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.
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.
Server Slam: Windows Overtakes Unix, Linux Rising – Page 2
Overall mainframe revenue dropped 9.5 percent in 2005, with IBM—the mainframe market leader—seeing mainframe revenue dropping 7.6 percent.
“These [x86 volume] servers continue to be the choice in increasing numbers to meet the needs of more Web users accessing more file types from more access points than ever,” analyst Jeffrey Hewitt said in a statement.
Backing that up was the continued growth of Dells server business, which is predicated on the scale-out architecture, and the jumps in both revenue and shipments in the blade server space.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., and Hewlett-Packard, of Palo Alto, Calif., kept the top two spots for server revenue in both the fourth quarter and overall in 2005, but it was Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, that was the fastest growing of the bunch, seeing revenues rise 7.3 percent for the quarter and 13.3 percent for the year.
At the same time, both Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu saw revenue growth stay relatively flat or fall.
HP remained number one in server shipments, while Dell remained second. In the fourth quarter, x86 systems—fueled by the rapid adoption of 64-bit computing—garnered $6.8 billion in revenue on shipments of 1.8 million units, representing increases of 6.7 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively, according to IDC. The blade server space in the fourth quarter saw a 49.3 percent increase in shipments and 56.9 percent jump in revenue. Linux server revenue reached $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter, a jump of 20.8 percent.
However, IDC analyst Jean Bozman cautioned that while Windows systems did overtake RISC servers for the first time, that didnt translate into the imminent demise of RISC servers.
“Each platform offers its own advantages in terms of workloads and customer preferences, and there is substantial overlap in terms of ISV applications that run on many of these server platforms,” Bozman said in a statement. “Although the trend is towards volume servers, we do not believe that any one platform will be in a position to force another platform out of the marketplace for many years to come.”
Indeed, IBM, HP and Sun continue to invest in these larger systems. IBM last year rolled out the latest generation of its mainframe systems, the z9, which the company $1.2 billion to develop over three years. Along with offering twice the performance and memory as the previous z990, the system also included greater virtualization and security capabilities. Officials also lauded the platforms ability to run multiple workloads, including Linux.
In addition, a month after the z9 rollout, IBM launched new programs aimed at enticing students and programmers to the mainframe platform, and increased the management and monitoring capabilities.
IBM also is continuing to roll out its RISC-based Power architecture, outfitting its i- and pSeries systems with the new Power5+ and talking about the upcoming Power6. However, officials also are pushing the systems as perfect platforms for Linux workloads.
For their part, HP continues to standardize its high-end systems on Intels 64-bit Itanium chips, and Sun is offering an aggressive roadmap for its SPARC architecture. In December, the Santa Clara, Calif., company rolled out the UltraSPARC T1 chip, with up to eight cores each running up to four instructions simultaneously. With both the T1 and its Galaxy systems, powered by Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chip, Sun is aiming to break into areas dominated by x86 systems in which it doesnt traditionally play.
However, those markets are seeing an increase in capabilities as well. In 2005, both AMD and Intel launched their respective dual-core processors, moves designed to increase the performance of servers running the chips without relying solely on cranking up the frequency and thus making them more attractive for use with higher-end applications.
Both companies plan to expand the use of dual-core technology in their processors this year, along with such features as on-chip virtualization and security.