The long awaited server refresh that emerged in the fourth quarter lifted the global market out of the gloom, with perkier x86 shipments more than offsetting weakness in demand for RISC and Itanium.
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According to IDC, overall shipments went up 1.9% to 1.9 million units with factory turnover down by nearly 4% to $13bn. Gartner data had put shipments up 4.5% to 2.2 million and revenues down 3.2% to $12.6bn.
"Customers are actively re-evaluating their IT needs and refreshing their infrastructures, and the fourth quarter represents the beginning of the inflection," said Matt Eastwood, group vice president of IDC's enterprise server group.
IDC figures showed the worldwide x86 segment, which accounted for 55% of server revenues and 96% of shipments, was up 12% and unit sales grew 3.8%.
Blade sales rose 8.3% and revenues climbed nearly 31%, remaining the bright spot for vendors, said IDC.
Volume systems posted the sharpest rebound with 9.9% revenue growth, mid-range server ($25,000 to $250,000) revenues grew 5.3%. But the analyst house agreed that the high-end segment remained stuck in the doldrums, declining 23.5%.
IDC said this was the first time since Q3 08 that all three server segments have not experienced year-over-year revenue declines in the same quarter.
Data from rival market watcher Gartner showed that the high-end RISC and Itanium continued to struggle, with unit shipments declining 30.5% and revenues falling 20%.
"RISC/ Itanium Unix and mainframes remained constrained and that exerted downward pressure on overall vendor revenues," said Gartner research vice president Jeffery Hewitt.
In terms of factory revenues, Gartner said IBM led the market but Big Blue and Sun Microsystems, were the only top five vendors to record a decline. With shipments, all the major players, again apart from Sun, posted growth.
Regionally, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa and the US posted shipments rises but Canada, Eastern and Western Europe, Japan and Latin America saw unit sales decline.
For the year, worldwide server sales fell 16.6% and revenues went down 18.3%, said Gartner.