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Interex cowers behind HP omerta

No news is good news

HP's largest user group has decided to withhold key information from reporters and analysts in an effort not to upset the company with the damaging data, The Register has learned.

At the HP World conference last week, Interex allowed a small portion of its 7,000 HP customer-strong survey to sneak out during an event session. Luckily, The Register was there to capture bits of the data, which included painful Itanium server migration figures among other things. Since our story first appeared, reporters and analysts have turned to Interex to reveal more information from its study and to back up the figures cited by El Reg. These efforts, however, have failed.

"We do not release the data publicly," wrote Debbie Lawson-Kirkwood, Interex's studies chief in an e-mail.

Sadly, this claim seems rather inaccurate given that close to 200 people at HP World saw parts of Interex's study during a customer roundtable session. So, we pressed on for a clarification and found out that Interex doesn't release its data when such a release might harm HP.

"Our members are heavily invested in HP gear and we help them out by working constructively with HP," Lawson-Kirkwood wrote later. "I saw your article and this does not help us to work constructively with HP."

In an effort to be more constructive, it now seems appropriate to present all the Interex data we were able to obtain. This information covers a wide range of topics, including HP users' satisfaction with the company's hardware, software and support plans.

First up, there is the Itanium server information discussed last week. It turns out that 50 percent of the HP-UX customers out there have no plans to migrate their software over to Intel's 64-bit processor at all. This could be a huge problem for a company that has bet its high-end server aspirations on making a successful shift from the PA-RISC and Alpha processors.

HP-UX customers are not alone in their worries over Itanium with the OpenVMS customers expressing similar fears. Only 9 percent of OpenVMS customers plan to move onto Itanium this year, with 24 percent making the move in the next two years and 15 percent moving in the next five years. Again, 52 percent of the OpenVMS crowd has no intention of moving onto Itanium, according to Interex.

Things don't improve much for Tru64 operating system customers either. Only 47 percent of Tru64 users are satisfied with HP's roadmap for the OS. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as HP has decided to kill off Tru64 and move some of its tools into HP-UX at a very slow pace. Overall, however, most customers appear pleased with where HP is heading on other operating systems. The rest of the numbers break out with 68 percent of users approving the Windows roadmap, 65 percent approving Linux plans, 65 percent approving OpenVMS plans, 59 percent approving HP-UX plans and 58 percent approving NonStop plans.

HP, however, falters badly on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) front, according to Interex. The old line MPE, OpenVMS and NonStop systems enjoy 70 percent, 65 percent and 63 percent favorable ratings from HP's users. But nearly half of HP's other customers are not pleased with its software TCO. Only 49 percent of OpenView customers, 53 percent of HP-UX customers and 56 percent of Tru64 customers are satisfied. Both Linux and Windows satisfaction hovers right around 60 percent.

Last but certainly not least, HP's customers are not pleased with support contracts.

"Support contracts is one of the big issue areas," said Diana Bell, HP's VP in charge of Total Customer Experience. "Some companies are ahead of us, and some are behind us, and obviously that is not where we need to be."

"A lot of you are very unhappy with our support contract administration," added Bob Floyd, HP's VP in charge of customer services.

Only 57 percent of HP's customers said its support contracts are "understandable."

Several HP customers backed up this sentiment during the HP World session, as they noted a large drop off in the overall quality of support. HP's Floyd attributed some of the support failings to a steady string of retirements at HP.

"Some of our engineers have taken advantage of retirement programs," he said.

Most HP watchers realize this is a pleasant way of saying the oldies were gently guided out the door after the Compaq acquisition. HP must now work to bring its desktop support staff "up the value chain" to handle server queries, Floyd said.

One HP customer said such a change could not happen soon enough, as HP support staffers are better at making their "self-evaluations come in right" than at taking the "backplane off a server."

Why Interex would want to keep this information secret remains a mystery. Its job, of course, is to serve the HP customer base - not to do corporate HP any favors.

Funny enough, HP has decided to hold its own "technical conference" within weeks of next year's Interex run HP World. Interex officials have said they plan to boycott the HP led event.

"We're disappointed that they felt it necessary to combine some of their events into an event driven by HP, no question about it," Ron Evans, executive director of Interex told InformationWeek.

HP has revived its own show in an apparent attempt to massage its message to the user base. One might think Interex would do its best to reach out to the media, analysts and users given this turn of events that will likely see HP World attendance drop. This, however, does not appear to be the case. ®

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