IDC forecasts that global server revenue will grow by $7 billion to reach $53 billion this year from sales of 8.2 million servers. Although server revenue grew by 10 percent in 2010, that followed a dismal 2009, when revenue fell by 19 percent. After that roller-coaster ride, 2011 will be marked by "stability and normal seasonality," says Jed Scaramella, an IDC servers research manager.
"Clients are noting to us that capital is slowly being freed up, and there's a return to some credit availability, which is helping to fuel overall IT and server spending," Scaramella says.
Servers based on the x86 architecture will continue to dominate the market at 65 percent of revenue in 2011, although mainframe and Unix-based servers showed renewed strength with a forecast of 2.5 percent growth this year after many years of decline, adds Jean Bozman, research VP for enterprise servers. Bozman notes that HP, IBM, Oracle and Fujitsu each introduced new products in this segment in 2010.
But new servers running more energy-efficient ARM and Intel Atom processors could cause some market disruption, the analysts say.
Server demand is also being driven by the popularity of mobile devices among business users and consumers, such as smartphones and tablet computers that access the Internet wirelessly and consume large amounts of data for applications such as streaming audio and video. These and other applications will drive an explosion in data use going forward, notes Matthew Eastwood, group VP for enterprise platforms research. He said IDC forecasts a 44-fold increase in the amount of digital data created each year in the next 10 years, to a total 35 zetabytes by 2020. (A zetabye is 1 billion terabytes.) Among the data-generating applications are medical imaging, oil and gas exploration, search, social networking and video surveillance, Eastwood says.