What Does the HP Brand Mean?
Disk drive warnings, plus HPs failures, make a manager
By John Burke
After reading Jim Hawkins reply last month to my SCSI is SCSI article, I was reminded
about HPs 4Gb disk drive fiasco some years back. These drives
had a real nasty habit of failing after being powered off once
theyd 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 manufacturers model number instead of
HPs? 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 doesnt exactly roll off the
old tongue. Yet, in reality, this is what most of HPs 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