

This is bad news, even with your follow up post saying that only some updates will be behind a paywall.  This is viewed by many in the industry as the beginning of a slippery slope. Here are some of the common things that are being said throughout the industry. 

 

1. IT pros that shop in the second-hand market for home/lab equipment will buy Dell or IBM/Lenovo instead. Long-time HP enthusiasts will say "Hey, the latest Dell line actually isn't half bad." Which will give Dell more traction in their business. The secondhand market does indeed have an impact on your bottom line. 

 

2. First the Gen8 servers  start detecting non-HP HDD/SSDs, now firmware restrictions - what's next? Customers will start diversifying to more open platforms. Normally, I'd never recommend using disks that aren't vendor supplied, but that shouldn't be a requirement, just like I'd never recommend running production servers without a support agreement, but that too shouldn't be a requirement.

 

3. Customers will purchase their dev/test/pre-prod hardware from other vendors where they can have lesser or no support and still have access to all patches from that vendor. This  increases the chance of a switch away from HP during the next production hardware refresh as IT pros get more familiar with other platforms. 

 

In general, this is a short-sighted move. 

ThomasW | ‎02-11-2014 01:49 PM
As a HP Partner, we support many HP-Customers, running HP Proliant Servers as their Core IT-Infrastructure. As this Infrastructure Platform gains more and more importance, it's obvious that this Infrastructure is built in a redundant way. This in return makes it unnecessary to have a HP Service Contract for each individual System. How do I have to proceed if I do need a Firmware-Update on a "per Incident" basis? What will be the cost of such an “On-Time-Update”? Is there a Service available, containing only "FW-Update Subscription" without the need of purchasing a full HP CarePack?
Steve McElheny | ‎02-11-2014 02:16 PM

I have used HP Proliant Servers in our Data Center for over 12 years.  We have always counted on the hardware.  The only time I have ever had to update firmware is when the older firmware has caused a problem with a newer version of the OS.  I always brought a spare server rather than buying the extended warranty.  This way I can get my company back up faster.  HP in my opinion has been making some poor business decisions lately.  This is going to influence my buying decision going forward even in the desktop space.  Lenovo, Dell, IBM, and even Cisco’s Data Center are looking better every day.  HP what are you thinking?     

Circles | ‎02-11-2014 07:02 PM

So essentially HP is now telling us that we must purchase support contracts to receive what other manufacturers continue to provide for free? Please show me that I'm misunderstanding this if that isn't the case.

 

I understand that HP is trying to differentiate their support services, but I'm not seeing how this is going to benefit your customers. It seems from all that I've read regarding this that after we've purchased a machine we're effectively no longer considered customers unless we purchase a support contract directly through HP.

If you could explain in definitive detail exactly what tangible benefits this has for the customer I would be very appreciative. Right now all I can see is this effectively limiting access to updates for already purchased equipment that has not reached EOL.

chamika ‎02-12-2014 10:43 AM - edited ‎02-12-2014 10:46 AM

Well this is indeed a surprise move from HP. Customers who will get affected by this change are SME/home-office type customers while most of enterprise customers already have (they should have) required support coverage in place.

 

However, I cannot agree with the following statement “we are in no way trying to force customers into purchasing extended coverage.  That is, and always will be, a customer’s choice”. In fact this is not a choice but an impulsive ultimatum.

 

If I may assess this with a neutral view, there are both Pros & Cons.

 

Pros:

  • As an organization, HP should protect their intellectual Property (IP). This move will affect all third party support providers and HP partners who provide support without HP’s involvement. Net advantage to HP is to uncover a whole new segment of customers (a blue ocean) which could generate more services revenue where support partners too can benefit.

     

  • End users will benefit from reliable support services backed with HP’s industry expertise, HP certified engineers, genuine parts etc.

Cons:

  • Customers may end up paying for support services, just to be eligible for relevant updates at the cost of HP’s poor quality control (QC) and design errors. In other words, HP puts the burden of their own issues on their own loyal customer.

     

  • No other visible value-add, hence possibility of reduced HP market share and opportunity for competitors.

     

  • Market decline for pre-owned HP servers sold by third parties.

As for other industry players, HP’s competitor IBM too had opted to implement such restrictions in August 2013. However Dell and Cisco Blade server customers have unrestricted access to related updates.

 

Recommendations:

  • A rational price for support services. It shouldn’t cost half of the server’s purchase price.

     

  • A reasonable grace period must be provided for customers so that whoever wishes to purchase paid support services has sufficient time .  

     

  • A guarantee that HP would release all “critical updates” free for any issue where root cause is due to HP design/QC issues.
  • Clear upfront communications on EoSL products and dates. Provide support availability, purchasability of Carepacks for servers from older generations.
Patrick Lee | ‎02-14-2014 02:14 AM

Yes, it's ok for us to buy service directly from HP upon our management approval for the additional huge amount of running cost due to this change. But does HP have sufficient man-power and logistic flow to handle if all HP customers in the world join HP hardware maintenance service directly?

 

gordonq | ‎02-14-2014 12:14 PM

Cisco no longer provide updates unless you have smartnet coverage, this I suspect has helped with the growth of HP in the networking market, it made a lot of people review the "we always use Cisco argument", and a lot of our customers have started using other manufacturers.

Likewise HP servers "do what they say on the tin"  "they just keep working", is going to be questioned going forward .  I think a lot of customers will reevaluate the TCO, post this announcement, what might start as a trickle could so easily become a flood of bad feeling, for long term loyal customers. 

PhilT | ‎02-14-2014 04:58 PM

As an HP Partner Engineer and Master ASE I think that I can understand where HP is coming from. What they have said is that they will provide at no cost the updates for the basic components of the Proliant Servers.  But when it comes to the Complex Programming Logic Devices (CPLD) and System ROM they are going to require a support contract.  The ROM and CPLD is where HP has a market diffrentiator that gives them an edge on their competitors.  Now if their competitors want to buy an HP server and support contract and get this firmware they are able to do this and I am sure that they all do.  But to not try and maintain an edge on the market as long as possible would be irresponsioble on the part of HP.

 

I do thinkl that they should come up with a support contract for firmware updates ony as a minimal cost that would be affordable to the SMB and home users.  HP is correct in that development and maintenance of the ROM and CPLD is expensive.  This money has to come from somewhere whether it is up front loading of the server cost or backend payment of a support contract.  If HP can get more of the fuinds through a backend process that may in fact make the initial cost of servers drop. 

 

I see this as a move to attempt to lower the initial cost of servers while maintaining the high level of ingenuity and creativity in the market by recovering the cost for maintenance through a backend sale of support contracts.

 

It all comes down to one thiong.  The money to develope and maintin the devices that make HP a market leader in innovation comes from somewhere.  Where would you rather it come from?

Neeru | ‎06-17-2014 12:46 PM

Hey there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your posts.

joseam | ‎06-17-2014 05:00 PM

Hello Neeru,

 

Thanks for following the Technical Support Services blog.  We appreciate your positive feedback and hope you will return to the site often. 

 

Are there any topics that you would like one of our HP Experts to write about?

 

 

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