Is Servicing Data (Rather Than People) an Answer for Sears?
Recognizing the world needs less space for retail and more to store data, Sears plans to turn some of Sears and Kmart locations into data centers and disaster recovery spaces.
A new subsidiary, Ubiquity Critical Environments, will be tasked with converting some of the more than 2,500 Sears and Kmart properties to data storage facilities with servers, chillers and backup generators. It also plans to top many of its buildings with telecommunications towers.
Sean Farney, who built and managed Microsoft’s 700,000 square-foot, 120MW, Chicago data center, is leading the subsidiary. Most recently, he ran a network of low-latency services for the financial firm Interactive Data. According to Crain’s Chicago, the subsidiary’s name speaks to Sears’ reach. Seventy-one percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of one of its stores.
"The big idea is that you have a technology platform laid atop a retail footprint, creating the possibility for a product with a very different look to it," Mr. Farney told Data Center Knowledge.
A 127,000-square foot Sears location on the south side of Chicago will close in June and serve as the first data center. While many business have stacks of servers jammed in back offices to store data as well as standalone facilities, "the growing sophistication, cost and power needs of the systems are driving companies into leased spaces at a breakneck pace," according to a recent report exploring "cloud factories" from The New York Times.
While likely not competing with those required for banks and airlines, Sears could provide a lower-cost option for other businesses that still promises to pay a much higher rate per square foot than the average commercial tenant.
Sears and Kmart’s many stand-alone locations are said to be optimally suited for data centers, although much depends on each site’s access to power and fiber, as well as their proximity to large data center markets.
Sears’ mall-based retail locations as well as those that have been downsized to a smaller retail footprint are seen as better options for disaster recovery facilities. While traditionally located in industrial areas, businesses are said to be looking for "sexier" locations for business continuity centers, such as one with a nearby Starbucks or other retail, according to Mr. Farney.
Finally, Sears believes that as wireless users grow, holes in coverage are being created that Sears’ rooftops could fill. Mr. Farney told Data Center Knowledge, "When malls were being built, they gravitated to the intersection of freeways and highways, and Sears got entry to all of them."
- Why Sears sees salvation in servers – Crain’s Chicago Business
- With Ubiquity, Sears is Turning Shuttered Stores into Data Centers – Data Center Knowledge
- Landlords Double as Energy Brokers – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
What do you think of Sears’ use of store locations for data storage and disaster recovery? Is this a viable option for other retailers with excess store space?