The main network switch in my home office is an HP ProCurve 4000m, which has been running non-stop for over half a decade. It is a great switch, and even though it is getting old, it is still dependable.
A while ago I noticed that the 4000m’s fault indicator was lit. So I logged into the switch and checked the log: fan 1 was dead. The switch has built-in redundancy (three fans), and so I didn’t worry about it, but I did call HP ProCurve tech support.
The woman I spoke with was friendly and helpful. I told her what was wrong, and she said a new fan array would be on my doorstep within 48 hours. No charge. (I guess the ProCurve warranty really is worth something.)
Today, I installed the array. This meant opening up the switch, which is a fun thing to do. If you are curious about what is inside of a 4000m, I took photos of the operation.
During the process, I recalled why I love old-style HP engineering:
- The replacement parts came with clear instructions that showed me how to remove the old array and install the new one. They were easy to follow and didn’t leave anything to guess.
- The 4000m is solid – inside and out.
- The electrical components are top quality.
- The industrial engineering is superb. For example, all of the user-removable screws have non-stripping torx heads and are designed not to fall out and get lost; instead they remain attached to the module or panel you are removing. (See this photo of removed modules to see how the screws stay in place.)
Everything about the process made me think, wow, this is really well engineered.
The thing is, I know, as I sit here and watch the blinking LEDs on my now-restored 4000m, that my next network switch will probably be a Dell.
As much as I love the ProCurve engineering, the Dell price is compelling. Even if I expect the Dells to fail twice as often (and the Dell warranties are comparatively lame), I can buy twice as many Dells and keep spares on the shelf – and still save money compared to the equivalent ProCurve equipment.
I find the situation somewhat sad. I am an engineering guy to the core. So when I go for the cheaper product because it is so darn cheap, I know that much of the market will do likewise. That bodes ill for HP. Like HP’s calculators, the ProCurves too may pass into history.