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HP Eliminates Premium Licenses; Existing Customers Shafted

by Jeremy L. Gaddis on December 14, 2011 · 6 comments

in Networking

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A few weeks ago, Sreeram Krishnamachari, Global Product Line Manager at HP Networking, authored a post on the HP Networking blog entitled “Say goodbye to firmware licenses in wired network switch products”.

In that article, HP has acknowledged, finally, that firmware licenses — in addition to easily adding tens of thousands of dollars in CAPEX costs to a project — are a huge pain in the ass for network managers.

For various reasons, HP has decided to do away with these so-called “premium licenses” and simply ship their products with the premium licenses built-in. This change took place late last year and anyone ordering any of those new switches automatically receives the additional features (which I’ve described previously).

This is great news if you’re planning to purchase any of these switches (or have done so in the last year). CDW sells the premium licenses for $2,333.99 (for the 5400zl series), so I can’t argue with that at all — it’s a huge cost savings, no doubt.

Shortly after the announcement, I reached out to HP via Twitter, asking how the announcement affects existing customers who already have an installed base of these switches. “Can we get free ‘premium’ licenses?”, I asked.

Someone named Robert left a comment on the HP blog post asking the same thing:

So for those of us that own 5400 or 3500 series switches, will you be providing us with a premium license? Based on point number 3 from your blog, we should have said NO to these switches.

The responses Robert and I received were pretty much the same — some bullshit answer (probably crafted by the PR department) about how, “legally”, they couldn’t do that.

In other words, screw the existing customers — go spend a couple thousand dollars a piece and you can get the same basic features that other vendors (and, now, even HP) include in their products for free. Or, you know, order some of these new HP 10500 or HP 3800 series switches and they’ll throw ‘em in at no charge.

Sadly, this is indicative of what I’ve seen from HP over the last several years. Years ago, in a previous life, we had some of their wireless gear that the sales guys pitched as being the most awesome stuff ever.

Then, they bought Colubris.

All of a sudden, the tone from the sales guys changed. No longer was the gear we had any good. As a matter of fact, it was quite lousy… but the new Colubris stuff was just great and we should upgrade to that instead!

We didn’t, but that’s beside the point.

The same thing happened again after the acquisition of H3C. That Colubris wireless gear that was just so damn great? Well, “it’s okay”, but you should upgrade to the new H3C gear; it’s badass!

That shit gets old real quick, but that isn’t stopping HP.

What I took away from HP’s response to myself and Robert was a similar message. They’re not going to give existing switch owners (like my previous employer, who spent a few hundred grand on the HP 5400zl series switches) a free upgrade to the premium features (since that might keep them from buying new gear), but “when you buy any of these new switches from us, all the firmware features are already enabled”.

If HP has any interest in keeping their existing customers, they should consider making the premium licenses available for free — or, at the least, an extremely discounted price — as an act of appreciation and goodwill.

Don’t hold your breath, though.

NOTE: I left my previous job in May and, fortunately, I haven’t had to touch a piece of HP Networking gear since. I really hate to continue to shit on HP (I really do), but it’s so easy to do with some of the decisions they make. On a side note, the problems with the installed HP gear at my previous employer continue to this day (failing hardware, random reboots, etc.).

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