Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The ‘Other’ Server Makers Are Gaining Ground

This quarter’s market-share reports on computer server shipments and sales from Gartner and IDC are an unusually eloquent statement about the world’s transition to cloud computing and commodity machines that don’t command a big profit margin.

The reports are bad news for well-known companies selling servers that suit a specific purpose or those that hope a household brand name, like Hewlett-Packard, will help sales.

At first pass, you might think little has changed. I.B.M.’s high-end machines still held the most revenue, bringing in about $3.2 billion, according to Gartner, and $3.3 billion, according to IDC. That was off 9.7 percent and 10 percent, however, from the analysts’ year-ago numbers.

Hewlett-Packard shipped the most units of any company, Gartner said. These were mostly commodity servers, built on the X86 chip, the most common chip architecture used in PCs and servers.  Intel is the biggest producer of these kinds of chips. Once again, H.P.’s leadership position was off 13.6 percent compared with the third quarter of 2012.

But the real story here is losses by big companies and impressive gains by the category both analyst firms call “Others,” which are largely Taiwanese and Chinese makers who ship very cheap machines with little or no brand association.

“Others” came in third after I.B.M. and H.P. in revenue, Gartner said, growing 7.9 percent to $2.7 billion (like I.B.M., H.P.’s server revenue was down significantly.) I.D.C. had Dell slightly higher, and it put the “Others” in fourth place.

The “Others” blew everyone away in volume. Gartner said they shipped 969,342 units, a stunning 14.4-percent increase.  Cisco’s growth rate was far lower than the commodity manufacturers’.

Companies like Quanta ship these computers in shrink-wrapped racks that go into the world’s biggest data centers. According to a Facebook engineer, last year Quanta racks made up 80 percent of Facebook’s servers.

There were other stories inside the numbers: Dell’s push into servers is making impressive gains, probably at the expense of H.P. It is not clear that this will translate into new demand from cloud consumers. Cisco’s network-based servers, part of the company’s overall push into network-based cloud computing, is gaining ground.

But for now, the real tale is the rise of the faceless suppliers, and the incessant demand for their undistinguished raw power by cloud-computing data centers.