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Big iron is out of fashion as server market shifts to low-end single-socket machines

IDC says AsiaPac market growing, rest of world isn't, Dell wins on volume, and IBM on sale price

The global market for servers was mostly steady in the second quarter of 2021, according to analyst firm IDC, as the market recovers from 2020's unusual demands.

The headline figures of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker are $23.6 billion and 3.2 million. The former represents Q2 server revenue, a 2.5 per cent year on year decline, while the latter is shipment numbers and grew 0.1 per cent year-on-year.

HPE and Dell were rated joint leaders of the market as measured by revenue, as they racked up $3.704 billion and $3.680 billion respectively. Dell shipped 529,804 servers for the quarter, handily topping HPE's 446,168.

IBM had a different story to tell, as its $1.17 billion quarterly revenue made it the fifth-placed vendor on that metric – but it didn’t crack the top five for shipments. Power boxes ain't cheap, after all. And perhaps they aren't very in-demand, either – Big Blue's revenue was down 19.5 per cent year-on-year.

At least IBM wasn't alone in struggling to do deals for big iron. IDC found that high-end server revenue declined by 32.7 per cent to $1.3 billion. Mid-range server revenue also fell, by 30.0 per cent to $2.4 billion and volume server revenue was up 5.6 per cent to nearly $20 billion.

Paul Maguranis, IDC's senior research analyst for infrastructure platforms and technologies, said the market "shifted slightly towards single socket server configurations" – which could well explain why volume servers did well. When equipped with AMD's many-cored EPYC CPUs, a low-end server can pack quite a wallop.

Maguranis also observed: "While servers purchased directly from ODMs declined year over year, some past backlog recovery within the hyperscale datacenter community contributed to a large jump in this segment when compared to the first quarter of this year."

That jump didn't benefit China's Inspur, which saw revenue fall by 12.6 per cent and shipments drop 8.1 per cent in the quarter. ODM direct servers also slipped, with revenue down 8.8 per cent and shipments falling 5.2 per cent to 1,039,601.

Non-x86 servers brought in 4.5 per cent of all revenue – a 4.5 per cent year-on-year decline.

The APAC region (excluding China and Japan) saw revenue rise 8.6 per cent year-over-year. China grew 3.4 per cent, but was outperformed by Latin America's 4.6 per cent revenue jump.

The rest of the world produced red ink. Japan declined 21.2 per cent, North American revenue declined 5.7 per cent, and EMEA dipped by 2.3 per cent. ®

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