Third-quarter sales of servers across the globe showed a 17.3 percent decline from the same quarter in 2008, sagging to $10.4 billion, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker.
But server shipments improved, falling only 17.9 percent for the quarter, compared with 30.1 percent in the second quarter, noted the IDC report released Wednesday. Even more promising, shipments grew at a healthy 12.4 percent over the second quarter, the market's largest sequential quarterly gain since 2005.
All three server segments tracked by IDC--volume, midrange enterprise, and high-end enterprise--saw lower third-quarter sales compared with the same quarter last year. Revenue for midrange enterprise servers fell 23.4 percent, while sales of high-end enterprise servers dropped 19.3 percent.
But revenue for volume servers, the lower end of the market, improved over the second quarter and experienced their lowest drop since the third quarter of 2008.
"The worldwide server market exceeded expectations in the third quarter with improving x86 server demand leading the way, which was driven in part by the infrastructure refresh momentum that is building in many geographies," said Matt Eastwood, IDC's group vice president of Enterprise Platforms, in a statement. "In fact, x86 server revenues experienced their largest sequential quarterly revenue increase in nearly five years."
Among the major players in the server industry, IBM and Hewlett-Packard vied for first place in both sales and market share with a statistical tie. Big Blue took a 31.8 percent slice of the market, with a 12.9 percent drop in third-quarter sales to $3.3 billion. HP grabbed a 30.9 market share as its revenues fell 16.8 percent to $3.2 billion.
Third-place Dell saw its sales decline only 6.8 percent to $1.4 billion, helping it capture a 13.5 percent share of the market.
With its future cloudy, pending regulatory approval of its takeover by Oracle, Sun Microsystems suffered a 35 percent drop in third-quarter sales to $778 million. Reports have surfaced that IBM and HP, among others, have taken advantage of the uncertainty surrounding Sun to lure over several of its customers.
Bringing up the rear of the top five was Fujitsu, which saw an 8.2 percent drop in sales to $594 million, carving out a 5.7 percent slice of the market, an improvement over its position from last year's third quarter.
Though optimistic that the market will continue to improve in the fourth quarter and beyond, IDC is still waiting to see how the recovery plays out.
"IDC believes that platform migration is once again gaining steam in the market and the post-recession server deployment patterns will establish the technology agenda in the datacenter for the next business cycle," said Eastwood. "For server vendors, after five quarters of market contraction, the next few quarters will be critical to determining the technology platform winners and losers in the years ahead."