IBM has unveiled new products based on its BladeCenter platform to help retail customers manage remote store environments more economically and efficiently.
IBM's Systems Solutions for Retail Stores aims to optimise technology infrastructure by consolidating all in-store servers, storage, networking and applications in a single physical package with a common management infrastructure.
Gartner Dataquest forecasts global retail industry spending to grow from £65bn to £78bn in 2009, a compound annual growth rate of 3.4%.
In the wake of increasing competitive pressure, IBM says retailers are being forced to differentiate themselves by offering personalised in-store shopping experiences for customers using leading-edge applications such as personal shopping cart assistants, interactive kiosks, wireless devices and multimedia displays. While stores are getting more sophisticated, IBM believes retailers must manage the increasingly complex environments, and increase overall operational efficiency. However, retailers can only afford to put limited IT skills at the remote stores.
Much of the management of these new technologies can be handled remotely from central datacentres. By helping retailers consolidate much of their in-store technology on the BladeCenter platform, IBM insists it is providing retailers with the flexibility to easily add new customer-centric store applications, while enabling increased employee productivity and successful operation of their businesses on demand.
IBM argues that the rollout of new technologies becomes as simple as adding a new blade and provisioning it remotely with the necessary application images.
"Retailers face a seemingly contradictory set of challenges as they try to find new ways to increase customer service in the stores while simultaneously controlling costs and simplifying their store operations," says Jan Jackman, general manager, IBM Retail on Demand.
"Emerging technologies offer new ways of transforming the shopping experience in the retail store. IBM BladeCenter enables emerging technologies to be quickly integrated to transform the shopping experience."
The new retail products are built on two- and four-way Intel processor-based servers, and two-way IBM and AMD processor-based IBM BladeCenter servers. They include software, networking and security features so administrators can monitor operations and centrally deploy software to store locations. IBM BladeCenter can support Windows, Linux and Unix applications, resulting in a flexible deployment platform.