The traditional x86 server market is flagging in the face of new multi-core technologies and virtualisation trends, with growth in x86 expected to throttle back dramatically in the next few years. 

According to IDC's updated server forecast, multicore and virtualization will cost the x86 market more than 4,5-million shipments and $2,4-billion in customer spending between 2006 and 2010. Overall, x86 shipments that were once projected to increase 61% by 2010 are now facing just 39% growth during that same period.
"The server market is at a crossroads and customer buying behavior is increasingly driven by the strategic business benefit of the IT investment rather than a singular focus on cost containment," says Matt Eastwood, program vice-president for IDC's Enterprise Platforms Group.
"In today's business environment, it is clear that technologies such as virtualisation and multicore are particularly important enablers for the consolidated IT infrastructure IT organisations are increasingly seeking to deploy."
Michelle Bailey, research vice-president for IDC's Enterprise Platforms and Datacenter Trends, adds: "Each of these technologies is impactful to the market in their own right. However, the use of multi-core technology in conjunction with server virtualization tools has a compounding impact on server configurations, and accelerates the ability of IT organizations to exploit the benefits of multi-core technology.
"Unlike other previous multicore introductions that took time to become mainstream as customers changed their application code, virtualisation allows customers to fully exploit the improvements in x86 processors immediately, accelerating business benefits and thereby increasing adoption rates."
Looking forward, IDC believes the server and component vendors will optimise around quad-core technology before moving ahead to octi-core technology.
Other highlights from this study include:
* Server revenue growth rates will be lower in comparison, but are reduced to a lesser extent than shipment growth rates as customers deploy more richly configured systems in terms of memory, disk, and I/O to balance the increase in processing and server utilisation;
* Despite the decline in the number of physical shipments, over the forecast period, growth in the number of effective processors continues to climb at a 25% annual rate due to multi-core technology advances; and
* The number of virtual servers rises dramatically at a CAGR of 40,6% during 2005-2010 so that by the end of the forecast period, more than 1,7-million physical servers will be shipped for virtualization activities resulting in 7,9-million logical servers. This represents 14,6% of all physical servers in 2010 compared to just 4,5% of server shipments in 2005.