Stan Shih cofounder and chairman of Acer

Stan Shih, co-founder and chairman of Acer

Can Acer Find Success with Private Cloud Initiative?

The head honchos at Acer seem to think they can turn their company around with cloud. To date, the PC company's cloud business unit is the only shining star, even with only $43 million in annual revenue. But can it make a claim against the main competitors in the space?

What actions do you take when your company is losing hundreds of millions of dollars per year? You turn to the cloud, of course. As everyone and their mother tries to launch a cloud service, PC manufacturer Acer has been trying to turn itself around and earn its share of the cloud market. The latest in the Acer story is the launch of a private cloud service that is intended to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google (GOOG).

Except for the issue that Acer doesn't really seem to get cloud, that is. Despite trying to shift to a more cloud-focused model over the last six months, Acer seems as PC-focused as ever. That's not a good sign for an organization that wants to get cloudy. Acer has just launched what it calls a private cloud offering that is compatible with smartphones, tablets and computers.

Even as Acer tries to boost its cloud revenue to save the struggling PC manufacturer, the organization's understanding of the cloud computing model has to be questioned. The latest "private cloud" offering is still PC-centric, putting the cloud on end users' personal computers. Maybe someone at Acer missed a memo ... or three.

Acer is positioning its new cloud services as an alternative to the likes of Amazon Web Services and Google. And although aspects of Acer's strategy have a certain of method to the madness, the overall strategy seems a little weak.

"If you consider how far computing has come in the past decade or so, with PCs and laptops delivering more compute performance than servers did not too long ago, it makes perfect sense to try to maximize the use and value of those resources and investments," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, in an interview with Talkin' Cloud. "Whether Acer can expand beyond the the initial number of customers it's already acquired remains to be seen. But at least no one can accuse the company of trying to 'out-Amazon' Amazon with a cookie-cutter copy of AWS."

Even so, King compared the Acer cloud service to distributed computing efforts of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"It's hard to say what the odds are for Acer's cloud software and strategy, mainly because it's so different from virtually the rest of the cloud services market," King said. "At one level, it sounds like some of the distributed computing efforts that were popular in the late-'90s and early 2000s. The SETI at Home project was one of the better known of these but there were a number of vendors offering solutions that allowed workloads to be distributed across and desktop systems to achieve better cost efficiencies. One I remember linked workstations together into an HPC cluster that would run heavy duty rendering workloads at night."

It's easy to remain skeptical as to whether Acer can truly turn itself around by trying to capitalize on the growing cloud computing market.

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