High-end server market delivers record revenues in 2012

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Worldwide factory revenue for the high performance computing (HPC) technical server market increased by 7.7 percent year-over-year in 2012 to a record $11.1 billion, up from $10.3 billion in 2011, according to research firm IDC.

The 2012 results exceeded IDC’s forecast of 7.1 percent year-over-year revenue growth.

IBM led all vendors with a 32-percent share of overall factory revenue, closely followed by HP with a 30.8-percent share. Dell once again was a strong third-place finisher, capturing 13.5 percent of worldwide technical server revenue.

Unit shipments in 2012 declined 6.8 percent year-over-year as average-selling prices grew, reflecting the continued shift to large system sales.

The brightest spot continued to be the high-end supercomputers segment for HPC systems, which sell for $500,000 and up.

Revenue in this segment jumped 29.3 percent over 2011 to $5.6 billion. The supercomputing segment accounted for 50.9 percent of total technical server revenue for 2012.

A major component of this year’s growth came from very large systems sold by Fujitsu, IBM, HP, and Cray. A single Fujitsu supercomputer, the “K” system installed at Japan’s RIKEN, accounted for more than $500 million of the total.

Growth in the divisional segment ($250,000 to $499,000 price band) dipped 2.2 percent from 2011 to finish 2012 at $1.2 billion. This segment captured 10.9 percent of the total revenue for 2012.

After posting a record $3.5 billion year in 2011, the departmental segment ($100,000 – $250,000 price band) eased back in 2012 to $3.0 billion, still topping the 2009 mid-recession low point of $2.8 billion.

The 2012 figure accounted for 27 percent of all technical server revenue, greater than the combined 2012 totals (22.1 percent) for the divisional and workgroup segments.

The workgroup segment (sub-$100,000 price band) modestly rebounded in 2012 to $1.24 billion, a 1.2 percent gain over the 2011 revenue total but still far from the 2008 figure of $2.5 billion.

Workgroup revenue was hit especially hard by the global economic recession, as buyers delayed or canceled some planned acquisitions in this segment that is characterized by purchases based on shorter sales cycles and more discretionary spending.

Workgroup revenue has also been dampened a bit by the tendency of workgroups within some organizations to pool their HPC budgets to purchase larger, non-workgroup HPC systems that are centrally managed and shared.

Despite these factors, IDC believes that workgroup revenue will continue to rebound slowly.

“HPC technical servers, especially Supercomputers, have been closely linked not only to scientific advances but also to industrial innovation and economic competitiveness. For this reason, nations and regions across the world are increasing their investments in supercomputing even in today’s challenging economic conditions,” said Earl Joseph, program vice president for technical computing at IDC.

Steve Conway, research vice president for technical computing at IDC, added that “2012 was an exceptionally strong revenue year for the high-end Supercomputers segment, which grew 29.3 percent year over year. IDC does not expect the high end of the market to continue growing at a pace this swift.”

IDC forecasts that the overall HPC technical server market will experience a healthy 7.3 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the 2011?2016 forecast period, reaching revenues of more than $14 billion by 2015.

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