Worldwide factory revenue for the high-performance computing (HPC) technical server market declined 7.2 percent to $10.3 billion for 2013, down from a record $11.1 billion in 2012, according to a report from IT research firm IDC.
Unit shipments in 2013 increased by 19 percent year-over-year, due to the continued rebound in the sub-$500,000 segments in which the majority of all HPC server units are sold.
IDC projected that the worldwide HPC server market will enjoy a healthy compound annual growth rate of 7.3 percent during the 2013 to 2017 forecast period, with revenue to exceed $14 billion in 2017.
High-performance computers, or supercomputers, play an important role in the field of computational science, and are used for a wide range of computationally intensive tasks in various fields, including quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, climate research, oil and gas exploration, molecular modeling and physical simulations.
Hewlett-Packard led the market in 2013, with a 32.3 percent share of overall HPC server revenue, followed by IBM with 27.7 percent.
The report noted Cray had an exceptionally strong 2013; the company's revenue rose 23.4 percent from its 2012 level. Dawning's strong second-half performance led to an impressive 73.8 percent revenue increase from 2012.
The combined "other" category exceeded $1 billion for the first time and was heavily driven by the acceptance of the Tianhe-2 system built by China's National University of Defense Technology.
"HPC servers have been closely linked—not only to scientific advances, but also to industrial innovation and economic competitiveness," Earl Joseph, program vice president for technical computing at IDC, said in a statement. For this reason, nations and regions across the world, as well as businesses and universities of all sizes, are increasing their investments in high-performance computing."
However, the supercomputers segment for HPC systems that sell for $500,000 and up declined 29.4 percent year-over-year to $4 billion, accounting for 38.8 percent of total HPC server revenue in 2013.
A major component of the 2013 revenue came from very large systems sold by IBM, HP and Cray. IDC said it expects this segment to resume growth in future years.
The sub-$500,000 segments experienced a second successive year of robust growth, with the divisional segment (the $250,000 to $499,000 price band) growing 11.4 percent year-over-year to reach $1.4 billion, or 13.2 percent of total HPC server revenue for 2013.
The workgroup segment for HPC systems sold for less than $100,000 showed the strongest growth—an increase of 23.9 percent from 2012 to $1.6 billion, and representing 15.4 percent of all 2013 HPC server revenue.
A report released last June from IDC revealed that two-thirds of high-performance computing sites are conducting big data analysis as part of their HPC workloads. The study also found that HPC sites using coprocessors and accelerators more than doubled during the past two years.