Global Server Market Continues Rebound: IDC

by Kenneth Corbin

Latest figures on global server shipments and sales underscore continuing rebound in the sector, with each measure posting double-digit annual growth.

Server vendors continue to reap the benefits from an economic rebound, with fourth-quarter global revenues and shipments both posting double-digit increases, according to the latest market analysis from research firm IDC.

Fourth-quarter revenue for the global server market jumped 15.3 percent to $15 billion, the largest quarterly increase in three years, according to IDC. Shipments for the period were up 6.1 percent over fourth quarter 2009 to 2.1 million.

For the year, server sales jumped 11.4 percent over 2009 to $48.1 billion, with global shipments up 15.3 percent to 7.6 million units.

Although a bit lower, those figures are roughly in line with Gartner's recent analysis of the server market.

IDC identified strong growth at the low and high ends of the server market, while midrange products (defined as systems priced between $25,000 and $250,000) saw revenue fall 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, revenue from what IDC terms "volume" servers were up 13.4 percent from the year-earlier period. But the real winner was the high-end segment, with revenues surging 29.1 percent, the largest quarterly increase IDC has reported, attributed in part to the product refresh many enterprises undertook last year.

"Non-x86 platforms contributed significantly to the server market recovery in the fourth quarter, and it remains clear that a variety of heterogeneous server platforms remain an integral part of a comprehensive enterprise IT strategy today," IDC analyst Matt Eastwood said in a statement.

However, the refresh cycle nonetheless propelled x86 revenues to a new record, up 21.4 percent to $9 billion, which in turn helped lift Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows server revenues 16.8 percent ahead of the year-earlier period.

By vendor, IBM (NYSE: IBM) continued to lead the pack, accounting for 37 percent of server revenue in the fourth quarter, helped in large part by surging shipments of its System z servers. Big Blue's overall server revenues jumped 21.9 percent for the quarter. IDC reported IBM enjoyed the second consecutive period of annual revenue increases for its System z line, with sales vaulting 69.1 percent in the fourth quarter to $1.7 billion.

According to analyst Jean Bozman, that success reflects IBM's commitment to rejuvenate its data center offering by integrating it with both a distributed, POWER-based blade chassis and x86 systems.

"Pent-up demand within the installed base, following high-end server declines in 2009 and 2010, was a key driver in the mainframe revenue increase, showing both the need for increased capacity, and ... mainframe customer support of this approach to hybrid-systems computing," Bozman said in a statement.

HP (NYSE: HPQ) held onto the No. 2 spot on the leader board, with quarterly sales up 13.2 percent, driven by the continued popularity of its ProLiant x86 product. HP accounted for 29.9 percent of global server revenues, IDC reported.

Rounding out the top five, Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) accounted for 12.6 percent of global server revenues, followed by Sun with 5.9 percent of the market and Fujitsu with 3.6 of overall revenues in the fourth quarter.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Mar 1st 2011
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