Time to extend that support contract? No more free firmware for HP servers

Starting February 19, only servers under warranty or contract will be able to get Hewlett-Packard firmware updates. The news has some customers angry.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials
  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read
HP logo

Hewlett-Packard server customers might have a new expense to worry about for older ProLiant models: the company no longer gives away firmware updates to just anyone.

Instead, the update is available only if the machine is covered by a warranty or service contract. That's got some folks angry.

"I am really enraged by this action from HP," said Glen Drager, a school district network administrator, in a forum post at IT discussion site Spiceworks where others also complained. Among his reasons: hardware updates could become more expensive, buying used servers could become unwise, and it raises the price for keeping servers for long-term use.

But his first reason is simply that the firmware corrects problems that reflect HP's own product shortcomings, he said.

"Nine out of ten times I'm doing firmware upgrades to correct bugs that HP has discovered," he said. "How many notices of 'patch your controller or you might lose all your data' have we all seen? I have had problematic hardware that takes more than the normal 3-year warranty to actually be reasonably stable. Now I have to pay for the privilege of HP's corrections."

HP published a note on its server support pages that stated: "Starting February 2014, an active warranty or contract is required to access HP ProLiant Server firmware updates."
HP showed no signs of changing its policy. In a somewhat frosty statement responding to Drager's concerns, the company said:

HP has made significant investments in our intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers. We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with HP's tools, trained engineers, and genuine certified parts. Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.

But there was a bit more hope on the Spiceworks pages, too. First came word from Matt Hitt, a server product manager who said that he and Priscilla Jones, an HP social media ambassador, "have been sharing your postings and discussions on the topic with HP upper-level management.

"While HP is planning to implement these changes February 19, the voices of our customers (especially the Spiceheads) aren't going unnoticed," Hitt said. Added Jones, "We are your advocates."