The worldwide high-performance computing market decreased by 9.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014 over the same quarter a year ago to $2.3 billion, down from $2.5 billion, according to IDC's Worldwide High-Performance Technical Server QView.

However, shipments of servers were pretty much steady in the quarter, IDC said, growing 0.4 percent on 33,577 units.

Revenue from the high-end HPC units took the biggest hit, declining 32.7 percent year-over-year to $580 million. The supercomputers segment measures sales of HPC units costing $500,000 and up.

That supercomputer category should see a bit of modest growth the rest of the year, but overall the outlook is rosier as IDC's report forecasts it will expand at 7.2 percent through 2018.

"HPC technical server revenues are expected to grow at a healthy rate because of the crucial role they play in economic competitiveness as well as scientific progress," said Earl Joseph, program VP for technical computing at IDC.

"As the global race toward exascale computing fuels the high end of the market, more small- and medium-sized businesses and research organizations are exploiting HPC servers for advanced simulations and high-performance data analysis."

IDC envisions the HPC technical server market will continue to grow, putting that figure at a healthy 7.4 percent, with revenue reaching over $14 billion by 2018.

The lower half of the HPC market shows signs of continuing recovery in three segments -- Divisional (systems from $250,000 to $499,000), Departmental (systems from $100,000 to $249,000)  and Workgroup (systems priced under $100,000) -- with Workgroups showing the biggest rebound with an 11.4 percent increase over the same quarter in 2013.

The Divisional segment declined 2.6 percent year over year, and revenue for Departmental systems grew by 0.6 percent.

The largest vendor in this market segment is Hewlett-Packard, with 35 percent share of global revenue. Next is IBM, with 23.1 percent share, and Dell with 17.2 percent share.

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