IBM Targets Blade Servers At Retail Stores - InformationWeek

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1/13/2006
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IBM Targets Blade Servers At Retail Stores

IBM is offering blades, middleware, point-of-sale applications from third-party vendors, and an integrated wireless switch from Symbol Technologies.

As more businesses look to blade servers to reduce server sprawl and improve manageability, IBM, the leading provider of blades, is now targeting vertical markets with specific offerings. On Monday the company introduced a platform for use in retail stores.

"We've had very strong success with blades in the retail data centers, and now they are looking to extend this architecture to their stores," says Juhi Jotwani, director of solutions and alliances for IBM's xSeries and BladeCenter divisions. "We want to marry the success of BladeCenter in the data center with the key pressures a CIO of a retailer is facing to lower cost and increase customer service."

The Systems Solution for Retail Stores is based on IBM's BladeCenter, and can be combined with the IBM Store Integration Framework, a software package that uses IBM middleware developed specifically for use in retail stores. Also being offered are point-of-sale applications from third-party vendors for use on the platform, and an integrated wireless switch from Symbol Technologies intended to provide better wireless availability, security, and management.

IBM also believes the platform will help in the deployment of advanced video surveillance equipment in retail stores. Up to 48 cameras can be managed on a single server blade that is combined with a video compression and analysis card, Jotwani says.

IBM says more than 100 larger retailers have deployed BladeCenter in their data centers, and the servers also are currently being used in about 1,200 retail stores. Jotwani estimates a store implementation with blade, chassis, and switches can be installed for between $15,000 and $25,000. IBM plans to introduce a less expensive solution based on its xSeries servers later this year for small and medium-sized retail operations.

Ken Whitting, senior manager of infrastructure for Hudson's Bay Co., a Canadian retailer with more than 500 retail stores, says the company has been transitioning to BladeCenter for its data center the past two years, and is evaluating the potential for blades in the store.

In an effort to rein-in sever sprawl and improve management, Hudson's has transitioned from about 300 physical rack servers to 20 server blades in two chassis running VMware software to create about 130 virtual servers.

"We had servers with 15% to 20% utilization rates, and some even less, so we needed a way to get more out of the environment," Whitting says. "A big driver was the virtualization model. And using remote deployment capabilities from IBM we can get a server up in less than a day when demand arises."

Hudson's uses some of the blades to manage a Citrix environment that controls up to six thin clients in each of its stores, he says. To date, the company has not deployed blades in a store. But Hudson's will consider future implementations for applications such as video surveillance.

"I wouldn't have any concerns if the business needs demand it to roll those blades into the stores while still having a high degree of manageability," he says.

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