SERVER & WORKSTATIONS: From Heady Highs to Dismal Lows

DQI Bureau
New Update

July 2001: It is amazing to see how much action the staid and unglamorous

servers segment has seen. Growth has jumped to 46% in unit terms and to 76% in

revenues. Enterprises of all shapes and sizes have servers on top of their IT

shopping lists, and vendors are happy about that.


July 2002: No need for an analysis of the performance of the server segment

in fiscal 2001-02–the gloom is evident. Blame it on the slowdown, for everyone

else is, but there are also squeezed IT budgets to point the accusing finger at.

A dismal year has led to growth rates plummeting in all categories. And the

final tally–down a massive 20% in unit terms and 15% in revenue terms.

Unlike fiscal 2000-01, ven dors did not have a market of over 400 ISPs to

cater to. Back then, the market was awash with orders from those waiting to

deploy servers before they lost out on a headstart–everyone was automating,

going on-line and kicking off new business plans. Fiscal 2001-02 started on a

gloomy note–ISPs were gone, as were Internet data centers and dot-coms. The

only hope for server companies to protect their numbers lay in the

IT-intensification drives in the banking, finance, services, insurance and

telecom sectors. Also, expectations from the prospects in the manufacturing

segment were high, with companies exhibiting definite trends of integrating

various applications into a common Web-based solution. Not to forget was hope

hinging on orders from companies deploying SCM, ERP or CRM solutions–the

market hoped that orders would cascade into the server market.

Compaq was #1 in overall sales, including PC servers, registering flat revenues of Rs 476 crore in fiscal 2000-01
Sun Microsystems retained its lead in the non-Intel server marketplace, but even its revenues were down 24%
The banking and financial services space–coupled with telecom–drove growth, making up 50% of total sales

No one, however, seemed to have foreseen the severity of the slowdown. IT

budgets were frozen or dropped altogether, and this sent sales into a downward

spiral. But the vendors’ pain was the CIOs’ gain. For this breed of IT

people, the last fiscal offered a key bargaining tool that will not be forgotten

in a hurry–marketers, of course, would like to forget the wafer-thin margins

they were forced to live with at the soonest. Given the ebbing sales figures,

vendors were forced to play the price card. This, in fact, became the biggest

reason among vendors for not signing a deal–"We walked out of the deal

because the price got simply too low to make sense." Chances are you have

heard that one many times by now. Another favorite was–"The competition

is undercutting to the point of stripping." However, CIOs still got the job

done, given the undercutting, and by pitting one vendor against the other. In

some cases, prices were driven down by as much as 50-60%–also setting a trend

for future deals. Apart from hitting the vendor bottomline, the process also

extended the sales cycle due to multiple rounds of quotations and




Microsystems led the pack, with demand coming in from the

animation, graphics, and CAD/CAM verticals. However, SGI’s

focus on high-end computing and R&D saw it gain 33% and

inch closer

Market movers

So who were buying servers? The BFSI segment did not let vendors down, and

accounted for the largest chunk of demand for servers. The segment continued to

whet server appetites, with investments in server consolidation and core banking

investments. Given the rapid strides made by private banks, their public sector

counterparts moved heavily into upgrading their back-end processes–read core

servers to enable them to compete on fronts like e-banking and ATM facilities.

BFSI was closely followed in the demand drivers’ list by the telecom segment,

which revved up its infrastructure investments considerably. Huge investments

happened in basic services, with telecom players racing each other to put their

infrastructure in place. In mobile telephony, and key players expanded their

networks to keep pace with the rising demand.



SGI was closing in

on the top, as it shifted focus and moved out of the Intel

space and showed 19% growth. The manufacturing, education and

government segments were the leading growth drivers

While the manufacturing vertical pitched for 23% of total server demand (IDC

India estimates), this figure was lower by 16%, when compared to the previous

year. A little sunshine came from the government, which increased its spend by

over 110% and accounted for 8% of total server demand. The education segment

also pitched in, doubling its purchases from 3% in fiscal 2000-01 to 6% in

2001-02. In the traditional workstation marketplace, Sun Microsystems led the

pack, with demand coming in from the animations, graphics, and CAD/CAM

verticals. While Sun dropped 28% in units terms, SGI, with its focus on the

high-end computing, education, research and entertainment segments, gained 33%

and inched closer to Sun in a battle for the leadership position. However, in

the personal workstation space, SGI discontinued its Intel workstations–the

battle here is now being fought between the new HP and IBM.

Top players

So who’s the biggest of them all? In the server (RISC and Intel) segment,

Compaq continues its dominance and leads the race by quite a margin. In fact, in

a slowdown year, Compaq has increased the gap between itself and the next player

(Sun Microsystems) by over Rs 191 crore, from Rs 100 crore in fiscal 2000-01.

This is in consonance with global numbers.


According to Gartner estimates, Compaq led the global server market with over

23.3% of the total of over 4 million server shipments, followed by Dell and IBM.

While Compaq India showed flat growth, thanks to Sun’s drop of 24%, it

increased its hold in the overall server market.


and Workstations: Market Segmentation



2001-02 Growth
Units Value

 (Rs Crore)

(Rs Lakh)
Unit Value

 (Rs Crore)

(Rs Lakh)


High-end 14 81 580 11 79 715 -21 -3
Medium-end 691 482 70 685 368 54 -1 -24
Low-end 3,265 440 13 2,521 406 16 -23 -8
Total 3,970 1,003 25 3,217 853 27 -19 -15


39,507 801 2 31,515 685 2 -20


Personal 7,073 92 1 7,064 80 1 -44 -13
Traditional 4,784 195 4 3,949 173 4 130 -11


11,857 287 2 11,013 253   -7 -12


The dismal

year was a double-handed slap for the server segment, especially as it

came on the back of 76% growth in fiscal 2000-01. Across the board,

revenue realization was down sharply, with even industry leader Compaq

bringing in flat numbers of Rs 476 crore. It was only the BFSI, telecom

and government segments that kept sales rolling, though growth rates were

down here too. But falling per-unit realization ensured that no company

ended the year on a higher note in terms of values. In the overall count,

the segment slipped by 20%


Sun’s revenues fell from Rs 373 crore to Rs 285 crore, while HP was the

other server vendor showing a significant drop in sales, down to Rs 200 crore

from Rs 340 crore in the previous year. Sun Micro, meanwhile, continued it

dominance in the non-Intel space with a 33% marketshare, but a few notches down

from its 2001-01 marketshare of 37%.


It was a slow market

through the year with the same addendum–unit sales were up

in this space, with Compaq again leading. But in value terms,

growth was negative for two of the top three

The star players were again Compaq and IBM–Compaq edged out HP (though now

only from a historical perspective, post the latter’s merger with Compaq) for

the number two slot and increased its marketshare to 25%, from 22% earlier.


IBM also managed to strengthen its position and gained 5% to corner a

marketshare of 19%. Both vendors cannibalized marketshare from leader Sun and HP

(now in fourth place). In the Intel space, Compaq, with its ProLiant series,

remained unchallenged and posted a growth of 4%, even as the market dipped by

over 14%. While IBM maintained its hold, Compaq’s growth was due to the fall

of HP and HCL. HP was down 56%, while HCL slipped by 35%.


The key word for all vendors was "survival". With the market

severely underperforming, vendors tried all permutations to outperform the

market. The clear strategies–beef up channel partners and expand reach to have

presence in the ‘B’ & ‘C’ class cities. HP joined hands with TCS and

PriceWaterhouse Coopers, hoping that the server model would be led more by

consultancy-led customized solution and that it could gain with the help of

these giants.



How tough the

year gone by was can be gauged from the fact that the best

performer in this space showed flat growth. Even overall

leader Compaq showed a negative 2% growth

HP managed to sell a few Superdomes, but unlike in developed markets, this

model will take time to catch the fancy of the buyer. Last year’s IT budgets

were under severe pressure and they perceived consultancy firms as high

cost-accruing. Also, HP re-looked at the government market and aggressively

sought empanelment with government agencies. The move helped HP net orders in

the government space. HP introduced the blade server in the last quarter of the

fiscal and tried to add value in the Intel server space, concentrating on

four-way servers. But uncertainty about the merger and the future of its

products and services became a constraint for the company–while future

uncertainty was a key concern for HP’s clients, IBM has no trouble on this


But then, IBM had already had its own breed of trouble when it launched its

‘eServer’ campaign in 2000–aggressive ad spends, however, ensured that

there were no re-runs this year. According to analysts, IBM was the most visible

among all the vendors and won many new accounts despite a global drop in

numbers. Moreover, IBM is possibly the only company that kept its marketing buzz

alive with new ideas like bringing mainframe capabilities into its Intel servers

(X-series). Another strategy adopted by IBM was to expand its reach and it

included more channel partners into its fold. This also meant less dependence on

its direct model via IBM Global Services and an in-house server team. The tieup

with Wipro was a big step on that front. Today, IBM has associations with all

major systems integrators in the country, like TCS, CMC, Accel ICIM, DCM and CMS



Sun increased its

hold, but it was IBM that brought in the best results–it

showed a 17% jump in revenues on 60% growth in unit sales. The

numbers, however, also indicate crashing per-unit realization

In terms of verticals, IBM maintained its hold in the core-banking and

high-performance computing segment. However, IBM still faces problems in the

telecom space, and according to market analysts, it is the lack of enough market

penetration that is constraining growth in this space. The much-touted fastest

server, ‘Regatta’, was launched with fanfare but according to analysts, it

did not find many too many takers. The highlight for IBM has been getting into a

tieup with Wipro, which has been a major Sun partner and contributes about

45-50% of Sun Microsystems India’s revenue. Will it bring in the necessary

clout? Only the numbers recorded in the ongoing year can answer that one–whether

it was just another high-profile media event or whether IBM actually gains from

this relationship.


It was

Sun Micro that led for the second consecutive year, but even

its revenues took a beating, down 24% from the previous year

to Rs 285 crore

But IBM’s gain could be Sun’s pain. With Wipro accounting for over 45-50%

of Sun’s revenues in India, any possible tilt from Wipro towards IBM could

spell bad times for Sun. But let’s take closer look at Sun’s performance in

the last fiscal. Sun did not escape the embrace of the slowdown and saw revenues

tumble from Rs 373 crore to Rs 285 crore in the server segment. But it is a long

shot before it loses its leadership position. In the high end, Sun sold its high

end E15K to Citibank and Tata Teleservices. Other deals included Texas

Instruments, Reliance, IIT Delhi, and Anna University. In the telecom segment

they signed on the dotted line with Hutchinson, BSNL and Bharti. Sensing the

uncertainty amongst HP and Compaq customers, Sun initiated a shift over campaign

in December and offered a buy back and trade in offer for HP- Compaq customers.

Given the success of the campaign, Sun is planning a similar exercise in the

current year. Also Sun made efforts to get into the B & C class cities and

tied up with Indian major HCL Infosystems, partly to offset Wipro and partly to

leverage HCL’s reach and make inroads into this fast growing segment. Also

with the HCL tie-up, Sun hopes to leverage its partner’s links in the

government segment to achieve significantly breakthroughs. Meanwhile Compaq

continued its leadership in the overall servers as well as PC servers’ space.

The ProLiant series were unstoppable and none of the other vendors could manage

to get close to Compaq. The Compaq charge and customer keenness for its products

is evident given the fact that while units dropped by 2%, Compaq managed to

increase its sales by 4%. In a slowdown year, Compaq actually increased its

average sales value from Rs 2.6 lakh to Rs 2.8 lakhs. Again the channel network

supported Compaq to the helm and Compaq made all the effort to pamper its

channel partners. Also its tie up with all the major SIs like CMC, Tata Elxsi

and Tata Infotech paved the way for the success of ProLiant.

Top PC

Server Vendors

  2000-01 2001-02
Units Value

(Rs crore)
Unit Value

(Rs crore)
Compaq 9,702 252 9,521 262
HCL 4,729 199 3,445 129
IBM 6,612 127 6,000 105
Acer 1,000 14 3,560 46
HP 5,500 100 3,367 44
PCS 850 5 689 37
Wipro 2,199 32 2,088 28
CMS 4,500 30 1,133 16
Others 1,400 14 1,500 15
Zenith 3,015 28 212 2
Total 39,507 801 31,515 685

some, lose some:
Compaq on top is evident–but

go downward for the big drops. Zenith fell from 3,015 units and Rs 28

crore to 212 units and Rs 2.33 crore

Himalaya Futuristic did well and increased sales thanks to the banking and

telecom segment. However the Alphas faced some problems. This was partly because

of the merger uncertainty and partly because of the lack of communication

regarding Alpha’s future. Among the major orders bagged by Compaq in the

non-Intel space includes Orange, Canara Bank, HLL and NTPC. Also old accounts

like Indian Railways MCF and Orange gave Compaq repeat deals and chipped in the

dominance of the server market.

Current outlook

So what’s the outlook for this year. Firstly, while HP-Compaq is operating

as a single entity, other vendors are trying to exploit the continued

uncertainty amongst CIOs. As a vendor mentions, their strategy would be to ‘deal

with the nuisance value’ of the merger. Sun, for example, will have a shift

over campaign for HP-Compaq customers. However in the first quarter, HP has done

exceedingly well and cracked deals like IOC and the SBI deal, so it remains to

be seen whether the other vendors are successful on this front. But don’t

forget that the new HP top brasses happen to be ex-Compaq people, from a company

that has led the Indian hardware market.


The slowdown had

an impact on purchases in the financial sector too, but it

remained by far the hottest sales driver for the beleaguered

servers segment

Another FY01-02 trend expected to dominate is the vendors targeting the 'B'

& 'C' class cities and therefore active channel engagement. In terms of

verticals, most of the vendors will continue to focus on the sweet spots–telecom

and BFSI. However other verticals like government and education could provide

some saving grace for the vendors. On the Intel server side, Blade serves could

be the surprise winners, especially in the front-end server. According to

Gartner’s forecast Blade servers shipments will ramp up from 84810 units to

over a million by 2002.

Vendor-wise, Sun is trying to move away from its few focussed accounts in

software, banking, and telecom. This year the focus seems to be on expanding

reach and targeting the government segment (with lot of help from HCL). IBM,

while doing reasonably well in the domestic Indian market, hasn’t been able to

achieve the kind of market penetration it has long hoped for. The tieup gives

IBM a foot into Wipro Infotech’s large domestic market and the company will

continue to expand its reach by increasing its channel partners. And finally,

the new HP will try to leverage the Compaq brands in its kitty. Also to keep in

mind is that with the ex-Compaq team in place and well-versed with the market

scenario, conditions and customer locations, dislodging the new HP in the server

market could be well nigh impossible.