Windows Server Sales Flat in Q1, Compared With Linux Models: IDC

The latest server market report from IDC shows sales of units running Windows Server grew only 1.3 percent in the 2012 first quarter, versus 16 percent for Linux servers. But that may be just because of a few big Linux deals, according to an IDC analyst.

Sales of servers running the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 operating system grew a scant 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2012, dwarfed by the 16 percent jump in sales of Linux OS servers based on revenue, according to a report from IDC. An IDC analyst says the difference may be due to a couple of big Linux deals rather than any Windows weakness.

"The Linux numbers were driven by a few HPC [high-performance computing] deals that hit in the first quarter; additionally there were units for Facebook's data center build in North Carolina. These deals did create a little bit of a pop for Linux," said Jed Scaramella, research manager for servers at IDC. The HPC deals included Cray, a maker of supercomputers, and Groupe Bull, a French HPC manufacturer.

Windows Server is still the server OS market-share leader with 50.2 percent of the market, up 1.8 percentage points from the first quarter of 2011, based on revenue of $5.9 billion.

While Windows Server 2008 R2 SP3 is in the process of being replaced with Windows Server 2012 this year, that wouldn't account for the modest sales growth for Windows Server, compared with Linux, said Scaramella. While consumers may hold off buying a new computer running Windows 7 in anticipation of the release later this year of Windows 8, enterprises buying servers don't shop that way.

"Typically, we find that IT shops do not wait on an OS to upgrade their servers, nor do OS versions drastically drive server hardware," he said.

Scaramella expects Windows Server shipments to pick up in the second quarter as Tier 1 server vendors ramp up shipments of new hardware running Intel's Romley processor platform, which is more of a driver of server purchases than the OS.

Harder hit by sales declines were servers tracked by chip architecture rather than operating system. Unix sales revenue fell by 17.2 percent from the year-ago quarter, to $2.2 billion for a market share of 18.3 percent. The market for non-x86 servers, including servers based on the Intel Itanium chip design, declined 16.1 percent year-over-year to $3.4 billion in the first quarter, for a market share of 28.5 percent.

The Itanium chip goes into Hewlett-Packard's Integrity and NonStop server lines and is currently the subject of a trial getting under way in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, Calif. HP is suing Oracle for its decision to stop writing software to run on Itanium-based servers in a move to get customers to buy Oracle's SPARC/Solaris Unix platform servers.

IDC said this is the third consecutive quarter in which non-x86 servers have recorded a revenue decline and that its 28.5 percent market share is the lowest level ever reported in IDC's quarterly server tracker report.