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Blade server shipments rose in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the same period last year by 6.5 percent, but revenue for those blades rose 23.6 percent.
Blade server vendors can thank the push towards virtualization, Hewitt said. "You're seeing people use more rich configurations for virtualization," he said. "Customers want higher-end blades with more memory."
HP kept its lead in the blade server market by selling 152,000 of the 338,000 blades shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010. It was followed by IBM, Dell, and Cisco. Hewitt said Cisco sold 18,000 blade servers during the fourth quarter of 2010.
Blade server shipment growth was probably not as strong as it might have been thanks to the growing use of "skinless servers," which strip out much of the chassis and electronics to form highly-dense server infrastructures. Hewitt said skinless servers are being used to build cloud computing infrastructures where load balancing is more important than managing of individual servers.
The worldwide server market continued its march towards dominance by the x86 platform. Total x86-based server shipments rose 18.1 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, while revenue grew 28.8 percent during that same period. HP, Dell, IBM, Fujitsu, and NEC took first through fifth place in both categories in 2010.
On the RISC/Itanium Unix side, however, it was a completely different story. There, overall worldwide shipments fell 16.8 percent while revenue fell 11.6 percent, led by a huge 29.3 percent drop in shipments by Oracle, which could take some solace in the fact that all of the top five vendors in this part of the market saw shipment and revenue drop, according to Gartner.
Worldwide server growth was driven primarily by a strengthening of the U.S. market, where 2010 revenue grew 24.5 percent compared to 2009, Gartner said. The Asia/Pacific market also saw strong growth, at 22.4 percent, but not in Japan where the server market dropped 4.4 percent in 2010.