Server market poised for a shakeup

server share pie chartHewlett-Packard can take pride in that it’s maintaining its global server leadership position, despite slight decrease in year-over-year quarterly revenues. And it’s likely to retain its place at the top of the server mountain even after IBM’s sale of its x86 server unit to Lenovo later this year.

While HP is at the top, it doesn’t mean its place in the server universe is secure. The overall server market is showing signs of instability, in which upstarts and challengers are getting increasingly aggressive and earning share against the big three – HP, IBM and Dell.

According to the latest IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker report, HP maintained its first-place position with 26.5 percent market share – no change over the same period in 2013. IBM remained in second place, but saw its overall server market share decline from 25.1 percent to 19.1 percent. Dell held steady in third place, posting a slight decline of .2 percent to 18 percent.

HP believes it can win in the server market, especially given the anticipated instability that will come with IBM’s pending sale of its x86 server unit to Lenovo. HP recently launched a “rescue program,” in which it’s trying to lure IBM partners affected by the sale to defect to its ranks. According to CRN, HP says it’s getting significant interest among IBM partners.

Even if no partners or customers defect, HP will likely remain atop the server market. Lenovo’s existing server market share doesn’t register on the IDC scale. Even adding IBM’s x86 business to Lenovo’s numbers will only place it in the lower end of the top five server vendors. IBM will likely remain in the top five, likely dropping to third place behind Dell, as its midrange, high-end and mainframe server business will likely keep it in the double-digit market share.

That’s the good news for HP and its server resellers. The bad news is the server market is increasingly dynamic. Server upstarts and challengers are not just growing market share, but increasingly bold in their go-to-market strategies.

Cisco, for instance, continues to surprise the server market with its virtualized appliance. Its market share increased 1.7 percent to 5.7 percent. Cisco server revenues skyrocketed 37 percent in the same period, whereas IBM’s fell 25.4 percent and Dell’s dropped 3.2 percent.

Oracle, five years after buying Sun Microsystems, is showing signs that it’s stabilized the market share erosion of its server unit. Market share remain relatively flat, but revenues increased 1.9 percent.

Surprising is the growth of direct OEM sales. Server fabricators such as Quanta Computer and Foxconn are expanding their direct sales rapidly. The collection of a half-dozen server OEMs saw their collective market share increase 3.2 percent and revenues skyrocket 75.4 percent.

Even the “Other” category, which includes companies such as Lenovo and Acer, saw market share increase 1 percent and revenues increase almost 6 percent.

The IDC market share numbers indicate that the long-static server market is heading toward a period of change as the tertiary vendors continue to expand while the market share leaders play musical chairs with their assets.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.