Survey says: Three-horse server race


The results are in from IT World Canada’s server study, and it looks like there’s no clear winner. This is essentially a three-horse race between HP, IBM, and Dell, with Sun a few furlongs behind. Direct purchasing is preferred, and price and performance are the dominant criteria. Intel is holding on to mindshare, virtualization is still hot, and dual-core owns the market, although quad-core is showing some muscle.

Meanwhile, Linux is in the game, but not as far along as some might expect…and what every happened to software as a service?

In January and February of this year, IT World Canada conducted a survey to determine the status of various server equipment vendors and technologies in the Canadian market. In total, 403 companies participated, with response-sets for data collection ranging between 287 and 309 individuals. All responses were specific to those individuals who either had purchase decision-making authority for server equipment, or were key influencers. No company had fewer than 200 employees, and half were in the 200- to 500-employee range.

For server vendors of all types, the good news is that over 88 per cent of the respondents said that they intended to buy new servers in the next 18 months. There was a significant amount of doubling up, with over half of respondents intending to buy application servers, database servers and file/print servers.

The study made it clear that we are now in a three-vendor market, with HP, IBM and Dell being the overwhelming favorites.

However, the news is a little better for some vendors than for others.

In fact, HP had the highest ranking, with 57 per cent of respondents claiming to have bought their servers, with IBM following at 53 per cent, and Dell keeping pace at 50 per cent.

Beyond these three leaders, no other vendor was on the radar, with the exception of Sun, which had a 21 per cent response rate. These findings were mirrored when people were asked from whom they intended to buy: the top three were essentially neck-and-neck, with Sun the only other vendor to register.

And why are people buying servers? Price and performance are the key purchase values, far outstripping other considerations. Of interest was the low consideration given to support services, with a 13 per cent response rate, and the fact that power consumption barely registered as a concern – fewer than 2 per cent of respondents considered this to be factor in purchasing servers.

Direct purchasing has become the norm; in fact, this is now the preferred purchasing method of 57 per cent of the companies surveyed, compared with the 40 per cent who purchase indirectly.

As well, rack-mounted servers have become more popular than the tower “box”, or standalone servers, which are in definite decline. Blade servers seem to be on the rise: almost 14 per cent of respondents claimed that their next purchase would be a blade server.

The landscape changed a little when people were asked which vendor they considered to be a technology leader. Here IBM was the clear favorite, followed by HP, Dell and Sun. However, given that price trumps performance, and that server hardware is increasingly commodified, this response reflects specific needs as much as an overall market advantage.

Dual core is the hands-down favorite, at over 66 per cent of respondents, but the demand for quad-core was also strong, at 27 per cent, with much of this coming off virtualization. The real surprise came on the processor side, with over 93 per cent claiming a future purchasing preference for Intel, compared to AMD at only 20 per cent. This comes as something of a surprise: AMD is believed to have a good footing in the server space, with a solid dual core and quad core offering. It seems, however, that AMD still has some work to do to capture mindshare for future server purchases.

When it comes to operating environments — and allowing for combined responses, given that many companies are running in mixed environments — Windows Server 2003 had an 85 per cent response base, and Windows legacy variants another 29 per cent. Unix and Linux variants were at 28 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively. Considering the buzz these past few years around Linux, and the continued argument for its business applicability, this response is not as strong as some might expect.

As well, a significant number of people are looking at the thin-client model: VM Ware had a 24 per cent adoption rate among respondents. Part of the appeal is that thin-client computing can add three to four years to an organization’s hardware refresh.

When asked what technologies they were presently using, it’s not surprising that databases came out on top, at 86 per cent. This was followed by messaging, networked storage and disaster recovery/business continuity. All of these were utilized by well over half of respondents.

Virtualization showed some strength, at 34 per cent, but the real story may be the weakness in Software as a Service — on-demand offerings were being utilized by just over four per cent.

And what are people planning for? Not SOA, which hardly stood out from the crowd at eight per cent. Instead, the biggest plans were for networked storage and virtualization, both at 21 per cent.

When it comes to reliance on third-party infrastructure providers, the greatest demand is for straight IT consulting, at 38 per cent, suggesting a focus on newer technologies, followed by IT support and implementation at 30 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.

The bigger story, however, is the 49 per cent who do everything in-house, suggesting that many companies still have strong internal IT capabilities. When companies do look for outside help, 44 per cent turn to their regional value added resellers, and another 20 per cent go to IBM. After that Dell, HP and the telco companies are in the nine per cent to 12 per cent range.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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