All Lines Technology's Malady compared those non-HP-authorized partners to the equivalent of gray market server providers. "You wouldn't buy an HP server from Craigslist or eBay," he said. "You want to make sure the services you are buying are from someone that is fully committed to that product, is fully trained and has full access to the latest HP intellectual property."
Malady said he sees the HP ProLiant firmware policy change as a chance to have a discussion with those 20 percent of his customers not carrying the HP Care Pack Service agreement. Most customers are not aware of the policy change, he said. "We view it as part of our due diligence to let them know that the level of service they received in past that was reliant on HP intellectual property, such as firmware, is now going to be a challenge," he said.
Ultimately, Malady said, he sees the firmware policy change strengthening the HP brand. "The HP story is simple: it is to provide the best customer experience you can with the best qualified and trained partners that have access to HP intellectual property. The HP brand is stronger for it."
Chris Case, CEO of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based HP enterprise partner, said he has been in touch with all of his customers regarding the firmware policy change and 99 percent of them already have standard Care Pack Service agreements.
"With enterprise customers, it is a nonissue because they are already covered," he said. "We closely monitor and manage those customer support renewals." Enterprise customers are not put off by the several-hundred-dollar-a-year cost of the Care Pack Service agreements, said Case.
Another HP solution provider partner, who did not want to be identified, said about 50 percent of his customers do not maintain active support agreement for ProLiants. He said he will continue to recommend HP servers because they offer the best overall quality, but added that he was disappointed by the policy change.
Weller stressed that the policy change creates stronger alignment between HP's hardware and software service support service agreements. "Infrastructure today is more and more software," he said. "We are making sure things are consistent for hardware and software. We are going to ensure customers get the kind of experience they expect from HP and its authorized service partners."
For HP partners, the change ultimately will open the door to more business opportunities around "delivering more value and a better business experience," Weller said. "What it means for them is they are differentiated from the nonauthorized partners who do not invest in the training and the kind of experience and high standards that we expect from ourselves and our partners," he said.
PUBLISHED FEB. 19, 2014