Amazon already did it. With huge data centre installations and expertise to support its exclusively electronic commerce, it wasn’t a big leap to start providing cloud computing platform services and practically limitless data storage resources for other companies. Amazon Web Services now offer organisations the possibility to move their disaster recovery and business continuity into the cloud too. Now another US retail behemoth, Sears, is moving into the data centre and disaster recovery space, albeit from a different direction. What competitive advantages or disadvantages might such a move offer?
Sears started in the mail order business, moved into bricks and mortar department stores and then started e-commerce. The biggest US retailer until the early 1980s, it has found that as its business moves towards online sales, it has a number of physical premises that could be used for other requirements. Sears’ management has identified the data centre business as the one to be in and is currently equipping its first centre close to Chicago.
Naturally, industry pundits are already commenting and prognosticating on the future fortunes of the Sears data centre and disaster recovery offering. Some suggest that Sears may not have a strong IT track record to gain customers’ confidence. Others suggest that the firm although troubled in the retail sector still has the muscle to make a lower-cost data centre offering that will be attractive to businesses in general. Sears itself points to the fact that 71 per cent of the US population lives within 10 miles of its stores, with reference to a desire it perceives among enterprises to have their business continuity in more accessible locations.
However, perhaps what will determine the success of the new Sears venture (‘Ubiquity Critical Environments’) will be the degree to which it is truly a strategic business project, rather than just a way of plugging empty spaces in its currently lacklustre retail operations.