|IBM has unveiled a server, storage, networking and software bundle based on its BladeCenter servers targeting the retail sector. Known as the Systems Solutions for Retail Stores, the bundle follows similar packages the company has already announced for the banking industry and small to mid-size businesses.
IBM already has more than 100 major global retailers using its BladeCenter servers in their datacentres, says Juhi Jotwani, its director of solutions and alliances for xSeries and BladeCenter. Although retail has traditionally been seen as an industry sector slow to adopt the latest technology, retailers have latched on to blades quickly, she says.
The aim of the new bundle is to move blade usage from the datacentres into retailers' stores. "Going forward, the need for services in stores is growing tremendously," Jotwani says. Retailers are offering services including CD burning and photo printing which are driving their need for more servers, she says.
The bundle is aimed at large retailers who are running 3-4 servers in their stores, says Jotwani. "If they have less than two [servers], it doesn't make sense for them to invest in BladeCenter." IBM plans to release a similar bundle based on its low-end xSeries servers targeting smaller retailers and retailers in emerging countries in the second quarter of the year, she says.
BladeCenter already supports Windows, Linux and Unix applications and will now also support IBM's 4690 point-of-sale (POS) operating system. Support for a variety of different operating systems is particularly important for retail stores, Jotwani says. While many pharmacy applications are Unix-based, newer digital applications run on Linux and many POS terminals run Windows. BladeCenter servers are available with chips from Intel, AMD or IBM's own Power processors.
Users can combine the retail bundle with IBM's Store Integration Framework (SIF), a software framework based on IBM's middleware, to facilitate the remote management of applications from a central datacentre.
IBM has also partnered with Symbol Technologies to integrate Symbol's WS5120 wireless switch into the chassis of IBM's BladeCenter server as part of the bundle, Jotwani says. The switch helps retailers improve wireless availability, security and manageability.
Jotwani didn't provide specific pricing for the bundle, saying the cost could be very variable. However, she estimated an average figure of less than US$25,000 (NZ$36,000) per store for the Systems Solutions for Retail Stores hardware, software and a few basic applications.