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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."