Although the server market is mature, it will experience strong growth through to 2015, as large customers such as Google, Amazon and Facebook will demand servers to fuel their datacentres’ growth, says Gartner.
"The server market was worth $52.8bn worldwide in 2011 and, although it is mature, it will offer considerable growth opportunities in the coming years," said Kiyomi Yamada, principal research analyst at Gartner.
The opportunities will arise as demand for certain types of workload increases and use of servers shifts to very large datacentres, virtualisation and energy-efficient products, Yamada said.
The research firm has identified three key server areas that will see growth opportunities – the hyperscale datacentres, hosted virtual desktop (HVD) workloads and extreme low-energy (ELE) servers.
Hyperscale datacentres are for those that need large numbers of servers such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
The hyperscale/cloud datacentre segment currently accounts for about 11% of server shipments. Gartner expects the segment to account for about 17% of the total x86 server market in unit terms by 2015.
Although the hyperscale datacentre market is a big one, it is restricted to a few dozen large enterprises.
"This strong, concentrated buying power inevitably means intense competition and lower margins, as well as fluctuating demand,” Yamada said.
"In order to be successful in this area, organisations must offer custom design, manufacturing, installation and support capabilities that specifically target the segment."
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In addition, Gartner analysts estimated that by 2015, virtualised physical servers deployed for HVD workloads will account for 16.7% of virtualised physical servers for all workloads.
HVD workloads are among the fastest-growing server workloads because of the business continuity and operational efficiency they bring to businesses. Demand for HVDs will also be supported by organisations' increasing use of media tablets and use in enterprise datacentres, analysts explained.
Lastly, the emerging market of efficiency and energy-saving factors will boost demand for extreme low-energy (ELE) servers.
ELE servers will replace about 2.4% of the total x86 market by 2015, as the need for power efficiency and greener IT solutions becomes more prevalent, it predicted.
These servers help improve performance per watt for simple tasks such as static web pages and for streaming content, which can help to free power for conventional servers dealing with other workloads.
Innovation will drive growth
But the segment market is highly competitive and, despite its size, offers only small profit margins warned Gartner analysts.
"The prevalence of standardised (x86) platforms also makes it hard for companies to differentiate their products,” said Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice-president at Gartner.
“In response, server providers, aiming for higher profit margins, have been making more effort to create fabric-based infrastructure and converge around integrated systems.
“To succeed in the server market in the next few years, companies must innovate and respond quickly to shifts in demand,” Hewitt added.