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Higher Ed HPC Outlook Positive Despite Weak Second Quarter

While the high-performance computing server market dipped in the second quarter worldwide, its outlook for higher education remains positive, according to market research firm IDC.

According to IDC's new report, "Worldwide High-Performance Technical Server QView," worldwide server unit shipments dipped more than 21 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared with the second quarter of 2011, representing a decline of nearly 23,000 units. However, revenues were essentially flat, dropping 0.9 percent to $2.4 billion worldwide in that period, as spending on higher-end systems increased, while spending on lower-end systems declined. IDC characterized the change in the HPC market as "an ongoing, multi-year shift to large system sales."

In the first and second quarters of 2012 combined, HPC unit shipments declined 11 percent, and revenues fell 1 percent compared with the first half of 2011.

HPC and Education
Although higher education isn't broken out in IDC's latest report, Chirag Dekate, IDC research manager--HPC/TC/BigData, told Campus Technology in an e-mail that growth in the higher education segment would remain positive through 2016.

"IDC research shows that worldwide technical server revenue in the university/academic vertical grew almost 12 percent from $1.7 billion in 2010 to $1.9 billion in 2011," according to Dekate. "We haven't analyzed revenue by vertical segments for the first half of 2012 yet, but based on the data trends so far we have every reason to believe the that the university/academic segment has continued to grow. We forecast that this segment will grow to $2.5 billion by 2016 with a [compound annual growth rate] of 5.9 percent."

Winners and Losers
Across all segments in the second quarter, the most growth was seen in the category of supercomputers costing $500,000 or more. This category jumped 21.8 percent in the second quarter compared to the first quarter, hitting $1.17 billion. (Year over year figures were not available.) Nearly half of all HPC revenues--48.6 percent--were attributable to supercomputers in this category, according to IDC.

Meanwhile, the weakest performance was seen in the lowest-end segment of the HPC market, workgroup HPC systems costing less than $100,000. That category dropped 20.3 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period last year. This category accounted for 10.6 percent of overall HPC revenues for the quarter.

Systems costing $100,000 to $249,000 accounted for 27.5 percent of revenues in the quarter, IDC reported, and systems costing $250,000 to $500,000 accounted for 13.4 percent of revenues.

IBM's systems accounted for 32.7 percent of all HPC technical server revenue in the quarter, followed closely by HP, which captured 29.8 percent. Dell came in third with 14.2 percent of worldwide revenues.

Longer-Term Outlook
Despite the slump in the second quarter, IDC reported, the outlook for 2012 across the board is expected to grow by 7.21 percent to $11 billion and continue growing at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 7.3 percent through 2016.

"HPC technical servers, especially Supercomputers, have been closely linked not only to scientific advances but also to industrial innovation and economic competitiveness. For this reason, nations and regions across the world are increasing their investments in supercomputing even in today's challenging economic conditions," said Earl Joseph, program vice president for Technical Computing at IDC, in a prepared statement. "We expect the global race for HPC leadership in the petascale-exascale era to continue heating up during this decade."

Additonal details can be found in IDC's second-quarter "Worldwide High-Performance Technical Server QView."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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