Acer plans to boost its footprint in medium-sized businesses by launching a new cluster product. At the start of July, the Taiwanese hardware company will launch a new clustered server system, and sell it into the heartland of HP's and Fujitsu Siemens' markets, according to Acer UK's server product manager Paul Craddock.

Based on Fibre Channel, the C700 consists of a pair of Acer Altos R701 rack-mounted 2U servers, each with at least one 2-way 2.8GHz Xeon CPU, running Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) and sharing an Altos S700 Fibre Channel storage disk system with 73GB of disk space as standard, according to Craddock. The storage connects to the servers via host-based Fibre Channel RAID controllers and houses 2TB out of the box, rising to a maximum of 16.4TB with 14 drives per enclosure. Redundancy features include hot-swappable components such as two mirrored OS drives on each clustered server, hard drives for user data, system environmental monitoring modules, independent power inlets, power supply modules and cooling modules on the storage system.

Although he could not provide detailed pricing, Craddock said the cost would be "more competitive than the sum of the component parts", with the company aiming to take a modest one per cent of market share within the next two years. Craddock added that support would be provided through resellers and distributors used to providing the kinds of support that servers require. He cited Midwych and Northamber, among others.

Surprising though the cluster product is given the Taiwanese giant's focus on the notebook market in recent years, Craddock insists that the company is serious in this market. He described the C700 as a "ready to go solution" and that the company's server management software would be updated next quarter of 2004.

Time will tell if Acer can convince sceptical IT managers of its credentials so far from the heart of its product portfolio but, in the notebook market, it has achieved some measure of success. UK MD Paul Cook recently claimed that Acer is now the third biggest seller of notebooks in the UK, a result achieved, according to notebook manager David White, through a wide product range and focus on selling only through indirect channels. Now may be the time to look for server bargains with an Acer badge attached.