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Sears To Convert Old Auto Centers Into National Chain of Data Centers 167

1sockchuck writes "Sears plans to convert dozens of Sears Auto Center stores into a national chain of server farms, saying it wants to be "the McDonald's or Starbucks of data centers." The strategy is an evolution of Sears Holdings' previously announced plan to turn old Sears and Kmart stores into IT centers. Instead, it will focus on the more than 700 Sears Auto Centers, which include many stand-alone cement buildings on mall perimeters. Ubiquity Critical Environments, the data center arm of Sears, will team with Schneider Electric to turn these sites into data centers. They'll use repeatable modular designs to add power and cooling infrastructure, targeting at least 23 smaller cities where there currently aren't many options for IT outsourcing."
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Sears To Convert Old Auto Centers Into National Chain of Data Centers

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  • by cpicon92 ( 1157705 ) <kristianpicon@gmail.com> on Thursday November 14, 2013 @07:14PM (#45427716)

    I think it's commendable that Sears is trying something new instead of trying to sue its way out of irrelevancy. Whether or not it will work remains to be seen, though...

  • Re:No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Thursday November 14, 2013 @07:45PM (#45428011) Homepage Journal

    "Most of their internal systems are still green-screens
    and that's bad..why?
    Have a system that's custom, specific, easy to enter data, and doesn't change is a good thin for data entry.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @07:50PM (#45428081)

    You need three things to set up a server farm (apart from the servers and people to manage it..)

    1. A Building with lots of floor space.... Yea, An ex-auto repair building could do for that. Check..

    2. Connectivity to the internet... Uh, going to have to spend money on that one.. NO check..

    3. Electrical power, backup power, cooling, security infrastructure? Uh on, we don't have that either... No Check... But you'd have to spend money of all this anyway.

    I don't think this will work out all that well for them. All they have is floor space that is likely pretty expensive if it is located near any major retail but it will be fixed in size. They won't be building new buildings here or expanding by adding more stories. They won't be saving any money doing the conversion from auto repair stalls to server racks because they'd have to do that anyplace else they wanted to set this up. What's going to kill them is the network infrastructure, unless they don't care about reliability and have SLA's for their service that matches. Getting redundant high bandwidth links to these buildings could be expensive, if they are not already near high speed network connections. Comparing their costs to their competitors, I just don't see this working out. Their competition will be working on much larger facilities, located much closer to network infrastructure with lower cost structures and less limitations on their building sizes. Sears may be getting the building for free, but their other setup and operating costs will be higher.

    About the only way this is going to pay, even marginally, is if they can use their unique locations to provide points of presence for services like Netflix or Amazon video to cache content locally or something along those lines. Other than that, I just don't see this working out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @07:53PM (#45428107)

    Jumped the shark.

  • Re:No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @08:05PM (#45428215)

    What's wrong with the green screen? Costco uses iseries/as400 pretty heavily on the back end. I work at a hotel that uses an iSeries to run it's hotel system and came from another that ran mutiple hotels on it.

    Guess what? It just works. ZERO unplanned downtime. Can't say that about the windows and unix based systems like Micros and Opera.

  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @08:15PM (#45428315)

    if they can use their unique locations to provide points of presence for services like Netflix or Amazon video to cache content locally or something along those lines.

    That is exactly what this is about. Netflix and Youtube are 50% of all US internet traffic [slashdot.org] now. These Sears properties are numerous and right in the middle of neighborhoods where the data consumers live. Network operators can offload huge amounts of peering traffic by caching bulk data close to clients.

    These properties are all near major roads in urban areas that can supply sufficient power and run fiber without much drama, but the fact is they don't need bullet-proof power or network service to stream bulk data; when a local cache drops out clients can be temporarily served by more distant servers.

  • I work at Sears (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @08:36PM (#45428485)

    Disclaimer: I work at a Sears store (Well, while i'm finishing college, at least- I'll be an designer/engineer before long. )

    I read about this a few weeks ago in an investor press release. It's a nifty idea for sure, but I feel like they're shooting themselves in the foot a bit. There are a *lot* of people who seem to rely on those auto centers, and it definitely brings foot traffic into the stores. People seem to love buying a set of tires, getting a ridiculous amount of reward points back, and then spending it on clothing, or tools and what have you.

    I also really question if the back-end infrastructure exists for them to actually do this conversion to data centers as planned. I mean, they can't seem to get better then a 1 Mbps DSL? line to the store I work at (that EVERYTHING, far as I can tell; payment processing, computer terminals for training and paperwork, etc. is tied to) and just that alone seems to cause all kinds of sluggishness on the systems there. I mean, when a 2 minute training video takes 10 minutes to buffer, something just isn't quite right.

    There's other issues as well with the IT infrastructure, I think the POS terminal is from 2004-ish, and the software functional, if the DOS style interface slightly archaic. Inventory management, again late 90's era Palm-OS based devices, which I really question how they're still getting repair parts for....

    That said, they ARE trying to upgrade equipment. I know they're attempting to phase out the 90's era equipment and replace it with IOS devices (Which actually work rather well, kudos to an IT guy somewhere), but again our particular store doesn't seem to have that upgrade prioritized, for reasons even the regional manager doesn't understand. Heck, even a few stores are experimentally trying full-on RFID tagging. I truly wish I could do more to increase efficiency, but as a cashier, I'm rather limited in what I can do.

    I'm sorry the last Sears store you visited was a total mess- I try to to the best I can in my area (mens clothing, lol) to keep things clean, but it's often a losing battle. We're understaffed, if for no other reason then the pay at Sears simply isn't competitive compared to other retailers nearby. For instance, Sams's Club across the street is $9 USD starting, meanwhile we're looking at minimum wage, with no opportunity for an increase.

    I hear you about the tools as well- the American made stuff definitely had better quality control. Some of the wrenches and ratchets still are USA made, but I think globalization has been causing that to die a slow death. That said, lifetime warranty is lifetime- If you want to bring in a set of your grandpa's old, rusty craftsman wrenches and trade them in for new ones, You're more then welcome too.

  • by acscott ( 1885598 ) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @08:44PM (#45428553)
    No, it's stupid. But here's what they should do: spin them off into 501(c) 3's and turn them into solar-based (and other) charging stations for electric autos. Use this to start a new brand. Gently and carefully test and enter the brand into your e-stores. Oh why is it stupid? I'm not sure. Probably better to turn those sites into Dr. Clinics, or blood-test labs. Get away from work to go to the Dr. and go shop!
  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @08:56PM (#45428653)

    McDonalds I can understand. Starbucks I can’t. Running a server farm is on the commodity end of the business. You are not looking to be fancy or cutting edge, you are looking to be reliable, low cost, and dull.

    Sears has gobs of real-estate coming out of its ears. This is one of the better ideas that I have heard. (Not saying it is a winner of an idea, just better than the other plans I have seen.)

  • You do realize that physical proximity != internet proximity?

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe