New numbers from Gartner show that server sales slowed in the third quarter, a trend the research company attributes to virtualisation.

Gartner's latest report on servers shows that worldwide sales grew by 4.4 per cent, based on revenue, to just over $13 billion, and 9.1 per cent by unit volume, to 2 billion servers. In the second quarter, sales rose 2.5 per cent by revenue and 12.8 per cent by unit volume.

"We have seen double-digit growth in the past," said Jeff Hewitt, research director for Gartner. "Server sales are still growing, but because of virtualisation, customers don't have to buy as many servers."

Virtualisation makes it possible to run more programs on one physical server, using more of its capacity and making it possible for a data centre to handle more work with fewer servers.

Among the server vendors, market share rankings remained the same in Gartner's numbers, which cover the three-month period ended 30 September, compared with previous quarters.

IBM retained the market lead, with 33.7 per cent, based on a 7.4 per cent revenue gain to $4.38 billion, from the third quarter of 2005. HP followed with 25.3 per cent market share; Dell ranked third with a 10.8 per cent share; Sun Microsystems ranked fourth with 10.1 per cent share; while Fuji came fifth, with a 4.9 per cent share. Other vendors combined for a 15.3 per cent share.