IBM catching up with HP in server revenues in first quarter: Gartner

IBM, the world’s largest IT company, is fast catching up with the world’s biggest computer maker HP in the server market, according to the latest quarterly data from Gartner.

Unlike HP, IBM also plays in the ‘Mainframe’ market — massive computers that were dominant till the 1970s and approached within striking distance of HP’s market share in the March quarter. The two are now separated by just 0.5 percentage points in their respective shares of the market, when counted in revenues and not number of servers.

Server are bare-bones computers that are don’t have any displays and are primarily used for computation, serving web-pages etc.. They are usually housed in data-centres or ‘back offices.’

HP and Dell saw revenue-shares decline in the first quarter despite a growth in revenues as they could not keep with the overall growth rate of 17.3% in revenues. Fujitsu saw both revenues and its % share of total market revenue decline, while IBM and Oracle saw both revenues and revenue market share increase year on year.

Interestingly, a look at the actual server numbers — in terms of the number of units instead of what they fetched in dollars — reveals a bleaker picture for the big brands.

While server shipments (number of servers) grew 8.5% in the first quarter, the best performing big brand was HP which saw shipments increase just 2.5% (though HP’s revenues from servers increased by 12.9%.)

Similarly, Dell and Fujitsu saw the number of servers sold this quarter actually decline, though IBM managed to see a small increase in the numbers at 1.6%.

The reason? -“Other vendors,” says Gartner.

The small vendors increased their market share (counted in number of units sold) from 26.2% in the first quarter of 2010 to 31.4% during the first quarter of this year — taking huge chunks of market shares away from biggies like HP, Dell, IBM, Oracle and Fujistu.

If you remove the ‘other vendors’ from the equation, there was actually a decline in the number of servers sold in the first quarter, though there was a substantial increase in revenues gained from them.

X86 servers, based on Intel-AMD chips, grew 8.6 percent in units — or the same as the overall market — and saw an increase in their average price — leading to the revenue growing twice as fast as shipments.

“RISC and Itanium Unix servers finally exited their slump and grew 5.2 percent in shipments and 20.7 percent in vendor revenue, compared with the same quarter last year. The “other” CPU category, which is primarily mainframes, showed a growth in vendor [IBM] revenue of 19.6 percent,” Gartner added.