Even after July and early August's impressive bounce, the vast majority of technology stocks have had a terrible 2022, with most still down double digits on the year. The Nasdaq Composite is still down about 17% on the year, and the semiconductor and hardware-focused Van Eck Semiconductor ETF (SMH 0.06%) is down more than 20%.
So when you find a stock that has defied its sector and is now up a whopping 49% on the year, it may be an indication of a long-term outperformer. Here's how this one under-the-radar tech name is defying the odds.
Skating to where the puck is going
The hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." Under founder and CEO Charles Liang, that's the strategy Super Micro Computer (SMCI -2.64%) has employed in anticipating today's major trends in data center technology.
Super Micro Computer, at first glance, doesn't seem like a "sexy" technology stock. The company makes servers and sub-systems that go into data centers. So, it doesn't produce proprietary semiconductors, storage, memory, or networking switch technologies, but rather assembles them into systems for data center customers.
However, with compute-intensive artificial intelligence (AI) applications now taking off in earnest, Super Micro's anticipation of two big customer needs that are now translating into big gains. Those are (1) energy-efficient computing, and (2) a "building block" strategy for mass customization.
The age-old adage: Helping customers save time and money
With natural gas prices having soared over the past year, the costs of running energy-hungry data centers have increased. With the advent of AI, data centers are running increasingly compute-intensive servers requiring huge amounts of electricity. Furthermore, that computing generates lots of heat, necessitating the need for built-in cooling systems, which in turn require even more electricity.
For years, Super Micro has adopted a "green computing" strategy focused on energy-efficient server designs, along with highly efficient air and liquid cooling system architectures. That effort is paying off big today.
One key metric used by data center operators is power usage effectiveness, or PUE, which calculates the ratio of total power needed for the data center relative to the amount of power that actually goes to the IT computing equipment. The lower the figure, the better.
The industry average PUE is 1.57, while the PUE for Super Micro's latest server designs are just 1.05. According to management, if the entire data center market used Super Micro's green computing solutions, it would save the industry $10 billion annually and eliminate the need for 30 fossil fuel power plants.
Aside from energy efficiency, Super Micro has also employed a strategy of developing plug-and-play sub-systems, which basically break down servers into different "building blocks" that can be configured with other elements in a variety of different combinations.
Other server companies can usually save on costs by mass-producing standard designs, but the building block strategy allows data center operators to upgrade parts of a server, such as a new processor and memory chassis, instead of the entire device, cabling, and other elements. That saves data center operators even more on shipping and installation costs while increasing flexibility.
With more and more data center operators seeking highly customized configurations depending on the application -- from AI, to cloud gaming, to edge computing for the Internet of Things -- Super Micro can deliver highly customized data center servers and racks in a much shorter amount of time relative to competitors.
Super Micro is taking off. Get on board?
By anticipating the key trends of energy-efficiency, flexible configuration, and quicker time-to-market, Super Micro has seen customers flock to its server solutions this year.
In its fiscal fourth quarter reported last Tuesday, Super Micro trounced expectations, growing revenue 53% to $1.64 billion, with adjusted (non-GAAP) EPS of $2.62, up 223% and handily beating analyst estimates.
What's even more exciting is Super Micro's margin expansion, which showed operating margins expanding to 10.7%, up from just 4.4% in the year-ago quarter. This shows Super Micro is getting a premium for its cost-saving hardware, and achieving operating leverage as it scales.
Things could get even better. SMCI's new Command Center automation platform, which will allow customers to configure and customize their own offerings and greatly streamline the sales process, hasn't even been deployed yet. The unveiling of the new platform this year could scale Super Micro's offerings to a much larger customer base, according to management.
While many technology companies have become cautious in their outlooks, Super Micro provided bullish guidance for 2023, projecting revenue rising to $6.6 billion at the midpoint, up 27% from 2022, and adjusted EPS of "at least" $7.50, which would mark growth of 33%. That compares with a share price of just $65 today.
But beyond next year, Liang has even bigger ambitions for Super Micro, believing it will take share and reach $10 billion in revenue in the next few years, on its way to $20 billion in the "medium term."
Considering Super Micro's market cap is just $3.4 billion even after this year's run, this under-the-radar tech stock could just be getting started.