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

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the where's-roebuck-all-this-time? dept.

Businesses 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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Trying a new business model (5, Insightful)

cpicon92 (1157705) | about 10 months ago | (#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:Trying a new business model (2)

DaMattster (977781) | about 10 months ago | (#45427732)

If the price were absolutely right, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat.

They are priced very well (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427774)

They only take Discover though.

Re:They are priced very well (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#45429473)

Or the Sears card at 22%...

Re:Trying a new business model (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 10 months ago | (#45427786)

Seems like they sell it as a close but pricey for everything play.

Re: Trying a new business model (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427792)

Depends on how secure and reliable it is. Prefab has its benefits until disaster strikes.

Re: Trying a new business model (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428535)

I used to work at a Sears Auto Center as a stock clerk when I was fresh out of high school. They have an underground basement that is essentially a bunker that is the same size as the enter area above it.

It's a fantastic idea. It's built like a bunker, and certainly not the regular pre-fab. Remember, these centers have to be seriously strengthened to handle the weight of the cars on top of it.

I'm looking forward to see what they do with it.

Re: Trying a new business model (4, Funny)

TWX (665546) | about 10 months ago | (#45428975)

Yeah, but only a Die Hard would really seek out using Sears Auto for their data needs...

Re: Trying a new business model (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about 10 months ago | (#45429247)

Well, now you've let the cat out of the bag about how they were going to handle power uptime.

Re: Trying a new business model (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429191)

They have an underground basement that is essentially a bunker that is the same size as the enter area above it.

Underground facilities don't handle flooding very well, though.

Re: Trying a new business model (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#45430039)

most of usa doesn't get any flooding at all.. and if they were on floodplains, they'd be water damaged already.

Re:Trying a new business model (1)

Dzimas (547818) | about 10 months ago | (#45427802)

If the price were absolutely right, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat.

If their service reliability and scalability is well above industry averages and they have excellent backbone connectivity to their suburban mall parking lots, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat. But that's a long shot.

Re:Trying a new business model (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427823)

Solid as Sears.

They used to say to that when you drop off your car at the auto center that you could go in an shop for tools or maybe look into getting Allstate insurance. Now the outlook is cloudy.

Re:Trying a new business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427973)

If it weren't for Sears, where wold I go to shop for clothes in 1983???

Re:Trying a new business model (5, Interesting)

aztracker1 (702135) | about 10 months ago | (#45428247)

The irony is they (Sears) shut down their Catalog support after the internet started to really take off. They were in a position to be what Amazon is now, back when Amazon was just books, and already had the infrastructure to support it... Even if they just put their catalog online in 1997 (with telephone ordering/payments), they'd still be very relevant today. "We tried that with Prodigy, the Internet is just a fad."

Re:Trying a new business model (5, Funny)

immaterial (1520413) | about 10 months ago | (#45428449)

It does make a lot of sense. Unlike their future-proof retail stores, automotive services are too easily purchased over the Internet nowadays. I mean seriously, who isn't buying oil changes on Amazon?

Re:Trying a new business model (2)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 10 months ago | (#45428965)

But seriously, folks, I did happen to buy an oil change on Amazon recently, through their "Amazon Local" service. But it was from a local Goodyear dealer, not from Sears Auto.

Re:Trying a new business model (2)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about 10 months ago | (#45429267)

No, but small auto shops are consolidating. The internet, especially YouTube, has opened the door to amateur auto mechanics who wouldn't have learned otherwise. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the privately owned shops have become so inconsistent from shop to shop in honesty and competence that most people feel (are) safer taking it to the dealership. Again, communication enabled by the internet has increased the awareness of consumers that frequently the work the shop did was bs or overpriced.

Re:Trying a new business model (2)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45430235)

Worked as a service writer for a while, and quite a few people would come in for an oil change at our shop even though we were almost twice the price of the quick-lube place down the road. The selling point was "Our mechanics weren't flipping burgers or cutting lawns last week."

Re:Trying a new business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429227)

at least they are starting out well in regards to battery backup.

jr

Seems like expensive space (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 10 months ago | (#45427758)

Or have malls been giving sweet deals to the big end cap stores? From a DC perspective if you can get servers inside metro Ethernet ranges that opens up a lot of consolidation opportunity to get servers out of closets and other non idea spaces.

Re:Seems like expensive space (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 10 months ago | (#45427816)

With questionable bandwidth.

A small server farm 10 miles away seams a bad compromise between local servers and a bigger data center.

Re:Seems like expensive space (1)

sandoz (49648) | about 10 months ago | (#45427833)

The Metro Ethernet ranges are dumb as well. I wish the telco's would fix that.......AtoM anyone?

Re:Seems like expensive space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428023)

The Metro Ethernet ranges are dumb as well. I wish the telco's would fix that.......AtoM anyone?

Ass to mouth? eww...

Vacant malls are no longer expensive space (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 10 months ago | (#45428147)

Or have malls been giving sweet deals to the big end cap stores?

Many mall owners are desperate. No new enclosed mall has been built in the US in the last ten years. (American Dream Meadowlands [wikipedia.org] in New Jersey doesn't count; after two bankruptcies and a roof collapse, they're "on hold".) There are hundreds of dead malls [deadmalls.com] in the US. If you have a use for mall-type space that doesn't have to be near customers, there's plenty of space available.

Re:Vacant malls are no longer expensive space (2)

Megane (129182) | about 10 months ago | (#45428293)

Rackspace HQ is in a dead mall, [wikipedia.org] but they don't locate their servers there because of the power it would require. I think they were originally only in an expansion section of the mall (the Mervyn's building), but now occupy all of it. The northern half of the mall interior can be seen on Google street view.

Re:Vacant malls are no longer expensive space (4, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#45428513)

There is another angle to this – the REIT tax exemption. Sears is cash poor but land rich.

There is a quirk that Real Estate Investment Trusts don’t have to pay corporate tax if they pay out most of their profits. REITs included apartment and office buildings, public storage, warehouses, and maybe server farms. (IIRC Rackspace was trying to convert. I don’t know what become of that.)

Sears is trying to figure out how to move it assets over. This could be a angle where they rent the building but outsource the server farms to their partners.

Re:Vacant malls are no longer expensive space (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429509)

When I was last at Rackspace in 2010, they had moved much of their operations to the part of the Windsor Park mall in San Antonio that used to house a Montgomery Ward's and looked to be progressing quite well. Despite the dread I had of moving there due to the terrible acoustics amongst a staff that was phone intensive, I thought it was a neat idea from an urban planning and community reinvestment perspective since much of the surrounding area was degrading economically with rising crime rates. I haven't checked up on them recently but the plan was to take the entire former mall over and convert it into their HQ, completing the move from their previous location at the old Datapoint building.

Re:Seems like expensive space (2)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#45428365)

Sears generally owns the properties, it doesn't lease them.

Re:Seems like expensive space (2)

aergern (127031) | about 10 months ago | (#45428387)

Apparently the other articles were not read about the fact that Sears outright OWNS most of their space across the country. They are turning buildings they all ready own outright into data centers. And not just auto centers either but retail stores they've closed.

Re:Seems like expensive space (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 10 months ago | (#45428833)

Sears probably owns a good number of KMarts as well. Sears Auto Centers is something I almost forgot about existing. The two old Sears/KMarts in my town stood vacant for years until a college took over one and Burlington Coat Factory took over the other one.

Wait, what? (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#45427764)

"We at Sears hold substantial real estate with high retail value. So we're going to turn it into something that is best located where nobody else wants to go, since that's where taxes and traffic are lowest."

Wait, what?

Re:Wait, what? (2)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 10 months ago | (#45427831)

“We really want to be the McDonald’s or Starbucks of data centers,”

Wait, what? Sounds like these people heard the word "Technology" and signed at the bottom line, no?

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428071)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE5dJDgZ644#t=20

Re:Wait, what? (3, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#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.)

Re:Wait, what? (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 10 months ago | (#45429189)

Yeah I guess. I was more going toward the point of it being Sears, going into the server-farm business. Any employees rolling over? Probably just higher management, fat cats. And wtf do they know about server-farms, much less who to hire that does. Sounds like there was a lot of brandy that night.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 10 months ago | (#45428033)

>> something that is best located where nobody else wants to go

Like their execrable stores evidently.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 10 months ago | (#45428537)

Old shopping malls are precisely where "nobody else wants to go".

Since businesses cannot be interrupted long enough to replace aging malls, building new malls then closing the old is standard where land is reasonably priced. Malls are disposable.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 10 months ago | (#45428905)

Just build the Wal*Mart, then close everything else.

Sounds Good (1)

wrackspurt (3028771) | about 10 months ago | (#45427788)

But you need demand. Just because your bricks and mortar are in place in small centers it doesn't mean the demand is there. Still though if you've got the assets paid for and in place it's probably worth the try.

Re:Sounds Good (2)

mysidia (191772) | about 10 months ago | (#45429735)

Do they have a clue what they're getting into?

They might have the real-estate... but where the heck are they gonna get the fiber built to these facilities, and electrical infrastructure required to run them reliably? Huge capital expenditures....

Aren't all the small businesses moving into the cloud?

Is there really an underserved niche for more server farms, all across the country?

Re:Sounds Good (1)

wrackspurt (3028771) | about 10 months ago | (#45429931)

I dunno and I don't think they do. My guess, based on retail management types I've known, is that they were just trying to come up with something that would fit in the space and seem innovative. Personally I don't see why they just don't turn them into lube & brake shops.

Have you been to a Sears lately? (4, Interesting)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 10 months ago | (#45427810)

I used to buy a lot of stuff from Sears. My shed and garage look like an advertisement for Craftsman. Sadly Even their tools have dipped in quality since being bought out by KMart. I know a few people who were pissed that they received a "made in China" replacement tool for one that was "made in the USA". I'm not as hung up on that. But when the original tool lasted for several decades and the replacement a few months, there's a problem.

The stores were dirty and disorganized the last time I was in one, which hasn't been for several months. In my area they also started closing at 7:00 or 8:00 pm, which has caused them to lose my business on several occasions. I'm not sure why anyone would trust their data in a place that they will never see when they can't even make the public areas of the store presentable. It's kind of sad to watch them die a slow death.

I work at Sears (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Re:Have you been to a Sears lately? (2)

couchslug (175151) | about 10 months ago | (#45428563)

Now that Craftsman have turned to shit, especially their ratchets, I have no use for Sears. There are plenty of other tool vendors.

The K-martization of Sears is vile. I hope both companies crash and burn.

Re:Have you been to a Sears lately? (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 10 months ago | (#45429111)

Now that Craftsman have turned to shit, especially their ratchets, I have no use for Sears. There are plenty of other tool vendors.

The K-martization of Sears is vile. I hope both companies crash and burn.

Yeah, once they turned the once-vaunted Craftsman tool line into run-of-the-mill cheap Chinese shit, it was game over. Luckily, there's still Snap On and SK. That being said, the last 3 appliances I got was from Sears.

Re:Have you been to a Sears lately? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429171)

I know you'll probably slap me for being pedantic, but it's Sears that bailed out K-Mart. Not the other way around.

Valuable real estate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427814)

What most folks don't realize is how awful retail's network infrastructure is. Having a data center in the same city will dramatically decrease latency. If they turn around and contract with those malls, they might have something here.

Re:Valuable real estate (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 10 months ago | (#45427881)

I'm going out on a limb and say retails network infrastructure is 'good enough'.

Anybody ever not able to buy something? Once at a place that did very little retail business. I used cash instead.

Re:Valuable real estate (2)

DarkOx (621550) | about 10 months ago | (#45428251)

I am going to guess at most larger retail the network is less than critical. I worked for a big box retailer for a couple years. I was writing financial software for them not store systems but I interfaced with the store systems developers and operations people a lot because obviously for financial cost control tools and stuff we needed lot of information about what was happening in stores each day.

The network isn't critical. Each box store has its own AIX cluster that hosts everything needed to support the registers, price guns, time clocks, etc. It manages all the stores inventory etc. A few times a day the mainframe sweeps up sales history, inventory levels, whatever demand adjustments the local manager has keyed in, selling exceptions, time clock info needed for payroll etc.

The store can run with the network down for a considerable period of time. About the only customer facing thing that might not work is the gift registry kiosk. Most employees would never notice anything was wrong either. Now after a couple days things might start to get interesting demand info won't be transmitted so you won't get restocked, you may be nearing a payroll window etc.

If its happens connections are down or expected to be for a long time the stores GM knows how run a job that will put all the information on LTO tape, and it can get couriered back to HQ if connectivity can't be restored.

Re:Valuable real estate (2)

evilviper (135110) | about 10 months ago | (#45430187)

The store can run with the network down for a considerable period of time. About the only customer facing thing that might not work is the gift registry kiosk. Most employees would never notice anything was wrong either.

What the HELL are you talking about? Haven't you ever heard of CREDIT CARDS?

Re:Valuable real estate (1)

BradMajors (995624) | about 10 months ago | (#45428579)

Having a data centre located in the mall would enable the mall to sell large amounts of digital content. Don't think CDs and DVDs, perhaps something like super duper immersive games.

Re:Valuable real estate (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 10 months ago | (#45430007)

A big deal with cloud is the need for metro area redundancy. For storage this might include a Fiber Channel or iSCSI SAN and add some clustered fail over servers at least 50 miles from the primary site. For this to work properly with synchronous replication and seamless failover you need low latency and fairly direct routes. Many failed malls are almost perfectly located for this.

At least they are trying (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45427825)

While i think its pointless and will only hasten their demise, at least they are trying to save themselves.

Re:At least they are trying (2)

symbolset (646467) | about 10 months ago | (#45430019)

It seems to me that Sears and KMart have been taking turns going bankrupt since I was a kid.

RIP sears (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427873)

It was over when kmart bought them. Instead of getting kmart prices and sears quality. We got kmart quality and sears prices.

No thanks (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 10 months ago | (#45427879)

I wouldn't trust Sears to run a vaccuum cleaner.

Most of their internal systems are still green-screens, FFS!

Re:No thanks (1)

DewDude (537374) | about 10 months ago | (#45427941)

They *COULD* have upgraded to all new POS systems; but they decided to give some people jobs in retrofitting stuff.

Re:No thanks (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 10 months ago | (#45427995)

>Most of their internal systems are still green-screens, FFS!
So it probably works.

The POS in my wife's yarn store is text mode (python+curses).
It makes it a heck of a lot easier to maintain and you can log in from anything with ssh.

Re:No thanks (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#45428011)

"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.

Re:No thanks (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 10 months ago | (#45429245)

There are a number of problems with the Sears plan.

  1. With green screen apps in house, where is their experience running a non-mainframe data center to come from?
  2. They're setting up facilities in retail space, which is more expensive than most, which will drive up costs.
  3. The locations aren't already configured with high speed pipes, power, and cooling -- all of which is expensive as hell to add when you're dealing with retail facilities that have customers wandering all over the place for the other vendors
  4. Sears hasn't turned a profit with any of their ventures in a good many years, so what do you do when they pull the plug on this future failure and leave you without service?

Re:No thanks (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Re: No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428227)

You must like beta .slashdot.org...

Re:No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428399)

Running a data center should be done by people who don't have a damn thing to do with POS and/or inventory system. Who cares what they run at their cash registers?

Re:No thanks (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 10 months ago | (#45430237)

Most of their internal systems are still green-screens, FFS!

That's the sign of a good, lean company. It at least means they don't have clueless executives forcing IT to switch all their systems to the latest fads every few years. They save money over PCs in up-front costs, maintenance, power, etc.

And the green-screens don't indicate the back-end is ancient... There are extremely capable terminal servers available that are just network connected SSH clients, which can connect to Amazon's "cloud" just as easily as they could an on-site mainframe.

I do admit to migrating several companies off of "green-screens", but it's typically a long, slow payback, which may only be advisable for the greater flexibility, and commodity prices of PCs versus the shrinking market for green-screens, and often moves along at the pace that existing (old) equipment dies off.

it was going poorly? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#45427951)

The only bad things I heard about the Sears auto thingy was the prices. With Circuit City gone though, they would do a better installation job on aftermarket equipment like backup cameras and subwoofers than Best Buy. I would think their profits would have gone up after Circuit City closed. What the heck happened?

your a nigger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45427977)

kill urself

Re:your a nigger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428325)

"you are" abbreviated you're, not your... ffs

That's certainly thinking out of the Big Box (1)

BLToday (1777712) | about 10 months ago | (#45427989)

That's certainly thinking out of the Big Box.

So.... (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 10 months ago | (#45428019)

Will these Data-centers defraud their customers like the auto-centers did?

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/23/business/sears-auto-centers-halt-commissions-after-flap.html [nytimes.com]

Sears has been dead to me for at least 15 years, and it's not due to their irrelevancy. They have destroyed the public's trust in them with very long series of scams and deceptions. Remember the craftsman lifetime unlimited warranty on tools? Try getting them to fulfill that now... they just tell you they don't make that part anymore and offer you a coupon for a new wrench. Fuck sears, they should have died in the 80s.

Re:So.... (4, Interesting)

mspohr (589790) | about 10 months ago | (#45428149)

Recently decided to buy something from Sears mail order.
It was a total disaster. First, their web site wouldn't take my correct address leading to a 6AM call from the East coast warehouse to sort out the address. They then shipped a cheaper substitute part (different part number) and insisted it was just fine. Wouldn't take a return or ship a replacement. Finally protested the charge to my credit card and got a refund.
Never again.
Ironic that Sears can't even do mail order right these days.

I order from them weekly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429519)

I don't think I've had a problem in the past 15 years or so. My anecdotal evidence is stronger than yours.

Re:I order from them weekly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429671)

What the fuck do you need to order on a weekly basis from Sears that you can't get cheaper and faster elsewhere?

If you're going to try to make a point with a made up story, at least try to make a believable one.

Re:So.... (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 10 months ago | (#45428609)

As I remember, their catalog sales operation was a can't-lose lottery. You filled out an order, paid for it, then picked it up when it arrived. But what you PAID for was what you ORDERED, and their policy of hiring the cheapest possible people to pack boxes meant that was not necessarily what you GOT. You might order an ignition feeler gauge and get a drill press...and if the reverse happened, you could always return it.

Re:So.... (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | about 10 months ago | (#45429301)

Or, you might order a cheap drill press like I did a few months back, and never have anything show up at all. Fortunately it was a "ship-to-store" situation where I would have paid at the store, but after calling the store twice to see if it had arrived only to be told "it didn't come in with this week's restock, try next Thursday", I ended up buying a press elsewhere. To this date I still haven't received a phone call, e-mail, or any other communications from them. You'd think they'd have wanted a several-hundred-dollar sale, but I guess not.

Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (4, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (4, Insightful)

Tailhook (98486) | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 10 months ago | (#45428861)

You do realize that physical proximity != internet proximity?

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45429013)

waat. if you have a datacenter in timbukton, North Dakota, you will definitely be better of caching data there than transporting data over a fiberlink from chicago or kansas city. they are going to do what akami and google have not done, and that is provide POP in rural regions rather than metropolitan

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about 10 months ago | (#45429781)

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.

Bulk caches like that don't need and can't really use an auto center worth of floor space though....

They need perhaps 2 48U racks. With each of the major CDNs cache boxes taking approximately 6 to 8U of space.

The application is too small; and I don't think anyone will pay them much for doing that.

There's plenty of caching already available at service providers' facilities.

End user's traffic still has to go all the way to their provider's facility, before going out to edge cache devicenodes...

It's unlikely that Sears will offer residential ISPs such a great deal, that the ISPs close down their server rooms and move everything into Sears' auto centers.

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428703)

Sears will negotiate leases at mall sites for decades per term, the rental expense is already fixed, and they are under contract in most locations for another decade or two I suspect....

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 10 months ago | (#45429173)

CEOs like to follow the trends. "Cloud" is the buzzword? Here comes Sears Cloud! Bonus check, please!

More seriously, the advantage of the Sears usually central location is the availability of a central office not too far, which means potentially lots of bandwidth without ginormous installation costs.

The power side? Ya, that's gonna hurt.
But if they succeed the can get a check from the mall for providing heat for everyone in winter!

Re:Not going to work out for them I'm afraid. (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 10 months ago | (#45430161)

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

Malls seem to always be very centrally located. Right near the interchanges of major freeways/highways, not far from big population centers, etc. And furthermore, I'm betting any decent sized mall already has more than 128K DSL lines going in and out, what with companies so heavily automating their inventory systems and needing reliable internet service to do so. Give that, I have to assume getting a few OC lines run to their mini-data centers is going to be considerably cheaper than some new building out in the middle of nowhere.

3. Electrical power, backup power, cooling, security infrastructure? Uh on, we don't have that either... No Check...

They'll have some "Electrical power" already. Being located in a mall, they might be able to just use existing (large) transmission lines. Building wiring will obviously need to be installed from scratch, but not paying for a transmission line is a big up-front savings.

They will have some existing commercial cooling systems to build on, and with an operating store right next to it, it's possible they'll be able to combine duties for their HVAC and other maintenance personnel, saving money.

They'll need some new, dedicated security guards for the data center. But they're probably in an area that's already getting frequent police patrols. The Sears auto center nearest me is located in a major shopping mall, which has it's own large police department satellite office.

They'll still need to dump in a lot of money to convert it, but they're not starting from a hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere. Locating your data center in abandoned stores in shopping malls has some advantage.

And in this case, Sears doesn't have to make a big profit on it... The property is essentially FREE, as their rental agreement surely has some stiff fines for early termination, so they're just trying to make *SOME* money off of it, rather than it being a complete loss.

While this won't fly for big companies I've worked for that have a big and expanding footprint, the smaller ones that just need a single rack for DR, or just need faster/cheaper/reliable internet access than they can get at their offices for their web presence, could really benefit from small, conveniently located data centers like these. With the suburban locations, there might be an easy supply of inexpensive employees tired of commuting. And with the free rent, Sears might manage to offer some decent hosting prices. Hell, if Amazon can do it...

The Cloud has officially (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428107)

Jumped the shark.

Whatabout "National Security Data Center" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428113)

Bring all your Dataz to Uncle Samz and the Nazional Security Letterz !

Folks, don't eat spam. Here's some real meat: http://scherbius2014.de

Sears is OK by me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428127)

Will Craftsman servers come with a lifetime warranty?

Actually, I'm not a hater - I have a lot of Craftsman tools, and have put them through a tom of abuse. They all have survived, despite my best efforts, with the exception of the screwdrivers. What can you do, they wear out, and they've always warrantied them for me.

Potential win/win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428213)

Making money off their already owned space, lowering latency to local customers using their services and NOT taking up any more parking spaces doing both of the above! I wish more businesses would combine and leverage resources like this. The urban sprawl in the United States is a HUGE part of what's killing it right now.

"cement buildings"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428345)

The buildings are made of concrete.

Cement is just 1 ingredient in concrete, along with sand, gravel, and water.

Thinking outside the big box (2)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 10 months ago | (#45428549)

It's been reported that the value of the real estate held by Sears Holdings is greater than the stock-market value of Sears Holdings itself. How can that be?

I've wondered exactly how "valuable" a dead KMart or Sears store really is. After all, what else can you turn it into? The more successful big-box folks like Wal-Mart and Home Depot already have their own big boxes. Plus, KMart and Sears stores typically are in older locations that are in retail decline. For example, the Sears Auto that's closest to me is outside a large indoor mall that's nearly vacant. And the KMart across the street from it currently is in the process of closing.

So what do you put in a retail location that nobody wants to shop at anymore? A data center, of course. Seems like an innovative idea.

However, it remains to be seen whether this will work as a business concept. For example, I assume access to network infrastructure is important. But if it does work, it would "unlock" the value of Sears' real estate that otherwise has little value.

Best of all, if a server rack ever needs to have its oil changed or its muffler replaced, it can be lifted at the touch of a button.

It is so stupid, I have to stop and think if it is (4, Insightful)

acscott (1885598) | about 10 months ago | (#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:It is so stupid, I have to stop and think if it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428707)

Your idea is dumber. Data centers are in high demand today. Electric car charging is not. Sure some day in the future car charging might be a big thing, but data centers are a proven commodity.

Re:It is so stupid, I have to stop and think if it (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 10 months ago | (#45428753)

Get away from work to go to the Dr. and go shop!

That's going to be a problem. You see, most of these Sears that are closed were the last or near last stores in their malls to close. The little stores went out first, and the big anchor stores held on as the malls got emptier and emptier. So generally, there's little or no place around them for people to shop.

Demand for "retail" lower-end data center space? (5, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 10 months ago | (#45428969)

In some ways I think data centers have gotten out of hand and created a market for less intensive, more retail-friendly versions.

I get that there's definitely a need for all the security and triple-redundancy that high end data centers provide. But I also think there's definitely a market for a less complex version that maybe doesn't have the kinds of security or redundancy that big operations have. Not zero redundancy or zero security, but a less involved version -- maybe less peering, less security, one generator instead of two, etc.

I work in SMB consulting and there's a certain number of clients who host their own systems in house but could benefit from putting them in a data center, but who don't quite want to pay the costs asociated with the standard model of data center. What they need is a rack with reliable power and cooling and better internet connectivity than they can get from a DSL line + Cable.

A "retail" data center might let them get their toes in the water and solve some short term problems without having to cross the Rubicon into "big time" datacenter use.

The most apt comparison I can make is Snap Fitness vs. Lifetime Fitness. Lifetime has more and better equipment, trainers, a pool, tennis, etc. But some people just want to lift weights and run on a treadmill.

Circuit City... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45428993)

...might be a great name that they could use.

What? Oh wait...

Desperation. (1)

0b1knob (927658) | about 10 months ago | (#45429123)

Sears grasps at new business schemes like a drowning man might grasp at straws. One story is that they will discard everything but their insurance business. Remember Sharp electronics? Outsourced EVERYTHING. Today nothing is left but a strawberry farm.

Data centers? They couldn't run a garage. (1)

swm (171547) | about 10 months ago | (#45429385)

I wonder if they will be any better at running data centers than they were at running auto centers.

We used to take our cars to Sears to get the oil changed.
Nothing complicated, just an oil change.

I'd say they succeeded in changing the oil about two thirds of the time.
But one third of the time, something would go off the rails, and we would go home without the oil change.
Eventually, I gave up going there.
Some time after that, they closed their auto centers.

Dying Company Grasping at Straws (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#45429497)

Sad Really, Sears used to stand for something and unfortunately bad management and ineffective reaction to the marketplace has left them in the position of closing for good. I stopped shopping there permanently after a problem with an appliance, that had the service package and was still under warranty, wouldn't be serviced by them for weeks. They just couldn't get us an appointment. Much of what they sell you can get online from other vendors with better service and for better prices and that unfortunately will be the undoing of a lot of these chains so for me good riddance!

Re:Dying Company Grasping at Straws (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about 10 months ago | (#45429887)

Sad Really, Sears used to stand for something and unfortunately bad management and ineffective reaction to the marketplace has left them in the position of closing for good. I stopped shopping there permanently after a problem with an appliance, that had the service package and was still under warranty, wouldn't be serviced by them for weeks. They just couldn't get us an appointment. Much of what they sell you can get online from other vendors with better service and for better prices and that unfortunately will be the undoing of a lot of these chains so for me good riddance!

The only alternative for appliances are now Home Depot, Lowes or Best Buy. I doubt they are much better. There is no way any company is going to come running out to fix your appliance for a free warranty claim.

Sears has as good a price or better as Amazon on many products. Nothing beats placing the order and picking it up 20 minutes later at a local Sears or Kmart.

Amazon has gone heavily into data center business as well. It makes as much sense for Sears to do the same. Sears can attract the small local businesses who want IT services like mail, storage and custom apps without paying for an in-house IT and a local venue to go to if there is something wrong or if they want custom services.

sears? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45430119)

are they still around? I haven't seen any Sears store in a decade or so.

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