Amazon, Google, Other Hyperscalers Drive Server Market

IDC and Gartner say large cloud players like Microsoft and Baidu are fueling the rise of ODMs as influences in the worldwide data center system space.

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Hyperscale data center operators such as Amazon, Google and Facebook continue to drive the global server market and the original design manufacturers they largely rely on are continuing to grow as a major presence in the space, according to analysts with Gartner and IDC.

Both analyst firms said that server revenue and shipments grew in the second quarter of 2017 over the same period last year and that the hyperscale companies were the driving force behind the trend. Amazon alone accounted for more than 10 percent—or more than 245,000—of the systems shipped during the second three months of the year, according to IDC.

These companies tend to embrace the latest chip architectures—such as Intel’s release in July of its Xeon Scalable server processors—faster than traditional organizations and are an indication of the continuing influence of cloud computing in the enterprise, according to Kuba Stolarski, research director for computing platforms at IDC.

"Hyperscalers as a group made a large deployment push in the second quarter," Stolarski said in a statement. "As hyperscalers tend to lead the market on most architectural updates, we expect the rest of the market to catch up over the next several quarters. As the market cycles through this refresh, we are seeing changes in vendor portfolios with new modular system designs and a greater focus on accelerator technologies, as well as the continued evolution of the role of cloud services in corporate IT."

Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner, said the hyperscalers were one of two key factors for the increase in revenue and shipments. The other was the continued buildouts of data centers in the Asia/Pacific region, particularly in China, he said.

IDC analysts said global server revenue jumped 6.3 percent in the quarter, while shipments increased 1.9 percent. Garter placed the revenue increase at 2.8 percent and shipments at 2.4 percent.

Overall, both IDC and Gartner had Hewlett Packard Enterprise as the top server vendor in terms of revenue. HPE held a 23 percent market share, according to Gartner, followed by Dell EMC, IBM, Cisco Systems and Huawei Technologies. IDC gave HPE a 21.3 percent share, with the only difference in the list being Lenovo in the fifth-place spot rather than Huawei.

In terms of shipments, Dell EMC topped Gartner’s list with 17.5 percent share, edging HPE at 17.1 percent. Huawei, Inspur Electronics and Lenovo rounded out the top five. IDC said the two top vendors were in a statistical tie in the shipments segments, with HPE holding a 20.7 percent share and Dell EMC 20.1 percent.

The hyperscale players, which also include companies like Microsoft and Baidu, have become increasingly influential in the server market over the past several years. The companies run massive data centers to keep their web-based businesses up and running and buy huge numbers of servers and other data center systems. Server cost and power efficiency are as important as performance for these organizations, and major OEMs like Dell EMC and HPE have created businesses that primarily cater to their needs, including building systems customized for their particular needs.

At the same time, original design manufacturers (ODMs), which sell systems that comprise industry-standard components and cost less than those from high-end OEMs, have also seen their businesses grow as hyperscale data center operators buy servers from them in increasing numbers.

IDC analysts said that the ODMs as a single unit accounted for 22.6 percent of the worldwide global server space in terms of revenue in the second quarter, more than HPE and more than the "other" category.

"ODM shipments continue to gain share as large datacenters find it attractive to custom build their server designs at attractive volume prices," Lloyd Cohen, director of worldwide market analysis for IDC’s computing platforms unit, said in a statement.

"Demand for two-socket form factors continues to control a majority of unit shipments now and going forward as they are the sweet spot for density-optimized servers, which are used in data centers," he said. "Two-socket machines are attractive for datacenter deployment in terms of both power usage and cost per server."