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Exclusive Hewlett-Packard will start restricting who is allowed to fix its ProLiant servers starting in the new year.

HP is changing the way it delivers firmware updates for ProLiant systems from January, The Reg had learned, so only HP or HP-authorised partners are allowed to receive and install the patches.

According to a leaked internal email seen by The Reg, HP will only release updates in return for an in-warranty product serial number or an active Service Agreement ID.

That restricts updates to customers or authorised partners, and is designed to cut out those providing discounted support services.

It means customers will need to be on a full-blown support contract as that'll be the only way they'll be able to received a service agreement ID in the first place.

The change is being rolled out just as HP told Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) customers they will no longer receive free firmware updates.

The ProLiant policy begins in January 2014, according to an internal HP memo marked confidential and for internal use only seen by The Reg.

HP will start notifying customers by email or letter of the change in early January.

The leaked HP email justified the new policy saying:

We are implementing changes in firmware and Service Pack for ProLiant (SPP) access for ProLiant Servers that will protect them from being downloaded by unauthorized maintainers. This is in line with our commitment to support entitled customers, whether directly or through authorized partners, and follows industry practices of protecting HP’s firmware and software updates.

A second phase will see HP "create a consistent customer experience for downloading ProLiant firmware and SPP based on product level entitlement".

This is due “later” in 2014.

HP wants to stamp out cut-price support companies who undercut HP or designated partners in supporting in maintaining its ProLiant servers, and thereby re-establish the support ecosystem and relationships with official partners.

It’s a policy that’s already been introduced by Cisco Systems, IBM and Oracle – a fact highlighted by HP as an attempt to pass off the change as nothing extraordinary.

HP said in its internal email announcing the change:

Our customers routinely receive unsolicited proposals from unauthorized maintainers to support HP equipment at a discounted rate. This type of support provider may appeal to budget-conscious procurement managers, but the support doesn’t match the breadth and depth of HP’s support expertise or global parts supply chain nor does it give our sales reps and partners the added loyalty that comes from an ongoing relationship built over time between HP and the customer, an attribute which often goes unrecognized.

The Reg asked HP to comment but it responded with a statement based almost word for word on the leaked email.

Departing from the email, HP did say: “These changes will provide our customers with a consistent experience for downloading ProLiant firmware and SPP based on product level entitlement.” ®

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