Server sales boom in Q1 as Dell and HPE are tied for No. 1, but whitebox dominates for cloud providers

It's a good time to make servers as the cloud buildout, Intel's Purely platform and an enterprise upgrade cycle drive demand.

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It's often feast or famine for server vendors and the first quarter clearly fell in the feast category.

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According to IDC, server makers generated record first quarter revenue gains as hyperscale cloud providers ramped and enterprises upgraded their infrastructure.

In the first quarter, global server market revenue was $18.8 billion, up 38.6 percent from a ago. Server shipments were up nearly 21 percent to 2.7 million units in the first quarter.

Dell was among the big winners in the server binge, but whitebox manufacturers benefited the most. Cloud service providers often have their own server designs.

IDC noted that server demand was driven by software defined infrastructure, Intel's Purely platform and next-generation workloads such as machine learning, analytics, and artificial intelligence. Prices for servers also increased.

For those keeping score at home, Dell and HPE were in a statistical tie for market share with 19.1 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. Dell delivered the fastest growth at 50.6 percent in the first quarter. Lenovo, IBM and Cisco were roughly tied for third place. Dell accounted for 20.6 percent of all units shipped.

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However, original design manufacturers (the whitebox crowd) grew at a 57.1 percent clip in the first quarter.

Here's a look at the gains on units. Note Super Micro and Inspur showing growth.

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Other key items to note:

  • Volume server revenue was up 40.9 percent with midrange servers up 34 percent. High-end systems saw growth of 20.1 percent.
  • Asia/Pacific excluding Japan saw 51.7 percent revenue growth with Latin America up 41/1 percent and the US up 40.6 percent. EMEA saw first quarter revenue gains of 35 percent.
  • x86 server revenue was up 41 percent in the first quarter to $17.4 billion. Non-x86 servers saw revenue of $1.4 billion, up 15.5 percent from a year ago.

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