HP Networking, the networking division of Hewlett-Packard (HP), has added three years of free, 24/7 technical phone support to its lifetime warranty for campus and branch networking gear. Dubbed Lifetime Warranty 2.0, the enhancement will be available on all products bought after Aug. 1.
The original HP Networking
"There are cases where [networking vendors] offer 90 days or six months of [free] 24/7 support, but three years baked in at no additional cost could have a significant impact on HP's presence in the market. Channels do care about the total [cost of ownership]," said Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.
HP chose to offer three years of "always-on" support because after that period operational costs for installed gear tends to stabilize, said Kash Shaikh, senior director of product and technical marketing at HP. "Usually, the first three years is where the customer needs the most support. They will need more hand-holding in terms of understanding the product and its functionalities."
Three years also represents at least half of a typical switch's or router's lifetime in a network, Mehra said.
Brad Pritchett, network manager for Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, Wash., said he has never had to use HP's phone support for the switches in his network, which he attributed to either the quality of the products or the quality of training he received from HP. He called the new 24/7 support interesting, but said he received all the support he needed when he first installed his switches.
"The reseller did provide support on the first couple switches," he said. "Then once we had a generic configuration in place, it was simply a matter of customizing them to particular classrooms. I program them so often it's easy to work with them. I have used the lifetime warranty. We've got 50 switches and we had one, probably due to our negligence, that filled up with lint and dust and the power supply went out. We had a replacement shipped the next day."
Although he gets by without phone support, Pritchett acknowledged that 24/7 support will at least allow him to call in requests for next-day hardware replacements quicker, "as long as you're lucky enough to call before FedEx makes its last pick-up of the day."
HP Networking lifetime warranty update is a strategic move
HP's enhancement of its warranty signals two things: HP remains confident in the quality of its networking products, and it's seeing increased competitive pressure from Brocade, Juniper Networks and the market leader Cisco Systems, Mehra said. In particular, Cisco has refreshed its line of campus switches, with the Catalyst 6800, Catalyst 3850 and Catalyst 2960-X.
HP has always competed on cost with larger networking players like Cisco by offering lower prices and a lifetime warranty. When HP bought 3Com several years ago, however, the company did not extend that lifetime warranty to the total line of 3Com products. Instead, HP bifurcated its product line, continuing the lifetime ProCurve warranty on campus, branch and small business networking products, while the bulk of 3Com products -- most notably the data center switching portfolio -- had a more conventional, limited warranty system.
Warranty terms can make or break a vendor relationship for some networking pros. Pritchett recently replaced his firewall, a six-year-old Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA), due in part to a lack of a lifetime warranty.
"The other day, I go to log into [the ASA] after updating Java on my computer and I can't get into it. I do a Web search and it turns out Java broke the interface to the ASA boxes. There was new code available to fix this, but you need a support contract for it, which we don't have," he said. "I had to uninstall Java and run an older version. So, we just bought a Palo Alto 3020, which we're in the process of deploying, and then I'm going to throw the Cisco box through a wall."
The new 24/7 support built into the lifetime warranty is part of HP's overall strategy to simplify infrastructure through product innovation, lower costs and integrated product stacks, Shaikh said. For instance, when customers shop for a campus switch from HP, they can order the hardware and the 24/7 support with a single stock-keeping unit. This approach makes vendor management just a little simpler for networking pros.
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