Analysis firm IDC has released its report on the server market for Q3 2020, and it shows both AMD and ARM growing their share of the space over the past 12 months.
Overall revenue for the quarter was $22.6B, up 2.2 percent since Q3 2019. This is a much smaller increase than we saw in Q2, when server shipments grew by 20 percent compared with Q2 2019. There’s some expectation that data center sales may be slow the next two quarters after companies stocked up to avoid shortages earlier in the pandemic. This may explain the huge surge in Q2 followed by much lower Q3 growth.
According to IDC senior research analyst Paul Maguranis, this recent report was good news for both AMD and ARM. “Worldwide revenues for servers running AMD CPUs were up 112.4% year over year while ARM-based servers grew revenues 430.5% year over year, albeit on a very small base of revenue,” Maguranis said.
Intel still commands the majority of the server market, with an estimated 93.4 percent market share according to Mercury Research, but AMD is slowly gaining ground in this space. The micro-boom in ARM shipments (big in percentile terms, tiny in actual market share) shows that after a decade of false starts, ARM CPU manufacturers may finally be winning some sockets and building momentum around these products.
Dell and HPE were tied for first place in IDC’s report, followed by Inspur, Lenovo, and Huawei. It’s not clear if Huawei will retain this ranking, given the various restrictions levied on the company. The ODM Direct channel means the server manufacturer is selling the server directly to the customer, without going through an OEM partner. This section of the market is growing rapidly, and currently accounts for 28.03 percent of the market, up 8.4 percent year-on-year.
AMD’s steady growth is no surprise, given how competitive its Rome platform has been since it launched back in 2019. The Zen 3-based follow up to Rome, codenamed Milan, is reportedly still on track to ship out before the end of the year. Zen 3 delivered a 1.19x IPC improvement over Zen 2 at the same TDP, with additional clock speed gains on top of that.
We don’t know if AMD will adjust the clocking of its server parts or lean more heavily on IPC, but some early leaked samples have suggested the top-end Epyc CPU might have base and boost clocks several hundred MHz faster than the current Epyc 7662, which runs at 2GHz base / 3.3GHz boost. Leaked test samples of the Epyc 7663 showed clocks of 2.45GHz / 3.53GHz, and while all such information should be taken with a grain of salt, engineering samples tend to run at lower clocks than final versions as opposed to higher.
Milan looks as though it will build on the success AMD has enjoyed with Rome and continue to drive new market share growth for the smaller x86 CPU manufacturer. Intel will have Ice Lake SP in-market in early 2021 if it keeps to its previously announced roadmap, and there are rumors that Ice Lake-based Xeon-SP CPUs might feature up to 36 cores — four more than the 32-core Epyc or Threadripper CPUs they’ll compete against. Zen 3’s IPC gain will help AMD in these match-ups, so it’ll be interesting to see how the products compare once they’re available.