In the third quarter of 2012 worldwide server shipments grew 3.6 percent year-on-year, while revenue decreased 2.8 from the third quarter of 2011, according to Gartner, Inc.  

“The third quarter of 2012 again produced shipment growth on a worldwide level, but server revenue was weak due to ongoing economic weakness and market segment differences,” said Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner. “Only the North America and Asia/Pacific regions managed any revenue growth, and even those were essentially flat year to year, with North America showing a 1.1 percent increase and Asia/Pacific a 0.7 percent increase. The picture in terms of shipments was slightly more positive with North America, Latin America and Asia/Pacific all growing, but both EMEA and Japan continue to struggle and both saw shipments contract, compared to the same period last year.”

“x86 server shipments grew 4.3 percent in the third quarter of 2012, and revenue increased 4 percent from the third quarter of 2011. RISC/Itanium Unix servers continued to fall globally for the period – a 31.1 percent decline in shipments and a decrease of 16.4 percent in revenue compared to the same quarter last year. The ‘other’ CPU category, which is primarily mainframes, showed a decline of 17 percent in terms of revenue,” Mr. Hewitt said.

From the regional standpoint, North America grew the most in shipments with a 7.4 percent increase. The region also posted the highest vendor revenue growth at 1.1 percent for the period. 

Four of the top five global vendors had revenue decreases for the third quarter of 2012. Dell was the only vendor among the top five to have its revenue increase in the third quarter. IBM had the lead for the quarter in the worldwide server market based on revenue—the company posted $3.5 billion in server vendor revenue for a total share of 27.6 percent. IBM’s revenue was down 9.5 percent year-on-year. Most of IBM’s revenue contribution came from its Power Systems brand with some contribution by System x as well.

In server shipments, HP remained the worldwide leader in the third quarter of 2012  in spite of an 8.4 percent decrease in shipments for the quarter. This decline was driven primarily by declining revenue in HP’s ProLiant and Integrity brands. HP’s worldwide server shipment share was 25.8 percent.

Of the top five vendors in server shipments worldwide, Dell and Cisco were the only vendors to experience an increase in shipments.

In terms of server form factors, x86 blade servers declined 7.1 percent in shipments but increased 2.3 percent in revenue for the quarter. The x86 rack-optimized form factor declined 0.2 percent in shipments and decreased 0.3 percent in revenue for the third quarter of 2012.

 In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), server shipments totaled almost 590,000 units in the third quarter of 2012, down 2.8 percent from the same period of 2011. Server revenue totaled $3 billion, a decline of 9 percent year on year.

“Against a backdrop of continued economic and business challenges, EMEA remains the weak spot for global server sales,” said Adrian O’Connell, research director at Gartner. “Each of the three EMEA sub regions saw revenue contract: Western Europe by 7.6 percent, Eastern Europe by 11.8 percent, and the Middle East and Africa by 14.0 percent. We’re not seeing signs of demand weakening significantly, but EMEA continues to present a very challenging environment for server vendors to operate in.”

Each of the technology segments declined, with x86 server revenue dropping by 4.5 percent, RISC/Itanium Unix revenue by 18.5 percent, and the Other CPU segment by 29.3 percent.

Four of the top five vendors suffered revenue declines. The exception was Dell, which achieved 9.7 percent growth. The continued improvement of Dell's enterprise capabilities and the expansion of its channel coverage have enabled it to buck current trends, but it remained in third place for overall EMEA server revenue. HP, despite suffering a 16.7 percent fall, kept the revenue lead in EMEA. It was followed by IBM, which saw a 7.7 percent decline.

“The outlook for the fourth quarter in EMEA looks similar to what we have witnessed in the year so far, with constraints on demand limiting the market opportunity,” said Mr. O’Connell. “Vendors are under constant pressure to deliver the most effective execution. With limited overall demand, they will have to consider competitive migrations as their best opportunities for growth and market share gains. This year's fourth quarter might not be an especially festive period for every server vendor.”