| Front Page | News Headlines | Technical Headlines | Planning Features | Advanced Search |
Click for Genisys Sponsor Page News Icon

August 2003

What Does the HP Brand Mean?

Disk drive warnings, plus HP’s failures, make a manager wonder

By John Burke

After reading Jim Hawkins’ reply last month to my “SCSI is SCSI” article, I was reminded about HP’s 4Gb disk drive fiasco some years back. These drives had a real nasty habit of failing after being powered off once they’d been running for a while. The problems were not limited to the HP 3000 versions, either.

I had the misfortune, as part of a server upgrade project, to purchase about 20 HP NetServers, all with several of the infamous 4Gb drives each. These being Windows NT machines, many working as file and print servers in remote offices, rebooting was a not infrequent occurrence. So were the drive failures.

At one point we got so frustrated we just replaced all the 4Gb drives with the (much more reliable) 9Gb drives. I never blamed HP for these failures, or the failures of the 4Gb drives on my HP 3000 — even though all were purchased from HP, and had HP stamped all over them. The failures were the fault of the manufacturer, and no amount of certification testing would likely have shown the problem. But the failures made me wonder: What does HP certification and HP branding mean?

In Hawkins’ reply, he puts great emphasis on the statement that “In the SCSI peripheral market, Industry Standard is really defined as ‘works on a PC.’ Unfortunately, the requirements for single-user PCs are not always in alignment with those of multi-user servers.” Maybe inside HP the desktops look different, but I have never seen a company use SCSI peripherals as a standard for desktop Wintel systems.

At my last employer, we had approximately 1,200 desktops, and not a single one had a SCSI disk drive. On the other hand, we had over 80 NetServers, including several large 8-way servers running SAP R/3 on Oracle, that used nothing but SCSI drives. SCSI disks are used primarily in the multi-user server market, not the desktop market. While Hawkins says some interesting things in the rest of his article, these two sentences tend to prejudice the reader against everything else he says.

Unfortunately, Hawkins’ best argument did not make it into the reply article, but came out in private correspondence: “Putting newer disks inside a 9x7, 9x8 or 9x9 may overtax the power supply and/or ‘cook’ your CPU or memory.” However, most of us outside HP have been advising against using internal drives in production machines for many years because of the obvious maintenance headaches. It still amazes me how many people believe you have to have at least one internal drive in an HP 3000.

The debate seems like it highlights at least four things going on here:

1. Does HP certification of a disk drive have value? And, if so, how much? The work that HP does to certify disk drives for the HP 3000 clearly has value. It is up to the customer to decide the worth and he will decide with his checkbook. This certification is an area where HP has historically done a poor job in communicating value to its customers. Hawkins’ information should have been made more public years ago.

2. Does the listing of a drive in IODFAULT.PUB.SYS imply its certification by HP? I think it is reasonable for a customer to look at IODFAULT, pick out a “supported” drive, and think he can buy it from whoever will give him the combination of price and service that meets his needs. As Denys Beauchemin has pointed out in a number of forums, for anything but the newer systems, you only need two generic drives listed in IODFAULT (one SE and one FWD). So what is a customer to make of the drives listed in IODFAULT.PUB.SYS? HP has yet to answer this question.

3. Does HP branding imply HP-specific firmware? Hawkins implies this. So why then do the HP drives almost always report the original manufacturer’s model number instead of HP’s? Again, this leads to the customer assuming he can buy a STxxxxxx and it is the same as the drive he buys from HP.

4. Are all HP-branded drives equal? I had an HP-branded drive that I pulled from a NetServer happily spinning in my 9x7 at one time. And, yes, of course the duty cycle in this 3000 is extremely light. But I am also relatively sure this HP part number (as opposed to drive, whose reported model number is in IODFAULT) was never sold as compatible with the HP 3000. What is the HP position? From Hawkins’ article, it sounds like this HP-branded drive is just as risky as any non-HP branded drive.

It was never my intention in the original article to bash HP, or the fine people who continue to be associated with vCSY. Perhaps I should have reworded the title to read: “If you feel abandoned by your vendor, then take comfort in the fact that in most cases, SCSI is SCSI.” But that doesn’t exactly roll off the old tongue. Yet, in reality, this is what most of HP’s argument has been about: the few cases when “SCSI is SCSI” is not true. It should also be noted that the original article was aimed at those HP 3000 sites planning to homestead for some period of time.

After considering Hawkins’ response to my original article and numerous private messages, my position can now be stated like this: With the exception of the “hot” drive issue, any name-brand manufacturer SCSI drive you can electrically connect to your HP 3000 will likely work. If it survives your own testing (mount it as a separate user volume and bang on it for awhile before moving it into production) then you should have little to worry about.


Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.