Acer Unveils Intel- and AMD-Based Server Line

Acer is looking to parlay its success in the PC business with a new line of Intel- and AMD-based servers and storage devices that it is introducing into the U.S. market.

Acer, which over the past couple of years has muscled its way into becoming one of the top PC manufacturers in the world, is now looking to reclaim a part of the highly competitive U.S. server market.

Acer on Feb. 21 unveiled a lineup of server and storage offerings powered by x86 processors from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices and aimed at a number of areas of the market, from SMBs to cloud computing environments.

The product rollout comes about a year after Acer reinvigorated its data center offerings with new servers and storage products in the European market, and several years after it made its last efforts to establish a toehold in the United States.

"Acer has steadily built one of the broadest lines of server and storage solutions in the world, and now we are bringing this offering to the U.S. to meet customer demands for cost-effective performance, simplified management, flexible scalability and return on storage investments over time," Gianluca Degliesposti, vice president of worldwide business development for Acer's Servers and Storage business unit, said in a statement. "Our initial family of 16 server solutions also leverages our deep expertise in virtualization, multi-node architectures and HPC to meet increasingly challenging needs in cloud computing and other complex computing applications."

Degliesposti said the company plans to expand both its server and storage lineups later this year.

This is the largest push by Acer in this area in recent years, but it isn't the first noise company officials have made about their data center ambitions. A year ago, after AMD rolled out its "Magny-Cours" Opteron processors, which offer eight to 12 cores, a number of server makers-including top-tier OEMs Hewlett-Packard and Dell-lined up to support the new chips with new servers. However, also included among those manufacturers was Acer.

The company also unveiled a few Intel-based systems in late 2009.

Acer comes into the server market with momentum behind its PC efforts, which got a boost in 2007 when the company bought the bulk of Gateway's consumer PC business for $710 million. Acer, which already had a strong PC business via its lineup of low-cost consumer notebooks, was able to parlay that move to push it higher up the ladder, and now finds itself in a quarterly battle with Dell for second place in the global PC market.

Acer officials now are hoping to find the same success in the server market. In Europe, many of Acer's servers are sold under the Gateway brand. However, in the United States, Acer will be the brand on most systems.

The company is entering a rapidly growing market, fueled in part by the rise of such technologies as cloud computing and virtualization, with the x86 space being the primary beneficiary. According to market research firm Gartner, server shipments in the third quarter of 2010 jumped 14.2 percent over the same period in 2009, while revenues grew 15.3 percent.

"As in the first half of [2010], x86-based servers were the main driver of the market; they grew 14.9 percent in units and 29.5 percent in revenue in the third quarter of 2010," Gartner analyst Jeffrey Hewitt said in a statement at the time. "Also following earlier trends, the x86-based server market provided an increase in average selling prices from more robust server configurations to accommodate virtualization; these higher average selling prices pushed revenue higher than shipments, and this was the case in the third quarter for all regions."

In the server space, Acer is offering a line of one- and two-socket tower systems; up to four-socket blade rack servers that are designed to reduce power, space and cooling costs; multinode rack servers for cloud environments that come in 2U (3.5-inch) form factors; and blade servers for dense computing environments.

Acer also is leveraging a partnership with Hitachi Data Systems to offer storage solutions, according to the company. Its NAS (network-attached storage) products offer such technologies as deduplication and snapshot. The lineup includes the Acer AN1600 F1, a 2U device that offers up to 12 SAS or SATA (Serial ATA) hot plug drives, RAID capabilities, and redundant hot-plug power and cooling.

Acer is backing all this up with around-the-clock phone support, 4-hour review and remediation for all calls, next-day parts delivery, and on-site repair. Specifically for servers, Acer also is offering advanced configuration and troubleshooting support.

For the servers and storage devices, Acer officials also are leveraging the channel strategy that they say has worked so well for the PC business.