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February 18, 2014

HP ProLiant Server Firmware Updates to Require an Active Warranty or Service Contract

Hardware manufacturers are facing a considerable challenge as more organizations move to the cloud for their IT solutions. The recent purchase of IBM's x86 server business by Lenovo (News - Alert) for $2.3 billion is a clear indication of where this sector of the industry is moving, forcing hardware vendors to find new streams of revenue. But finding revenue streams from existing customers can be a very dangerous proposition for companies. If it is not implemented properly, it can result in the loss of valuable customers, or at the very least have them looking for better alternatives. Taking such a risk is HP, who, as of February 19th, will be making some server operators pay extra to get firmware updates if they don't have an active warranty or contract.

According to the company, this move is to help it invest in future upgrades.  However, opponents to the decision argue that such upgrades shouldn’t require its customers to pay more, since inherent in the purchase agreement for a server is the promise that it will function properly,  which logically includes patching. The company will provide some peripheral updates and urgent patches for those who don't qualify, but nothing else will be offered.

Whether you agree with this new policy by HP or not, it is certainly setting a bad precedent in the hardware business, which will eventually affect individual consumers that have purchased personal computers. What will stop HP or any other vendor from eventually trying to monetize what to most is a fundamental right once you purchase hardware? Fortunately, Dell and IBM (News - Alert) are still updating the firmware of the products they sell, and here is to hoping they will continue to do so without taxing their customers.

This move has resulted in many complaints from businesses using HP ProLiant Servers that are the target of such fees. In many instances it takes a very long time to stabilize the hardware and have it function the way it is supposed to. This includes applying many patches released by the company, which should be offered for free because the need for a patch itself is caused by a design flaw. Having customers pay for the privilege of correcting HP’s mistakes might just be too much for many customers, which is leading many to start considering their options.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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