Q3 2009: Blade Servers and x86 Leading Server Market

Dec 02, 2009

With a 1.2% growth, blade servers are leading all others in the market segment that may have made strides in the past. But the IDC research firm sees light at the end of the tunnel: since the bleak period that ended 2008, the revenue curve for the worldwide server market is trending upwards again.

Compared with 2008, the worldwide revenue for the server market declined 17.3% in the third quarter of 2009 to $10.4 billion, which makes the fifth consecutive quarter of a downturn. Server unit shipments fell by almost 18% year over year. Volume shipments fell by almost 15%, with midrange enterprise server revenue falling by more than 23%.

IDC emphasizes, however, that the negative trend in revenue and unit shipments is only half as bad as it was in 2Q09. The second quarter showed a decline of a little over 30%. The market research firm rates the Q3 figures in comparatively positive terms: revenue grew for the first time since 4Q08 and server shipments increased by 12.4% year over year, "the largest sequential unit growth since 2005."

Vendor ranking in 3Q09: IBM slides a whisper ahead of HP since 2008 and Sun is hit comparatively the worst. (Source: IDC)

Linux servers grew in market share year over year by not quite one percent to 14.8%, with $1.5 billion total revenue among vendors and distributors. The increase was $200 million over the previous quarter, but still almost 13% less than 3Q08. In comparison, the UNIX server revenue came to $2.8 billion, a slight decline since Q2 and more than a 23% cut year over year, representing a market share of just under 27%. The largest revenue share came from Windows machines in 3Q09, with $4.5 billion, but with a similar year-over-year decline at just under 13% as the Linux servers.

IDC found that the x86 processor platform factory revenues grew by 18.7% from quarter to quarter, but still showed a drop of 12.3% year over year. The only growth factor seemed to be the blade server market: compared to last year, factory revenue actually grew by 1.2%, even though shipments declined by 14%. The results show a revenue growth for three quarters in a row, with blade servers the top growth market over the last six months. IDC attributes the blade server success to cost efficiencies due to next generation processors (Intel Nehalem) and increased RAM. Customers use blade servers for new, virtualized environments, considering them "closely associated technologies" and a driving force in the data center of the future.

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