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EMEA shops set x64 server share record

But spending still slowed by the Great Recession

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Europe has been looking for some good news — aside from the fact that it is not in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico — and it comes today in the form of server stats from the box counters at IDC.

To be precise, there was a recovery in spending on x64 servers in the first quarter, with machines using Xeon and Opteron chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices accounting for just over $2bn in aggregate sales across the region, up 33.3 per cent from a year ago. This represented a record 64.8 per cent of the $3.16bn in server revenues across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).

RISC, mainframe, and other proprietary systems accounted for $1.1bn in sales in the quarter, dropping 20.7 per cent from a perfectly awful first quarter of 2009. The big three Unix vendors - IBM, HP, and Oracle - are in product transitions right now, and IBM's System z business is stuck in the tar pits as mainframe shops await upgraded systems that will be coming sometime in the second half of this year.

"This quarter marked the first incursion into positive annual growth rates by the EMEA server market since the second quarter of 2008," said Beatriz Valle, senior research analyst in the enterprise server group at IDC EMEA, in a statement accompanying the stats. "Whilst it is encouraging that annual growth rates in EMEA are higher than trends recorded on a worldwide basis, the quarter-on-quarter growth data indicates this recovery is far from consolidated."

As El Reg reported last week, IDC reckons that global server sales, when counted in US dollars, came to $10.42bn, up 4.7 per cent. Global x64 sales rose by 33.6 per cent, to $6.8bn, while non-x64 iron had $3.6bn in sales, down 25.9 per cent.

With x64 iron representing two-thirds of revenues globally and now in EMEA (a new high), and somewhere around 95 per cent of all server shipments, the question everyone is pondering is this: will other architectures rebound, or is this a permanent transition caused by a weak economy? Weak economies have always driven system and server transitions, simply because people don't change boxes unless economic conditions compel them to.

While revenues were up sharply, the box count did not rise as fast in EMEA in the first quarter, says IDC, with only 560,000 machines shipped, up 16.4 per cent from the prior year's first quarter. Global shipments rose by 23.3 per cent in the quarter, to north of 1.8 million units.

IDC reminds everyone that while all the double-digit numbers for x64 servers are great, the overall server market in Q1 2010 is measured against easy compares, and it will be a long time — we might say "never" in cynical moments — before even server revenues attain the levels prior to the Great Recession.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, when the recession was just starting to kick in, EMEA server revenues were $4.4bn, and at the most recent peak, in the fourth quarter of 2007, they were $5.4bn. Still, this all beats the double-digit declines EMEA server sellers faced in all four quarters of 2009. Those salad days — and they were, compared to the years ahead — are gone and best forgotten as a time of gross inefficiencies in the data center.

In the first quarter, RISC-based servers accounted for $600m in revenues, according to IDC, down 23.9 per cent. CISC-based mainframes experienced a 16.1 per cent decline in revenues in EMEA, while Itanium-based iron had a 17.3 per cent decline. (Revenue figures for these classes of machines were not divulged.)

By form factor, blade servers accounted for $600m in sales, up 32.4 per cent, while rack servers generated $1.6bn in revenues and tower boxes did $1bn. HP captured 63.7 per cent of revenue for blades in Q1 according to IDC, and did over $1bn in revenues across its ProLiant brand, which includes blade, rack, and tower machines.

HP's total revenues in EMEA for the quarter came to $1.31bn, up 21.6 per cent, giving HP the top rank in EMEA for the ninth quarter in a row. HP also took the top spot worldwide in Q1, unseating Big Blue from a perch it had since the dawn of the systems age four and a half decades ago.

IBM's server revenues in EMEA actually declined 5 per cent, to $790.6m, thanks to declines in Power Systems and System z machines, but are expected to perk up later this year as the Power7 upgrade cycle builds up steam and new System z11 mainframes come to market.

Dell's server business, which is just x64 iron, had a 29.2 per cent bump in EMEA in Q1, to $372.7m, and while Oracle had a terrible Q1 globally, falling off a cliff by 31.9 per cent to $683m — and nearly cut in half compared to the $1.37bn Sun Microsystems had in the first quarter of 2008 before Oracle was even thinking about acquiring Sun.

Fujitsu had a pretty good quarter this time around, with sales up 8.1 per cent, to $209.5m, with strong x64 sales in Germany thanks to Fujitsu's taking over of the Siemens half of the Fujitsu-Siemens partnership. Other vendors keep getting a tinier and tinier piece of the action in EMEA, accounting for only $173.4m, down 8.9 per cent. ®

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