Big changes for "big iron"
Server makers break out the long blades.
Server sales shrank for the second year in a row while RISC-Unix manufacturers constantly tried to undercut each other in price. IBM and Dell Computer gained market share, at various times of the year, at the expense of Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.
The intense competition also forced consolidation, both commercially and technologically. Compaq Computer, long the leader in Intel-based servers, became part of HP. The move vaulted HP to the No. 1 position in the market and gave the company valuable assets such as the Tandem division.
Still, the acquisition meant one less independent manufacturer in the market and will reduce the variety of technology because HP said it will phase out PA-RISC and Alpha servers over the next four years.
Sales are expected to grow again in 2003, but the market will look different. For the first time, revenue from Intel-based servers will surpass sales of more expensive RISC-Unix servers.
Intel servers currently account for more than 80 percent of the servers shipped in terms of units, but most of these have been one- and two-processor systems. The increasing performance of these chips, though, is growing in the four- and eight-processor market.
Despite the economic chill, new technologies and architectures continued to evolve. Nearly every major manufacturer unfurled products, or at least plans, based on blade servers. These thin servers, mounted inside a rack and more easily managed than traditional servers, also became more versatile: IBM's blade rack in the future will accommodate networking equipment from Cisco Systems and other products.
Meanwhile, the supercomputing market saw the resurgence of Japanese manufacturers. NEC's Earth Simulator, activated in late 2001, became the world's top performing computer. U.S. manufacturers began to benefit from increased funding for grid and supercomputing projects related to domestic security.--Michael Kanellos
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