HP Takes Aim At Cisco SmartNet Services With New Lifetime Warranty 2.0 Program

HP Networking is taking aim at Cisco's SmartNet services with a new program called Lifetime Warranty 2.0, which offers customers free 24-by-7 technical support for three years on any HP FlexCampus, FlexBranch or small business product.

Lifetime Warranty 2.0, announced Thursday, eliminates the fee Hewlett-Packard customers previously paid for around-the-clock support on HP networking products -- a fee that could be up to 10 percent of the product list price -- and allows them instead to tap into this phone service for free for the first three years they own a product.

According to Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking, the price for this service is now baked into the price of HP's FlexCampus or FlexBranch products, but the price of those products has not increased.

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"Basically what we have done is made this [support] part of the product price, versus being a separate price that [customers] have to pay on an on-going, or yearly, basis," Mayer told CRN.

The support contract offered through the Lifetime Warranty 2.0 program allows customers to reach HP technical staff, at any time, for assistance ranging from third-level engineering support to navigating firmware updates, Mayer said.

Mayer stressed that this kind of around-the-clock technical support is something Cisco customers pay up to "millions" for through Cisco's SmartNet maintenance contracts. The cost of Cisco SmartNet contracts vary based on the type of equipment being supported, as well as the level of that support.

"Many customers out there pay an enormous amount of money ... on a monthly and yearly basis for 24/7 telephone support, and our competitors make quite a bit of money in that particular space," Mayer said. "The really important issue here is that people spend millions of dollars on, as an example, Cisco SmartNet contracts. And, now, that would be eliminated."

John Barker, president of Versatile Communications, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and HP Networking partner, said the new Limited Warranty 2.0 will give HP and its partners a new way to differentiate themselves from Cisco.

"If we're trying to sell HP Networking, we're generally competing against Cisco like everybody else, so how do you differentiate yourself?" Barker told CRN. "Everybody is trying to be frugal with their budgets and to do more with less. Everybody is looking for ways to reduce costs. This is just another avenue, from a partner perspective, to position that for a customer."

In addition to the 24/7 phone support, the Lifetime Warranty 2.0 program also includes next-business-day hardware replacements, along with free software downloads for the life of the product, Mayer said.

While the program waives technical support fees the first three years a customer owns a product, customers will have to resume paying for the service once those three years are up.

Eligible products for the Lifetime Warranty 2.0 program reside largely within HP's FlexCampus or FlexBranch lines, including core and access switches, WLAN access points, WLAN controllers and routers.

Mayer said the new program will not take away, or compete with, the Proactive Care services offered through the HP channel.

"We do have partner-branded services that we offer, meaning that the partners can then resell [those services] to customers," Mayer said. "Basically what they can resell is Proactive Care, which ... is very pro-active, hands-on and consultative help [offered] by our partners. That is sold through the channel."