Summary:

A new report from IHS says microserver shipments will triple this year. The question is, Who will emerge as the leading microserver providers?

Intel Atom S1200
photo: Intel

Shipments of microservers will rise threefold this year, a new report from IHS iSuppli predicts. But before getting too excited, note that that growth only means 291,000 microservers will be shipped.

A microserver uses a bunch of densely-packed, low-power chips. The configuration makes more sense for less demanding compute jobs, such as serving up contact information on one website user, than a server with a more capable brawny core, which tends to use much more power. Webscale companies such as Facebook and Yahoo want to add them to lower their operating costs.

Microserver shipments are going up faster than general servers and blade servers, according to IHS.

Microserver shipment dataAnd the product sales won’t stop this year. The forecast shows shipments increasing substantially each year until 2016 (see data at left). By then, it will represent one-tenth of overall server shipments.

Still, those normal server shipments are huge; roughly 8.4 million servers were sold last year. The microserver market, for its part, is clearly still nascent. Nevertheless, the report does give an interesting insight: the microserver trend will only grow, not level out, through 2016.

The report attributes the shipment increase to the need for lower-performance, lower-power chips in the data center and in smartphones.

The billion-dollar question is, Which companies will capture the largest chunks of microserver revenue?

On the processor side, Intel is vying for a sizable cut. In December the company unveiled an Atom-based processor that uses just 6 watts, as my colleague Stacey Higginbotham reported. But last year AMD snapped up SeaMicro, and Rackspace has already certified the new SM15000 — available with Intel Atom, Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors — for use in OpenStack.

ARM could stand to gain from the microserver growth, too. In October AMD said it would license ARM’s chip technology to make chips for its own microservers. Plenty of other companies use, or plan to use, ARM’s intellectual property to build chips that could go in microservers, too, including Applied Micro and Calxeda, to name a couple.

This story was updated on March 7 to remove an incorrect attribution of one figure in the post to another source of market analysis, IDC.

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