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For all of 2012, IBM retained its traditional lead despite a revenue decrease of 4.3 percent to $15.7 billion, IDC said. It was followed by HP with a 7.5-percent revenue drop, Dell with a 4.5 percent rise, Oracle with a 17.4 percent drop, and Fujitsu with a 16.9 percent drop, IDC said.
A major reason for IBM's success in the server business is its strong System z mainframe business. IDC said IBM's mainframe revenue in the quarter was the highest quarterly revenue the company had in over a decade. HP, on the other hand, did very well with its ProLiant x86-based server revenue, but it suffered from a big drop in its Itanium-based Integrity Unix server line, IDC said.
Both IDC and Gartner said Cisco was the real winner in the x86 server market. IDC estimated that Cisco's fourth-quarter 2012 UCS server revenue reached $480 million in the fourth quarter, up 50.7 percent over the same period in 2011. Gartner, meanwhile, estimated that Cisco shipped nearly 209,000 UCS servers in the fourth quarter, up 47.0 percent over last year. That meant revenue for Cisco of over $1.6 billion, up 56.8 percent over last year, Gartner said.
The North American market was by far the best in terms of growth in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Gartner. North American unit shipments rose 5.5 percent over last year, with revenue up 16.3 percent during that time.
The server business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), on the other hand, was a big drag on the overall server business. Gartner estimated fourth-quarter EMEA server shipments fell 10.4 percent, leading to a revenue decline of 7.4 percent over last year.
Windows server sales in the fourth quarter of 2012 rose 3.2 percent to $6.7 billion, while Unix server sales fell 24.1 percent to $2.6 billion, IDC said.
However, the quarter was a resounding success for servers running alternative operating systems. IDC estimated Linux server sales rose 12.7 percent over last year to $3.0 billion thanks to strong demands for high-performance computing and cloud infrastructure deployments. IBM mainframe sales rose 55.6 percent over last year to $1.8 billion thanks to a technology refresh and the consolidation of some enterprise Linux workloads into IBM System z mainframes, IDC said.
For all of 2012, blade server revenue rose 3.2 percent despite a fall in shipments of 3.8 percent, Gartner said. That left HP the top shipper of blade servers with a 43.9-percent market share, followed by IBM at 18.4 percent and Cisco at 12.5 percent.