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Posted on February 10th, 2014 by Steve Cassidy

HP cuts off upgrades to spite its loyal customers

No updates for HP servers

If you have an HP ProLiant server, or a ProCurve switch, then you’d better set some time aside before February 19th to download the drivers, BIOS updates, patches and fixes for your model from the HP support website. Because after that date, unless you have a current warranty or a Care Pack Service Agreement, you will be unable to get your download.

In a startlingly brief five-paragraph blog post entitled, with no obvious sense of irony, “Customers for life”, senior HP staffer Mary McCoy lays out the company‚Äôs rationale for this move and slips in various interestingly chosen phrases, such as that this “aligns with industry best practices” and that HP is “in no way trying to force customers to purchase extended coverage”.

This will of course be a situation with some pros and cons. However, I don’t think HP realise just how far the shadow of such an announcement will be cast: the starting point for me is that if I had to think carefully about all the servers I deal with day in day out, the HP ones are the kind that need the least persistent fiddling with when it comes to firmware downloads and driver updates. Switches, ditto: though these often benefit more when the update process is done, because they tend to be left utterly alone for many years…

HP has just given carte blanche to some of the most pernicious, time-consuming and annoying parts of the web: the fakers

The big problem with paywalling updates like these is that HP has just given carte blanche to some of the most pernicious, time-consuming and annoying parts of the web: the fakers.

If you are in the habit of searching for drivers to download and apply then you will have seen the SEO fight that’s developed between perfectly straightforward, utterly honest vendor driver libraries, and shysters who have realised that they can easily make a friendlier front-end to the HP support labyrinth (or the Microsoft one, or Packard Bell: no vendor is immune, big or small).

And, when they’ve shown you what looks like a promising link to the particular Care Pack you’re after, they wrap it up with three other utilities, a BHO and a shopping toolbar for your browser, while they’re at it.

Firmware and fixes for machines fall right into the hands of these sites, because so far they have been freely downloadable: everybody’s got a folder on their server with a current set for that machine (at least, I hope they do). This means that faker sites can claim to have a download, and it may even be usable on your machine, but with the up-to-date files hidden inside a paywall, you can’t tell whether you’re getting the real thing.

Worse still, and something that I’ve always disliked in the IT business, is the emotional-blackmail freebie. The worst example of this used to be copies of Microsoft Office, which tight-fisted users would gladly take on a favours basis from “helpful” computer mates. Admittedly, the ecosystem of server room nerds hungry for BIOS upgrades is a rather smaller one than in the case of MS Office, but the effect remains the same: “oh yes guv my mate’s got those, nudge nudge” is an unhealthy way to look after vital systems.

Which, when you think about it, is a kind of twisted mirror for HP’s stated motivations. Taking ownership of something as vital as a server BIOS out of the hands of the shifty back-street support network, and putting it back at a validated, confirmable source, is a very good way of ensuring that your users stay in a tight relationship with their accredited suppliers.

(Except, these things can go too far. I well remember my sense of surprise and discomfort when asking for a firmware upgrade to an Allied Teleysn layer 3 switch dumped me on a page where far too many questions strayed much too far outside the simple remit of a download, and on into my travel plans, country of residence and political affiliations, because AT wanted to clear my software request with the Department of Homeland Security. A week or so later, I got my files.)

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to thinks the whole “support warranty customers only” idea is utter madness. Many servers – especially ones as well made as HP’s – run for years beyond the notional end of their maintenance cover, and generating an impression that this should be time to re-buy, re-think and re-provision only seems good inside the faintly fantastical world of the evangelical sales guru.

This, for me, is the longest shadow of all: an impact which is based on the feeling that this restriction might affect you further on down the line, in ways you can’t predict, when in fact it won’t really matter at all. That’s how not to make your customers feel, HP.

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19 Responses to “ HP cuts off upgrades to spite its loyal customers ”

  1. Jason Says:
    February 10th, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I agree, while I understand that they want to make more money the better approach would be to charge for out of warranty servers for phone support, but what does it cost them to have the software there to download?

     
  2. @garysballs Says:
    February 10th, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    This is a brilliant analysis. You absolutely nailed it. HP’s change of policy is sheer madness…the will be out of the lower end server business in a few years as a result. What seems a smart thing to do is a smart aleck thing to do! And we all know what eventually happens to those…Michael Dell must be licking his chops. I’ll be recommending Dell from now on.

     
  3. Chris Comley Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 12:11 am

    My assumption is Mary McCoy actually works for Dell. I’ll certainly be thinking twice before designing in an HP box now. Won’t soon be looking at any second-hand HP kit either.

     
  4. Tim Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Chris, you are quite right about used UP kit. Now the cost of ownership of an HP server has gone up because the resale value has plummeted. Well done HP you can add your server business to the casualty list along with Palm and Autonomy.

     
  5. Lee Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Goodbye HP. your servers were decent enough but for some strange reason I no longer feel able to recommend them…. Unless there is some furious back-peddling done in the next few days.

     
  6. JohnB Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Never mind the 19th Feb, it looks like they have already implemented the block (Feb 11th).
    Looks like HP are now off my short list of vendors for any product. If they can do this for servers, then they are more likely to do the same for all their other products.

     
  7. raymond poore Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 8:16 am

    HP has again shot itself in the foot with its latest decision to block updates I do not see any future for them

     
  8. Colin R Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Great news, the price of secondhand Z800 workstations will drop and I can Hackintosh one for cheap! Well done HP, for pulling the trigger on your sidearm while it was still in the holster. Hope your toes grow back….

     
  9. Chris Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 11:37 am

    The article says that this change is for ProCurve switches also, the HP site only mentions ProLiant servers…

    If that’s the case then I don’t need to download the latest firmware for our switches.

    I was looking to purchase some new servers soon, will definitely be considering other vendors such as Lenovo and Fujitsu.

     
  10. David Wright Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    The Z800 isn’t a Procurve server, or it wasn’t the last time I looked…

     
  11. Nick P Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    We’ve been in the habit of buying baby Proliants for deployment to temporary sites. That’s not going to be happening anymore.

     
  12. Mal W Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    It will certainly put the brakes on future sales.

    Some server owners will download malware encrusted firmware updates from pirate sites and find their servers crashing or worse. Guess who’s name is going to be mud because their servers are falling over.

    This type of penny pinching by HP is the typical “spoiling of the ship for a ha’porth of tar”.

    Could HP be the new Titanic?

     
  13. Mal W Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Slightly more worrying is that garysballs is going to recommend Dell.

    That’s just going toooo far.

     
  14. John F. Jackson Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    My post on HP’s site would probably have been the first …
    … but I might have overdone it with …
    … ‘arrogant, greedy, full of marketing lies and BS, increasingly typical of American IT companies’.

    Then I got started with the contempt and sarcasm and picking every single word apart.
    My guess is that even the moderator couldn’t take the backlash, let alone the author.

     
  15. John F. Jackson Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I think you guys are far too nice.

    This move and deceitful message deserve to blasted to smithereens.

    Otherwise everyone will be stuck with MSFT Office subscriptions, Adobe CS subscriptions … and this BS …

    … at a time of diminishing returns and lower hardware costs, coupled with all the supposed reductions possible by clod architectures.

    NOW is the time to take a stance against the Americans, or you will wake up in an IT prison (next to the likes of APPL and NSA).

    Why are you so nice?

     
  16. chris Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    When any company is under pressure or in the final throws of death they have a choice, grab as much money as you can of your costumers and then die. Or give stuff away in courage your business to grow bring people back. We should all be thankful that country’s are a lot harder to bankrupt than company’s One has to wonder if hp have borrowed some ideas from the tories

     
  17. Jeff Says:
    February 15th, 2014 at 12:58 am

    Good luck with trying to sale refurbished/used HP servers. Also, when you purchase an HP server from a VAR you could be short changed on the warranty as the warranty starts ticking down after it ships.

     
  18. Pete Says:
    February 20th, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Now I know why I buy Dell servers, guess I won’t be buying Procurve any more.

     
  19. Amanda K Says:
    March 3rd, 2014 at 3:56 am

    I see your point. I agree with what Jason said. It would be far better to pay for the extras like phone support that is out of warranty, after all how often does that happen? Not much.

     

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