Earlier this month, EML Wildfire MD Richard Parker traipsed across Europe to attend Future Horizon’s International Electronics Forum 2012 in Bratislava, Slovakia. With a name as downright, heart pumpingly adrenaline filled as that, you could be forgiven for thinking that there was no time for keynote speeches between the non-stop Csárdás raves and Silvovika fuelled hotel parties.
You’d be wrong, of course.
Semiconductors, servers, market shares, LED lights; these were all areas that the speakers – themselves working in a wide spectrum of industry sectors – waxed lyrical about for two days.
Whatever topic the keynote was focusing on, however, the importance of the server market was never far away this year. Where the last conference saw speakers emphasising the need to focus on the booming mobile market, 2012 was the year of the server, highlighting the crucial role it plays in the big technology trends of today.
The launch of the iPhone 5 was a good case that one of the presenters, Robert Ober of LSI Corporation, used to characterise this: while news headlines might have heralded it’s amazingly, splendidly, revolutionary extra inch in height; the hidden story was the need for 10,000 more servers to cope with the increased data throughput these phones brought.
Also driving growth in the server market has been everyone’s favourite buzz trend, cloud computing. Between them, mobile and cloud computing account for two of the largest factors driving server equipment sales to record figures, with speaker Robert Ober valuing the server market of today at a terrifyingly huge $50 billion.
Whereas it was noted at IEF that the increased competition in the semiconductor markets is stifling innovation in their products, the opposite is true for the ultra-competitive, cloud-based sector. With the massive demands their systems face on a daily basis, cloud-based companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are driving forward innovation in the server sector to cope with these demands, despite playing no direct involvement in the server retail sector themselves.
For example, The ‘Pluto’ device that managed to escape the Google data server in Iowa earlier this month turned out to be completely unrelated to the end of the world, aliens, HAARP, or whichever conspiracy theory you may subscribe to. Rather, it was a proprietary device constructed by Google to ensure maximum efficiency in its data centres. This shouldn’t come as a tremendous surprise, after all; companies of all sizes are determined to drive down expenditure and, with 25-30% of the entire server market being taken up by the few mega-datacentres of the biggest companies, the cost of saving a few pennies per switch is massive. Plus, who is better than the engineers handling these devices every day to decide what is and what is not relevant to an organisation’s needs?
With no sign of mobile sales steadying, let alone declining, and businesses looking to the cloud as the answer to their prayers, like modern day shamans, it’s clear that the demands being placed upon the server market are showing no signs of diminishing. Instead, it looks set to finally steal the limelight from the flashy devices it enables.
For a more detailed write up of all the topics touched on at IEF 2012, John Ling, Associate Editor at Circuit World Microelectronics International has written one here.