SAN JOSE, Calif. - Worldwide server shipments jumped 12.7 percent in 2005 while revenues increased 4.5 percent to $51.68 billion as companies turned to lower-end - and less expensive - systems for their computing needs, the research firm Gartner Inc. reported.
The numbers, released Tuesday, show the continuation of a trend toward servers based on commodity, or "x86," microprocessors from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. They often run the freely distributed Linux operating system.
"The most dynamic market remains the x86 server segment," said Jeffrey Hewitt, a research director at Gartner. "These servers continue to be the choice in increasing numbers to meet the needs of more Web users accessing more file types from more access points than ever."
High-end servers based on non-x86 chips that run the Unix operating system saw shipments fall 5.3 percent with just a 0.5 percent increase in revenue, Hewitt said.
"The replacement at the low end of this market with Linux servers and declines at the high end of the market are the reasons for these results," he said.
International Business Machines Corp. remained the top server vendor in terms of revenue ($16.61 billion), followed by Hewlett-Packard Co. ($14.57 billion), Dell Inc. ($5.43 billion) and Sun Microsystems Inc. ($4.95 billion).
HP, however, took the lead in unit shipments with 2.09 million servers. It was followed by Dell Inc.'s 1.7 million, IBM's 1.2 million and Sun's 342,457, according to Gartner.
IDC, a rival research firm that uses a different methodology, said worldwide server revenue grew 4.4 percent to $51.3 billion in 2005, while worldwide shipments grew 11.6 percent.
It also saw, for the first time since early 2003, a year-over-year quarterly decline in server revenues. Comparing the fourth quarter of 2004 to the same period in 2005, global sales fell 0.2 percent to $14.5 billion, said John Humphreys, an IDC analyst.
"What is meaningful is that it has been growing since the first quarter of 2003, but now it's flat," he said. "The expansion that we saw has slowed a bit. Now the question is, is that just a temporary thing? I don't know. I'm not ready to call a trend."
Servers are computers that handle tasks like serving Web pages and running applications over a network. Server sales are often viewed as a strong indicator of corporate technology spending.