HP to charge for ProLiant server updates

Mary McCoy wrote about HP's plans to change update models for ProLiant servers

Mary McCoy, vice president of HP Servers’ Support, Technology Services

Hewlett-Packard Co. sparked outrage among partners and customers when it announced plans to stop providing ProLiant server firmware updates to customers out of contract on services and warranties. The backlash is causing HP to “clarify” its position, but it’s not wrong for wanting to charge for even the most basic level of support.

In a blog post, HP’s Mary McCoy wrote effective Feb. 19, HP would no longer provide customers with firmware updates if their warranties were no longer valid or if they didn’t have an active support contract or Care Pack Service agreements.

“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,” wrote McCoy, vice president of HP Servers’ Support, Technology Services.

While McCoy says HP is not trying to force customers to buy extended warranties or services contracts, the policy change will cause that exact result. HP server owners will no longer get free firmware updates, leaving them vulnerability to operational disruptions and security compromises.

HP says the firmware updates are often to fix operational issues in the code, and it will still provide security patches even to users out of warranty and without service contracts.

The policy change caused an immediate backlash in the HP reseller and customer community. Server users are outrage that they’ll now have to buy service contracts if they wish to continue receiving firmware updates. Many believe such updates are a basic necessity that HP owes customers for buying the product.

Many aggrieved HP partners and customers say other server vendors, most notably Dell, do not charge for firmware updates. In fact, it’s quite common for software vendors to provide free updates to patch operational flaws and security vulnerabilities for a certain period. For instance, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP after 13 years on the market, and is encouraging customers to upgrade or risk becoming vulnerable.

McCoy published a follow-up blog because of the controversy, outlining the rational and necessity of charging for updates.

“It is through the sales of warranty in the product, and sales of support services after the warranty, that we are able to invest to create great customer experiences with our products.  Naturally we don’t ask customers to buy support as that is their choice,” she wrote.

Customers getting out-ranged over having to pay for something they perceive should be free is expected. Partners, on the other hand, should welcome this policy, as it will drive more sales of support and Care Pack agreements. And, frankly, it’s warranted.

No piece of hardware or software yet produced is flawless. Vendors do provide support for many design flaws, and HP’s policy is not affecting security. But keeping up with those fixes requires expenditure of expensive resources. And, let’s face it server sales and prices continue to decline. With end users now pressing server operational life well beyond the planned life expectancy and warranty, providing indefinite free firmware support is unwarranted and unreasonable.

HP will likely wade around this backlash until it strikes a balance with server resellers and buyers. However, it HP can get this policy to work and the users to accept it, other vendors will likely follow.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.com.