Cisco's charge into the blade server market with its UCS technology is beginning to shake up a highly consolidated market, where the top three vendors account for 80 per cent of revenues, according to IDC Enterprise Server research manager Jed Scaramella.
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"The entry of Cisco has provided a viable new competitor to the market," he said, as the analyst house released its first quarter server market numbers.
Blade system sales increased 23.8 per cent on the year-ago quarter, making revenues of $1.8bn or 15.2 per cent of the market, 90 per cent from x86. HP, IBM, Cisco and Dell were the top vendors in this segment, accounting for 50 per cent, 20 per cent, 9.4 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively.
An overall recovery in the server market has extended from x86 servers to midrange Unix to high-end mainframe class systems for the first time in nearly three years, according to IDC.
Improved market conditions were found across all three server classes, defined by the market-watchers as volume, midrange enterprise and high-end enterprise, with total unit shipments up 2.5 per cent year-on-year to 1.9 million units and revenues up 12.1 per cent to $11.9bn (£7.31bn).
Broken out, volume system sales grew 8.7 per cent, midrange enterprise 28.3 per cent and high-end enterprise 14.2 per cent, the first time in two years that all segments have been on an upward trend.
"There is evidence that heterogenous systems remain critically important to customers addressing a wide range of workload needs in their datacentres," said Matt Eastwood, group vice president of Enterprise Platforms at IDC.
"As we moved into 2011 IDC predicted that the technology refresh cycle would extend from volume- to value-oriented systems with somewhat longer planning horizons, and this is clearly happening," he added.
By vendor, HP continued to hold the number one position globally, with 31.5 per cent of sales, up 10.8 per cent on improved demand for its x86 ProLiant and Itanium-based Integrity lines.
IBM came in second with 29.2 per cent market share, growing sales 22.1 per cent year-on-year on strong demand for Power Systems, while System z and System x ticked over nicely.
Third place Dell held 15.6 per cent of the market, up 9.7 per cent on the year-ago quarter on healthy SMB demand. A year since its acquisition of Sun Oracle held steady at fourth place with 6.5 per cent, up 13.6 per cent. The top five was rounded out by Fujitsu, which commanded 4.8 per cent of the market by sales, down 15.6 per cent. New kid Cisco currently accounts for 1.6 per cent of the market.
By OS, IDC observed double digit growth in non-x86 servers based on RISC, EPIC and CISC processors, as well as Unix, IBM System z, Linux and Microsoft Windows.