A view of the Supercomputer 'Piz Daint' in the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre in Lugano, 21 March 2014. (EPA/KARL MATHIS)

Global revenue from high-performance computer servers fell 7.2 percent to $10.3 billion in 2013, down from $11.1 billion in 2013, according to new data from the International Data Corporation.

The drop-off is partly driven by declining demand from governments worldwide, who make up a large chunk of high-performance computing customers, said IDC analyst Steve Conway. Many already invested in expensive systems during the recession to help solve economic and development problems, but since high-performance computers can sometimes cost hundreds of millions of dollars — government agencies are unlikely to buy new systems each year.

“In the decade of the 2000s, it grew so fast that it was bound to have a year when it couldn’t show more growth,” Conway said.

The most expensive and powerful high-performance computing systems, known as supercomputers, saw a 29 percent decline in revenue in 2013 to about $4 billion. Often selling for more than $500,000, supercomputer systems accounted for about 40 percent of high-performance computer server revenue in 2013.

One bright spot for supercomputer sales: Conway noted that he sees rapid supercomputer adoption in the oil and gas industries.

“[Oil and gas companies] are buying gigantic machines in that sector mainly for oil exploration...The more powerful the supercomputer, the farther they can see,” he said. “They can see things that competitors couldn’t, so there’s an arms race going on there.”

Revenue from smaller, less expensive systems grew year over year. Systems selling for $100,000 or less than displayed the strongest growth, expanding 23.9 percent to $1.6 billion in 2013. Those sold for between $100,00 to $250,000 grew almost 13 percent to $3.4 billion, and systems between $250,000 and $500,000 grew 11.4 percent year over year to reach $1.4 billion.

Sales for those systems fell during the downturn as private companies held back on discretionary purchases.

“The lower the price point, the more it got smacked during the economic recession,” he said. “Those patterns continued in 2013 when you saw in industries resumed buying more in a discretionary way.”

Total unit shipments increased by 19 percent. Hewlett-Packard led the market with 32.3 percent of overall high-performance computing server revenue, followed by IBM with 27.7 percent.