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Global server sales shrivel as EMEA leads retreat

x86 tanks roll over RISC/Unix fortifications

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The global server market took a revenue dive in the fourth quarter, with the analysts at IDC figuring that sales revenues sunk 7.2 per cent to $14.2bn, although shipments rose by 2 per cent to 2.2 million units. Europe, the Middle East, and Africa did their part in keeping both sets of numbers down.

IDC did some dicing and slicing of the numbers, and reckons that EMEA server vendors pushed 640,636 pieces of iron out of warehouse loading docks in the final quarter of 2011, a decline of 2.1 per cent compared to the year-ago period. And thanks to a big revenue bump in IBM mainframes in the Q4 2010 and the ongoing decline in the Unix server racket, the comparisons with Q4 2011 were very tough indeed, with revenues down 6.7 per cent to $4.1bn.

Western Europe accounted for just over $2bn in x86-based server sales and just over $1bn in other types of machines. Central Europe, the Middle East, and Africa had $1.05bn in sales across all platform types. Sales in Russia were strong, but collapsed in Poland and the Czech Republic. In the Middle East and Africa, Israel was the only country with server revenue growth, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates all down.

It looks like the uptake of density-optimized machines typically installed by hyperscale data centers are finally starting to change the dynamics of the EMEA server business, just as they have in the United States for the past two years.

Shipments of density-optimized machines, which are distinct from rack, blade, and tower machines, and which are being deployed by large web-app operators as well as supercomputing cluster customers (often with GPU coprocessors), shot up by 72.4 per cent to 18,285 units across EMEA, but revenues only grew by 16.6 per cent for these machines, to $60.1m.

The average selling price of one of these dense machines fell by 32.4 per cent to $3,287. That price drop was a lot more than the 3.8 per cent drop, to $6,522, that all other servers fell by in the fourth quarter. As these machines take off in Europe, they will boost shipments but be a drag on overall revenues.

Thanks to delays by Intel and AMD in getting their new Xeon and Opteron processors to market, the x86 portion of the server market in EMEA was flat, with sales up only four-tenths of a percent to $2.7bn. But CISC-based machines (mostly IBM, Unisys, and Fujitsu mainframes) fell by 17.2 per cent to $503.1m, and RISC-based system sales fell by 10.8 per cent to $670.4m.

IDC says that rack servers accounted for $1.9bn in sales in EMEA, falling 7 per cent, and tower machines made up $1.3bn in revenues, falling 12.7 per cent.

EMEA customers seem to be moving to rack and blade servers. Blades accounted for $772.4m in revenues, up 5.1 per cent compared to Q4 2010, and density-optimized machines made up the remaining tiny slice.

IDC tries to figure what the primary operating system will be on the machines sold each quarter, and believes that Windows drove $1.9bn in sales (down six-tenths of a point) compared to $750m for Linux iron (up eight-tenths of a point), $795.8m for Unix machines (down 16.6 percent) and $417m for IBM's z/OS mainframe platform (down 21.9 per cent).

For the first time since the beginning of the Great Recession in the fourth quarter of 2007, IBM edged out HP to be king of the server revenue hill – but not by much.

IBM had $1.41bn in sales in EMEA during Q4 2011, dropping 10.1 per cent from the prior year, with $483.8m coming from Power Systems and $383.3m coming from System x machines. HP had a little more than $1.4bn in sales (only 10.5m less than IBM if you go down into the significant digits in IDC's data), and fell by 11.2 per cent.

HP's x86-based ProLiant servers accounted for $1.2bn of its sales. Dell grew sharply, by 17 per cent, to $499.1m in revenues for its PowerEdge machines in EMEA in Q4, thanks in part to strong sales among cloud operators, says IDC.

Oracle' server revenues shrank 8.7 per cent to $219m, and Fujitsu shank 13.9 per cent to $179.4m; about $63.7m of that came from its BS2000/OSD family of mainframes, and $115.7m was for Primergy x86-based iron. If you do the math, there wasn't any Sparc Enterprise revenue there at all in EMEA for Fujitsu. All other vendors together accounted for $406.1m in server sales for the quarter, up 4.3 per cent.

For the full year, EMEA server revenues rose 3.4 per cent to $14.38bn. HP was the top seller with $5.53bn, compared to IBM's $4.3bn, Dell's $1.73bn, Oracle's $996.6m, and Fujitsu's $725.5m. ®

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