Some large businesses are changing how they procure cloud hardware, increasingly favoring custom white-box solutions over branded servers. While some data centers are being downsized as enterprises access more IT services via public cloud, original design manufacturer appliances, including ones built in accordance with the Open Compute Project, have also addressed new cloud-related requirements and initiatives.

The last quarter marked the fourth consecutive decline in branded server shipments. IDC reported that related revenue in EMEA was down 3 percent year-over-year in the third quarter. At the same time, ODM shipments rose 95 percent from 2012 levels, accounting for $70 million in revenue and totaling more than 38,000 appliances. ODM equipment now accounts for 7 percent of all server revenue and 2 percent of all shipments.

The rise of custom hardware is attributable to companies wanting more control over IT deployments. Similarly, white-box servers may also provide savings and improve energy efficiency compared to traditional appliances. Organizations operating at great scale have been drawn to how ODM solutions facilitate more flexible infrastructure while also benefiting the bottom line.

"As cloud services keep growing in importance, it is crucial to recognize the trend and size the impact of new purchasing models for data center compute capacity, primarily for high-growth business-to-consumer Web players and, partly, for infrastructure-as-a-service providers," stated IDC's Giorgio Nebuloni.

Nebuloni cautioned that momentum for ODM appliances is still mostly limited to these hyperscale operations. Still, vendors in this space are continually refining their offerings and new innovations in software-defined networking and top-of-rack switches may have more widespread implications.

TechTarget's Patrick Hubbard floated the possibility that Facebook's efforts in spearheading development of open network equipment could spur prominent chip makers to make more white-box designs. Ultimately, the open source community's focus on software may continue to drive focus away from proprietary hardware and toward industry-standard equipment that is paired with high-value software.

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