Cisco Systems grabbed the last spot in the top five server vendor list due to 70-plus percent year-over-year growth in server shipments and revenue, according to a report from research firm Gartner.
The strong server growth displayed by Cisco in the first quarter of 2012, along with increased sales by Japanese server vendors that were able to take advantage of the rebound in the Japanese economy following last year's massive earthquake and tsunami, helped generate a slight uptick in worldwide server shipments and moderate a decline in server revenue, according to Gartner.
Gartner late Tuesday reported that vendors shipped 2.35 million servers in the first quarter of 2012, up 1.5 percent from the 2.31 million servers shipped in the first quarter of 2011. Falling average selling prices for servers, however, led to a 1.8 percent decline in total worldwide server revenue in the first quarter of 2012 compared to last year, Gartner reported.
For the x86-based server market, total shipments increased 1.7 million units over last year while total vendor revenue rose 5.6 percent due to the sales of more powerful servers for use in virtualized environments.
The top three server vendors, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM, all saw shipments and revenue fall over the year, Gartner reported.
The entire server industry was impacted to a number of conditions, including weak economic growth in much of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, said Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner.
Furthermore, server shipments in general were slower than normal due to the hard drive shortage caused by last year's Thailand floods.
The past few months have also shown some hesitation in server purchases as customers evaluate servers based on the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 platform, he said.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP remained the top vendor in unit terms by shipping 685,015 servers in the first quarter, down 0.4 percent. The company's 0.2 percent rise in x86-based server shipments was overshadowed by the huge 36.0 percent drop in Unix server shipments resulting from HP's dispute with Oracle over Oracle's decision to stop developing software for HP's Itanium processor-based servers.
Dell, Round Rock, Texas, was the second-largest server vendor during the first quarter, with shipments reaching 503,450 units, down 1.0 percent over last year.
Holding steady at No. 3 was Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM with 267,556 servers shipped during the quarter, down 1.7 percent year-over-year. IBM's x86-based server shipments fell 2.2 percent compared to last year, but its Unix server shipments rose a solid 9 percent.
The No. 4 server vendor was Japan-based Fujitsu, which saw shipments rise 12.7 percent to reach 86,360 units.
Cisco, San Jose, Calif.,
sold 40,498 servers during the quarter, up a whopping 70.9 percent over the
previous quarter, Gartner reported. And, because it was able to raise its
average selling price, the company's server revenue rose even faster, by 72.4
percent over last year, to $335.2 million in the first quarter.
NEXT: Looking Ahead At Server Growth
The rise of Fujitsu and Cisco knocked Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle from the top five. Oracle took a big hit in the Unix market, where shipments fell 1.2 percent and revenue fell 25.7 percent. While that was not as big a drop as HP, whose Unix server revenue fell 40.2 percent, Oracle has no big x86 server business on which to fall back.
"Cisco is leveraging its connections, " said Hewitt. "They have their fingers in nearly every data center in the world. Cisco got a couple points of shipment share, but it was from a small base. But they did grow. They do have an impact on their opponents. I think they'll continue to make headway. And if they do, they'll continue to take share away from the leaders.
"That is not meant to criticize IBM, HP, or Dell for changes in their server business, Hewitt added. "They are victims of the economy, of hard drive shipments," he said. "And, more so than Cisco, they are victims of their relationship with Intel who gets them going on new product refreshes."
Looking forward, Hewitt said he expects modest 5 percent to 6 percent growth in U.S. server shipments for 2012.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether that growth will come from the top branded vendors, or from the relatively unknown ODM vendors that are increasingly selling unbranded servers or components to large data center companies such as Google and Facebook, he said. That uncertainty will only grow as other large companies such as Microsoft build out their Internet data centers and possibly look toward the ODMs for supplies.
Adding uncertainty to 2012 is the question of when an expected server refresh cycle really takes hold, Hewitt said.
"The midsize and enterprise market in the U.S. is still growing," he said. "If the economy looks good, the server business could grow beyond our mid-single-digit predictions. There is a refresh cycle waiting to happen. But when? I don't know. It could be in the third or fourth quarter. Or it could be a bigger cycle that starts in 2013."