A year of overall growth in worldwide server sales and shipments was tempered in the last few months of 2011 by the impact of the Thailand floods, new Gartner figures show, but EMEA suffered its second consecutive decline, putting paid to a recovery that kicked in in 2010.
"While the Eastern Europe and MEA regions saw growth this was not enough to offset the weakness in Western Europe where revenue declined nearly 8%," said Gartner research director Adrian O'Connell.
"The market has failed to recover to anywhere near pre-downturn levels. Current market revenue levels are only around three quarters of what we saw in the fourth quarter of 2007, which underlines how much pressure vendors are currently under."
As the data show, it was bad news for most of the major vendors in the space, although Oracle and Dell more than held their own in revenue terms, and Cisco again saw runaway year-on-year growth in shipments of its server offerings, although it is not yet big enough to offset the overall decline.
"With a weak economic backdrop expected to persist throughout 2012 server vendors are likely to continue facing difficult market conditions over the next few quarters," O'Connell continued. "However, with the x86 segment going through a replacement cycle this year there will be opportunities to gain share for vendors with the best execution."
Worldwide server sales declined 5.4% in the fourth quarter of 2011, although shipments grew 4.5%, and for the full year, both sales and shipments grew driven by "mega datacentres and the explosion of client devices suich as smartphones and tablets accessing web content," according to Gartner's Jeffrey Hewitt.
"We have definitely seen a more pronounced segmentation between hyper-scale datacentres and the traditional enterprise and mid-sized customer. [Also] ongoing blade and 'skinless' server growth in the x86 segment helped push 2011 results in spite of ongoing constraints in RISC/Itanium Unix platforms," Hewitt added.