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Large-Scale Data Centers Drive Server Growth Worldwide

Though hampered by hard disk drive (HDD) supply problems and increasing use of server virtualization, sales of servers saw high single-digit growth last year, driven in part by the expansion of data centers to support Web access from smart phones and tablets.

Worldwide server shipments increased by 7 percent in 2011, with an increase of 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the information technology market research firm Gartner. At the same time, worldwide server revenue increased by 7.9 percent in 2011, despite a decline of 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

The Gartner survey, conducted in February 2012, analyzed year-over-year changes in server revenue and shipments, as well as percent market share, from server vendors IBM, HP, Dell, Oracle, Fujitsu, Lenovo, and others.

According to Gartner, the primary driving factor behind growth in the server market was the deployment of x86 servers in large scale data centers to serve Web access from mobile devices, especially in North America, but also in the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions. Spending on blade servers also grew by 14.5 percent, and shipments grew by 4.2 percent for the year.

Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner, cited the shortage of HDD inventory resulting from the Thailand's October floods as the cause of supply problems that affected the ability of vendors to meet demands in Q4. Hewitt anticipated that HDD inventory problems will continue to affect server shipments through the first quarter of 2012.

"The outlook for 2012 suggests that growth will continue," said Hewitt. "These increases continue to be buffered by the use of x86 server virtualization to consolidate physical machines as they are replaced, but the introduction of new processors from Intel and AMD is likely to help fuel and initiate a new round of server replacement cycles."

Other year-over-year results comparing the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2010:

  • Server shipments were up worldwide, with the exception of Western Europe, where shipments fell 3.1 percent;
  • Server revenue increased in the Asia/Pacific region, Eastern Europe, Japan, and the Middle East/Africa region;
  • Server revenue declined in Canada, Latin America, the United States, and Western Europe;
  • Fueled by its Power Systems product line, IBM lead the worldwide server market based on revenue, with a total market share of 33.7 percent, despite a decline of 10.2 percent revenue;
  • Dell was the only one of the top 5 global vendors to post an increase in worldwide server revenue;
  • HP lead the worldwide server market based on shipments, accounting for 28.1 percent of global units, despite a shipment decline of 8.1 percent; and
  • Lenovo and Dell were the only two of the top 5 vendors to post unit sales increases, with growth of 51 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.

Gartner is hosting two upcoming conferences that will focus on the server market, the IT Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit in Orlando June 5 to 7 and the IT Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit in Frankfurt June 12 and 13. Additional details can be found on Gartner's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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