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HP claims ProLiant server audits to stop 'competitive misuse'

We want you to 'sell more and better', HP gushes at channel partners

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Exclusive Hewlett Packard is auditing ProLiant Server customers to stamp out “misuse” of its firmware intellectual property in a wide-ranging clampdown on who can support its servers.

The news has come to light in a confidential document meant only for HP partners that’s been seen by The Register.

The document is earmarked: "HP Restricted. For HP and Channel Partner internal use only."

It reveals how HP is using the firmware clampdown as a way to help designated partners make more money from ProLiant customers.

This contradicts what HP vice president for server support Mary McCoy has stated in public, when recently trying to defend the firmware update policy.

Meanwhile, HP has written draft letters for partners that they can send to their customers warning that they should check their existing support agreements or risk losing out on future firmware updates.

The Reg revealed in December that HP would start restricting firmware and Service Pack for ProLiant (SPPs) to those with a valid warranty or service agreement. The idea is to stop customers using support partners considered undesirable by HP.

The confidential document seen by The Reg this week states HP is now taking steps to ensure the policy is not being flouted.

“We have started auditing customers to enforce our rights and are looking closely at potential misuse by competitors,” the document states. “Protecting diagnostic tools, patches updates, knowledge documents and all other support materials are a key value of HP’s support portfolio.”

HP's document tells partners that the download, use and distribution of these items are only for use with customers who have an active warranty or support agreement.

The document, meanwhile, makes it clear HP’s decision to limit who can get support is way for designated support partners to cash in.

HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers. And to help you sell more and better.

As an HP partner you can in fact offer your customers a differentiated experience through our comprehensive support portfolio.

Publicly, however, HP has denied the clampdown is a mechanism to make more money. It says the new policy is in line with those at Cisco, IBM and Oracle.

HP veep McCoy, responding to a surge of concern from ProLiant customers, has blogged:

Our customers under warranty or support coverage will not need to pay for firmware access, and we are in no way trying to force customers into purchasing extended coverage. That is, and always will be, a customer’s choice.

The leaked email accompanies a template letter HP has drafted for partners that they can post to customers about the policy clampdown.

That draft, also seen by The Reg, tells them they should check their existing agreements to ensure they don't miss out on future support. “We encourage you to review your current support coverage to ensure you maintain uninterrupted access to firmware updates and SPP for your ProLiant products,” the letter says.

To obtain support, the template letter instructs customers to contact their partner, of visit or speak to HP over the phone or on email.

The Reg asked HP to comment on the audits, the comments about selling more, and the draft letter to customers. The company did not respond in detail.

Instead, HP said service can be purchased during and after a warranty period but that security and safety updates would be provided to all server users. ®

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