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March 25, 2013

IDC: Supercomputing Spending Jumps 30 Percent

Tiffany Trader

The HPC market soared in 2012 with supercomputing sales achieving nearly 30 percent growth over the previous year, according to numbers just released by analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

The record sales were motivated by the struggling economy. Businesses and countries around the world looked to HPC systems as a way to improve their competitive stance and perhaps prove their mettle as well. In light of this, it’s not surprising that it was the highest-end systems that saw the biggest increases.

As part of its Worldwide High-Performance Technical Server Qview, IDC reported that supercomputing revenue for the most massive systems – those that sell for $500,000 and up – jumped 29.3% from 2011 to 2012, reaching $5.6 billion for a 50.9 percent share of the total technical server space. It’s worth noting that the Fujitsu “K” system, installed at RIKEN in Japan, was responsible for $500 million of that total.

“HPC technical servers, especially supercomputers, have been closely linked not only to scientific advances but also to industrial innovation and economic competitiveness,” said Earl Joseph, Program Vice President for Technical Computing at IDC.

“For this reason, nations and regions across the world are increasing their investments in supercomputing even in today’s challenging economic conditions.”

This was not an across-the-board party, however. The Divisional segment, which includes systems in the $250,000 to $499,000 range, stumbled 2.2 percent to end 2012 at $1.2 billion.

The Departmental segment took a bigger hit, falling from $3.5 million to $3 million. Still, these $100,000 to $250,000 systems account for an impressive 27 percent of all technical server revenue.

Workstations, or as IDC deems them, the “Workgroup segment,” rallied slightly in 2012, up 1.2 percent to $1.24 billion, but that’s still less than half their 2008 high of $2.5 billion. These sub-$100,000 systems were most impacted by the worldwide economic recession, notes IDC, with buyers delaying or canceling planned acquisitions. Shorter sales cycles and a “discretionary” funding model make this segment particularly vulnerable to economic instability. There’s also a trend for smaller groups to pool their money to purchase larger shared systems. Still, IDC predicts that this category of machines will make a slow comeback.

All told, worldwide factory revenue for the high-performance computing technical server space rose 7.7 percent last year to $11.1 billion in 2012, compared to $10.3 billion for 2011, exceeding IDC’s predicted market forecast of 7.1 percent year-over-year growth.

The highest revenues went to IBM (32 percent share), HP (30.8 percent share), and Dell (13.5 percent). At the high-end, Fujitsu and Cray had strong years as well. Fujitsu saw an astounding 470.5 percent revenue gain over 2011, and Cray increased its revenue by 127.3 percent and acquired fellow supercomputing vendor Appro in the fourth quarter.

IDC is forecasting that the overall HPC market will achieve a 7.3 percent annual growth rate between 2011 and 2016, surpassing the $14 billion mark in 2015.

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