Server Slam: Windows Overtakes Unix, Linux Rising

Windows server revenues gain first place status over Unix revenues for the first time, as Linux moves in to third place, according to analyst findings. What does this mean for Unix-based providers like Sun Microsystems and the market in general?

Revenues for Windows-based x86 servers in the fourth quarter of 2005 for the first time topped spending for Unix systems, according to analyst firm IDC.

Both IDC and Gartner released their latest worldwide service numbers this week, showing a continued trend toward volume systems running Windows and Linux while the RISC and mainframe spaces showed decline.

"The volume server market continues to evolve as richer server configurations driven by both scale-out cluster implementations and scale-up server virtualization initiatives continue to drive increased customer spending," IDC analyst Matthew Eastwood said in a prepared statement.

That said, the push toward server consolidation and virtualization also has had its impact on the volume server space, IDC said—the quarterly shipment growth of 11.5 percent in the market was only two-thirds that of the same period in 2004.

Overall, in the fourth quarter, IDC, of Framingham, Mass., said quarterly server revenue declined .2 percent from the same period in 2004, coming in at $14.5 billion, the first quarterly decline since the first quarter in 2003. Shipment growth came in at 10.6 percent.

For the entire year, server revenue grew between 4.4 percent and 4.5 percent, according to IDC and Gartner, respectively. IDC said shipments jumped 11.6 percent, to about 7 million units, while Gartner saw a 12.7 percent increase over 2004, to more than 6.7 billion servers.

However, both IDC and Gartner, of Stamford, Conn., agreed that the popularity of volume systems continues to grow at the expense of the larger systems. Revenue for midrange systems declined 11.5 percent in the fourth quarter 2005, and high-end server revenue dropped 1.7 percent, according to IDC.

In addition, 2005 represented the first time that Linux servers—with revenues at $5.7 billion for the year—were in third place from an operating system perspective, showing greater use of Linux in commercial and technical environments.

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Conversely, overall shipments in 2005 in the high-end RISC and Itanium space fell 5.3 percent, according to Gartner, and revenue in the space was relatively flat at .5 percent. Gartner attributed much of that to businesses replacing lower-end RISC/Itanium systems with Linux servers and overall declines at the higher end of the market.

Next Page: Mainframe and blade numbers.