IDC Sees 5.1 Percent Server Growth In 2011 Based On Cloud, Mobile Growth

IDC is forecasting 5.1 percent growth in server revenue this year, as the market makes a "return to stability" after the recession year of 2009 and the recovery seen in 2010. Among the drivers for server growth are greater adoption of cloud computing, increased use of mobile computing platforms and explosive growth in the amount of data being generated, IDC analysts said in a Webcast Tuesday.

January 27, 2011

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IDC is forecasting 5.1 percent growth in server revenue this year, as the market makes a "return to stability" after the recession year of 2009 and the recovery seen in 2010. Among the drivers for server growth are greater adoption of cloud computing, increased use of mobile computing platforms and explosive growth in the amount of data being generated, IDC analysts said in a Webcast Tuesday.

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.Even though the aim of cloud computing is to give businesses access to computing resources without having to buy their own hardware, cloud computing is still going to be a significant driver of server sales growth, the analysts say. Cloud service providers, for instance, are fueling demand for what are called "ultra-dense servers," which Scaramella describes as stripped-down servers optimized for compute density, scalability and energy efficiency.

Scaramella also identified an emerging market for what he calls "micro servers," which should gain traction this year. The segment is so new IDC doesn't have a formal definition of a micro server yet, but "it's aimed for extreme density and energy efficiency, but with a trade-off in processing," Scaramella says. This is a market in which ARM and Atom processors could be popular.

IDC analysts made 10 predictions in all for 2011 in their Webcast, including: increased adoption of converged infrastructure computing; growing demand for high-availability systems; an emphasis on workload-optimized systems for business intelligence; other business applications such as collaboration and database/online transaction processing; and ongoing power and cooling system monitoring.

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