Posts

Server and storage market performance

Join Principal Analyst Angela Lambert and Research Analyst Jacob Fong for a review of current and projected financial trends among server and storage markets. The team will cover segment financial performance from TBR’s latest IT Infrastructure Benchmark as well as expectations for market growth based on results in our latest IT Infrastructure Market Forecast.

 

Mark your calendars for Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 1 p.m. EDT,
and REGISTER to reserve your space.

Related content:

  1. 2022 Predictions: Data Center

 

Click here to register for more TBR Webinars

WEBINAR FAQs

 

 

 

OEM earnings roundup: Unpacking a quarter of ‘record growth’

OEMs boasted revenue and profit gains in the first calendar quarter of 2021

“Record growth” was a frequently repeated phrase over the last week as Dell Technologies, Lenovo, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and HP Inc. reported their earnings for the first calendar quarter of 2021. For these major OEMs in the PC and data center hardware space, record gains in revenue and profitability have been hard to come by in recent years due to several factors including slowed PC refresh cycles, stiff competition from cloud offerings, component shortages, and uncertainty about the  pandemic’s impact on businesses and consumers.

For all these reasons, it was a pleasant surprise to witness a series of positive earnings announcements. But as one company after the next reported breaking multiple growth records in revenue and/or profit, it led me to wonder the degree to which business growth was based on increased economic stability rather than major changes in the OEM’s go-to-market approach.

Comparing first quarter revenue figures from the last two years provides a good snapshot of how the hardware market has changed since the world was immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic. For Dell Technologies, HP Inc. and HPE, the earnings reported in the first quarter represent revenue from February to April. Looking back to 2020, this represents the time frame when many countries imposed lockdowns. Lenovo’s earnings time frame is slightly different — reporting on revenue from January through March — but remains a good comparison, particularly as Lenovo may have felt the pandemic impacts earlier than peers as a China-based company, especially given that Lenovo has a manufacturing facility in Wuhan.

All vendors but Dell Technologies saw a first quarter corporate revenue decline of at least $1 billion in 1Q20 compared to 1Q19. In 1Q21 all vendors exceeded their revenue levels from the start of the pandemic, and three of the four grew revenue by $1.9 billion to $3.9 billion compared to 1Q19. This is impressive revenue growth for these vendors operating in mature and, in some cases, declining market segments. But are all business units growing equally? The fact that HPE was the only vendor of the four to not grow revenue in 1Q21 compared to 1Q19 and is also the only vendor in the compare lacking a PC business suggests growth is not consistent across hardware segments.

PCs are the driving force in the revenue rebound

Demand for both consumer and commercial PCs has been strong throughout the pandemic as many people spent an increasing amount of screen time at home for work, school and socialization. Dell Technologies, Lenovo and HP Inc. have not only reported 1Q21 revenue gains of billions of dollars compared to 1Q20, but the OEMs’ revenue is also up significantly compared to 1Q19. In addition to pandemic-related demand for PCs, silicon supply shortages have also helped to stem the race to the bottom for PC prices. With limited chip supply available, Intel and peers have focused on producing higher-end chips for premium devices. OEMs are also less competitive on pricing while demand outweighs supply. Improving selling prices and shifting toward premium PCs benefit not only revenue but also profitability.

Data center is still not immune to the impact of cloud migration

OEMs’ data center business units tell a different story. While the three vendors all reported increased year-to-year revenue in 1Q21, both Dell Technologies’ and HPE’s data center revenues are down compared to 1Q19. This suggests that year-to-year revenue gains represent customers showing less pandemic-related spending hesitancy and resuming delayed data center projects, while declines compared to 1Q19 align to the overall trend of enterprise data center consolidation in favor of public cloud. Although with the smallest data center revenue base, Lenovo was the only vendor in the comparison that increased revenue from 1Q19 to 1Q21, possibly buoyed by its Cloud Service Provider customer segment, which has higher demand for data center infrastructure compared to the enterprise segment. Overall, the revenue trends suggest that a favorable year-to-year compare may be masking impacts of public cloud adoption, which have accelerated through the pandemic.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2021, TBR expects the trend of favorable year-to-year compares to continue for hardware vendors as businesses gain confidence in resuming IT spend. Profitability will likely also remain strong as supply constraints on chips will lead to price premiums and a focus on selling high-end devices. The data center space will likely continue to benefit from pent-up demand, but will be offset to some degree by the ongoing trend of public cloud and SaaS adoption, leaving PCs to drive the largest OEM revenue increases in 2021.

COVID-19 survey update: Cloud reliance grows

This piece is an update to our blog post in late March that looked at how IT organizations are being impacted by COVID-19, including insights from TBR’s survey of enterprise IT leaders. The blog discussed how we are experiencing the second wave of impacts from the outbreak, in which widespread business disruption is affecting demand for IT products and services.

In typical IT research, we tend to track trending on a quarterly, semiannual or annual basis. Given that nothing we are experiencing during this pandemic aligns with the typical way of doing business, we have decided to compare how sentiment has shifted among IT leaders over a roughly two-week span. During the first half of April, we refielded our March pulse survey questions, which yielded the following trends in sentiment.

Overarching IT projects remain in wait-and-see mode

A delay in IT initiatives is one of the clear emerging trends as companies ride out disruptions to employees’ workflows and gauge the financial impact of the pandemic. Compared to the second half of March, there has been no change in the status of existing projects in the first half of April, with 42% of respondents indicating they are delayed. Trends have also remained constant in regard to IT budgets, with about 32% of respondents indicating budgets are frozen and new spending is on hold.

Attention is increasingly shifting toward enabling remote work

While long-term projects may be slowing or paused, there is growth in IT teams’ spending on and delivering of remote work capabilities for end users. In the latter half of March, 34% of respondents reported increasing spending on remote productivity; by mid-April, nearly half of respondents indicated this was the case. TBR believes this trend is driven not only by extensions of stay-at-home orders but also by general acknowledgement that a reintroduction to “normal” life will likely be a slow process.

Reliance on cloud is increasing

SaaS and IaaS are among some of the few IT segments that may see increased demand in the first half of this year. Responses from IT experts reflect this trend, with a considerable increase in respondents indicating usage of cloud resources has grown compared to our survey fielded in March. Currently 30% of respondents are increasing cloud usage due to data center shortages while 19% are increasing cloud consumption to offset labor shortages related to social distancing.

The impacts of the pandemic will be lasting

Respondents have not wavered from their belief that the use of cloud technology at their company will increase in the long term due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as indicated by 48% of those surveyed. Further, a decrease in respondents indicating their use of cloud technology will diminish in the long term suggests that companies expect this wave of cloud adoption will be maintained in the future, rather than serving as a temporary fix for employees needing to conduct business remotely.

On the other hand, there are also simultaneous increases in optimism and uncertainty compared to responses from two weeks ago, as more respondents indicated that they intend to return to typical IT strategies post-pandemic or that they do not know how the pandemic will shape their IT strategy.

While the pandemic has a variety of implications across different types of businesses as well as the IT vendors that serve them, our survey data suggests that IT strategies and ways of working will change for many. Contact TBR to learn more from our analyst team.

Commoditization economics and emerging workloads disrupt the data center landscape

Commoditization mitigation strategies require business model shifts and an ever-watchful eye on exascale cloud entrants

Volume or value?

Toward the end of 2018 in the data center market, two distinct vendor strategies emerged: Vendors began either increasing sales volume or selling lower-volume but higher-value solutions. TBR believes that in 1H19, now that vendors have determined their camps, they will begin to craft competitive strategies directly targeting specific peers. For example, Dell EMC has publicly stated its intent to increase its market share in both servers and storage, and we believe the vendor will target key competitors to gain this share. Similarly, Lenovo’s large-scale data center investments imply significant competitive goals.

In February Lenovo unveiled TruScale Infrastructure Services. This directly competes with Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) GreenLake and Dell EMC’s Cloud Flex. It also addresses customer demand for private cloud infrastructure that is financed like a public cloud offering. TruScale is available for Lenovo’s entire stack of data center infrastructure solutions. In April Lenovo unveiled a server portfolio refresh, which likely reinforces its TruScale solutions and increases its competitive edge against Dell EMC and HPE.

TBR believes that during the next few months, Dell EMC and HPE will fight back against Lenovo’s marketing tactics to preserve market share. HPE has an advantage in that it is pursuing value-centric data center sales, so it is likely willing to concede less-profitable sales to Lenovo or Dell EMC. Dell EMC’s stated objective to increase market share in servers and storage will increase competition between the company and Lenovo as both aim to scoop up HPE’s lower-margin customers.

ODM participation heats up as commoditization drives provisioning simplicity

Because data center hardware becomes increasingly commoditized as software capabilities become more advanced, we believe data center vendors will increasingly find themselves competing against ODMs, especially for larger deals. Smaller customers will still show a preference for OEMs as they need the additional software and services provided with OEM data center solutions. Lenovo’s manufacturing capabilities give the company an advantage in the hyperscale space, where Lenovo’s past financials illustrated some successes, and enable the vendor to differentiate from its OEM peers.

On the hyperscale front, ODMs are rising to dominance, but OEMs such as Lenovo remain a force to be reckoned with in the space. As cloud becomes an increasingly central piece of IT environments, public cloud providers seek ways to expand their environments as cost-effectively as possible to preserve profits. TBR believes very large enterprises are likely to explore leveraging hyperscale vendors as well for their on-premises environments if it is cost-effective.

Consumption-based pricing models tie to the commoditization march

TBR’s Hyperconverged Platforms Customer Research continues to highlight the correlation between private cloud installments and HCI. Most recent findings indicated that 80% of respondents leveraged their HCI purchase for a private or hybrid cloud environment. Since customers are already turning to HCI for cloud, it is a logical next step for vendors to price HCI like a public cloud solution to deepen the competition.

With their channel partners also engaged, Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo are the three main players in the consumption-based pricing space. Their solutions are not limited to just HCI, but HCI is one of the solutions that can be purchased in this manner. The key value proposition of consumption-based pricing for data center vendors is the ability to bundle software and services into hardware consumption-based deals. This is likely to boost the margin on the solutions. Further, it guarantees larger deals, as in many cases, these consumption-based pricing deals lock customers in for a predetermined duration that has early termination penalties.

IT budgets are shifting in HCI’s favor

Infographic discussing TBR's hyperconverged infrastructure research for 2H18

Key findings from TBR’s hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) customer survey

87% of respondents indicated that they were likely to make their next HCI purchase from their current HCI vendor.

80% of respondents are leveraging HCI for a cloud installment.

68% of respondents cited their desire to purchase hyperconverged directly from teh vendor rather than through channel partners or systems integrators — an increase from 59% in 1H18.

66% of respondents indicated software quality and reliability and 63% indicated hardware quality and reliability were important factors in their HCI purchasing decision.

 

For more information, contact Data Center Analyst Stephanie Long at [email protected].

Lenovo optimizes to gain share in a market poised for fragmentation by use case

TBR perspective

At Lenovo’s Transform 2.0 event, Chairman and CEO Yuanqing Yang (“YY”) laid out the Lenovo strategy crisply in his opening remarks, relying on multiple proof points from analyst firms in the process. The company has been gaining share in a market in the aftermath of consolidation, and it sees nothing but brighter days ahead. The source of Yang’s optimism rests on scale, a traditional lever that has pulled commodity component manufacturing to Asia for decades. How Yang believes Lenovo wins stems from the company’s supply chain best practices, where it can optimize the full stack of compute to serve the full stack of instances on the one hand and create a vast array of endpoint devices for humans and machines alike on the other.

The tight partnership with NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP) was the biggest news at the event. The venture essentially melds the Lenovo and NetApp product lines in a manner similar to the scale advantage amassed when the former Dell and EMC merged to form Dell Technologies (NYSE: DVMT). The two companies have also created a joint venture in China, with Lenovo having 51% ownership as required by Chinese law, and plan to develop a line of storage products to meet the unique requirements of customers in China while leveraging Lenovo’s scaled manufacturing footprint in region.

Supply chain alone cannot help vendors differentiate, as many past Asian manufacturing giants have come to learn as overlapping channels confused markets and compressed middleman margins in the bygone era of transaction selling. Services selling requires an equally as deft and varied set of commercial offers to fit the financial strategies of the business entities Lenovo targets, and the seeds of these early “as a Service” commercial offering wrappers have been in flight for several years.

Commercial flexibility, while lagging the supply chain competencies, remains far ahead of the professional services wrapper commodity components required in the pivot to selling outcomes or solutions. Lenovo’s partnerships with leading systems integrators will be imperative for enterprise adoption as the business translation and advisory services increasingly relegate the compute and device acquisition to a derived decision.