Acer Adds Fuel to the Commodity Server Fire

Arthur Cole

If the enterprise hardware market wasn't already cut-throat enough for some of you, it's about to get a whole lot nastier now that another server lineup is poised to hit the channel.

PC powerhouse Acer Inc., heir to the Gateway fortune, announced this week a new line of Intel- and AMD-based x86 servers that it hopes will drive a wedge into data center hardware refresh cycles just as organizations are laying the groundwork for advanced virtual and cloud infrastructures. The PC-to-server etc. route is a time-honored strategy, of course, having already been plied by Dell, HP and others; although, there is a question as to whether the industry can support yet another server brand with margins for commodity machines already at razor-thin levels.

Still, it's not like Acer is coming into the market as a complete novice. The company has an estimated revenue stream of about $18 billion thanks to its worldwide PC operations. And with a fairly broad server family right out of the gate-the line consists of 16 machines ranging from single- and dual-core tower and rack devices to multinode and blade machines-it's a fair bet that the company can make strong headway with the small- to mid-sized businesses that have been its stock and trade so far.

But that isn't to say the task will be easy. As Dell discovered over the past decade, it's not enough to simply supply hardware to fill holes in existing infrastructure. These days enterprises both large and small are looking for solutions partners to help guide entire data ecosystems into the emerging cloud environment. Low-cost, low-power hardware is a key component of these strategies, but so is integrated virtualization, automation and management, not to mention networking and storage.

To that end, Acer at least has lined up a solid storage partner in Hitachi Data Systems, which has pitched in with a number of NAS technologies outfitted with advanced features like deduplication and snapshot capability. However, it will take a whole lot more than that to turn Acer into the kind of systems and solutions provider that can make a serious run at the enterprise.

Still, from humble beginnings great empires rise. As I mention, Acer is hardly a wide-eyed newcomer to this market. It is certainly a company to keep an eye on, if only for the fact that it provides yet another reason for the entire server industry to push ever onward to increasingly efficient and economical platforms.

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