IDC: Server Market Slowing Again

Worldwide server revenues dipped for the third consecutive quarter, according to new data from IDC. That was matched by a corresponding decline in number of servers sold.

For data-center operators, IDC’s numbers offered some very specific lessons: bladed servers are succeeding, Linux in the datacenter continues to find a role, and the market for non-X86 servers has plunged almost 20 percent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, IDC noted a trend towards consolidation and efficiency, with server blades continuing to perform well.

This was the first year-over-year decline in server shipments since the third quarter of 2009, IDC announced. Much of that was due to a server market currently transitioning to new products, including the Knights Corner “manycore” accelerator that Intel discussed Aug. 29 at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, Calif.

Specifically, server revenue dipped by 4.8 percent to $12.6 billion, while server units fell 3.6 percent to 2 million units. In terms of revenue, declines affected the volume, midrange and high-end segments; volume systems dropped 2.5 percent, while midrange sales fell 11.2 percent. The high-end server market declined 7.6 percent.

However, IDC group vice president and server analyst Matt Eastwood said via Twitter that he expects server demand to pick up in the second half of 2012, following “critical product refreshes which continue to be announced.”

Eastwood also told SlashDataCenter that he believes Intel’s “Sandy Bridge” third-generation Core processors were still ramping in the second quarter, adding that IBM’s new POWER and System Z products (both expected later in 2012) could act as additional drivers.

Intel disclosed at Hot Chips that a Xeon Phi-accelerated supercomputer had achieved 1,381 GFLOPs per watt, which is 1 GFLOP/watt higher than a Nagasaki University supercomputer powered by an AMD Radeon graphics chip. Both the Xeon Phi and the AMD graphics cores help boost computational performance by processing a limited set of instructions extremely quickly, over and over.

According to the firm, Hewlett-Packard and IBM achieved a statistical tie for the top spot in the server market, with 29.6 percent and 29.2 percent of the market by revenue, respectively. HP’s market share remained unchanged from a year ago, while IBM dropped by just under a percentage point. The real success story was Dell, the only vendor in the top five to report year-over-year revenue growth—while it maintained its third-place ranking from a year ago, Dell managed to grow its share to 16.0 percent.

From a software standpoint, Linux server revenue grew 1.7 percent to $2.8 billion, or 22.1 percent of all servers by revenue. Still, revenue derived from Windows servers climbed 2.4 points from a year ago, to 47.9 percent of overall factory revenue. According to IDC, Linux continues to fare well in high-performance computing (HPC), but Microsoft’s Windows Server continues to dominate elsewhere. UNIX, however, is headed downhill, with a 20.3 percent revenue dip to $2.3 billion. All told, UNIX represents 18.4 percent of server revenues.

The market for non-x86 servers, including servers based on RISC, EPIC (Itanium-based), and CISC processors, declined 19.4 percent year over year to $3.9 billion, or 30.6 percent of the market.

Bladed servers now represent 16.9 percent of all server revenues, a new high. More than 90 percent of all blades are X86 based.

“IDC is observing [an] increasing trend towards form factor specialization in the market, as both blade and density optimized servers continue to outperform the general market,” Jed Scaramella, research manager, Enterprise Servers at IDC, wrote in a statement.

“Together, blade and density optimized servers grew 15% in annual revenue and now represent 22% of the market,” Scaramella added. “These modular form factors are expected to continue to gain adoption, with blades targeting virtualized environments in enterprises and density optimized servers targeting large-scale homogeneous environments in datacenters.”


Image: Robert Lucian Crusitu/

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