On Saturday, February 1st, I was called to take a look at a client’s server that had a drive fail in the storage array and other issues. While I was working on the HP Proliant server, I went to update the firmware on the Smart Array P400. Upon searching the HP website, I found out about a new policy that discontinues providing firmware updates to servers out of warranty.
Important note: HP ProLiant Server firmware access
Starting February 2014, an active warranty or contract is required to access HP ProLiant Server firmware updates. View your existing contracts & warranties or get help linking contracts or warranties to your HP Support Center user profile. To obtain additional support coverage, please contact your local HP office, HP representative, or visit Contact HP. Click here for more information.
It was painful to find out about the new policy on the first day it was enforced. Entering the serial number of the server, the warranty had been expired for several years. Should this non-profit have had to pay for warranty support over those years for a single download? Firmware updates rarely provide new features and mostly fix bugs found after the hardware is in production, hardware that the customer bought under the belief that it was free of bugs and compatible with the hardware and operating systems promised to them.
HP’s full message is listed in this support document: Firmware Update Access for HP ProLiant Servers
I can see some logic to the change in policy. A firmware update could brick a device if it goes wrong and HP doesn’t want unsupported customers to go through a firmware update with a slight amount of risk. Cisco, IBM, Oracle, and others have taken this approach, with HP now following suit.
On the other hand, I see this as an easy money grab to make support contracts more profitable. The conflict comes from different business models surrounding a server. A server is a physical object that is purchased while warranty support is a service provided. Should an update to the physical object require a subscription to keep it bug free?
Mostly this seems like a way of speeding up the process of servers becoming obsolete. Unsupported server will face compatibility issues with upgrading and security vulnerabilities will go unpatched. The worst part is that this impacts previous customers that bought this server from HP under different impressions. A “Care Pack” from HP can be an unforeseen cost for organizations. If the change were implemented for servers purchased after January 2014, I think it would be much more understandable as consumers would know what they are getting into. This policy change almost seems like a bait & switch.
Fortunately, for the client I was supporting on Saturday, I was able to find the firmware update through a Google search that pointed to the file download directly on HP’s site. Otherwise, the HP.com support site seemed to be broken and unstable trying to find other downloads for this server.