High-powered data centers will likely soon be more important to retailers than classic shopping malls. Yet for this trend to success, IT departments will need to resolve a number of thorny issues.
The doomsayers have to date been proven wrong: the retailer sector continues to chug along. Yet all is not rosy for this industry. A lurking danger is clearly visible in many inner cities, as well as websites such as deadmalls.com : the internet. German retailers made 8.5 percent of their sales online in 2014, and in the non-food area that number reached 15.3 percent . And the trend is clearly pointed toward further growth . In the face of online competition, bricks-and-mortal retailers have started shifting their focus toward eCommerce. Will data centers soon be replacing shopping malls?
Data Volume Spiraling
What's clear is that the classic bricks-and-mortar retail business, if it is to survive, must be radically reinvented. Ideally this would involve blending the virtual shopping world with the real one. The physical store would then serve as a showroom, a path Apple has blazed with its Apple stores: appointments to hold and try out the devices are booked online, with friendly and competent staff on hand to answer questions. The actual payment is performed decentrally using an iPad. Other promising concepts include BOPIS (buy and pick-up in store) and BORIS (buy and return in store) . Shopping itself is the experience, with the payment details more of a side note. It's also possible to enhance the physical retail space using virtual features, an approach pioneered by Ikea . Pax furnitu re for the bedroom is easy to put together on the computer – and looks pretty realistic. To some extent, though, it doesn't matter which direction retail takes. What matters is that the progress of online options represents completely new challenges for IT — and companies need to start preparing for them today.
Scalable infrastructure required
The seamless linking of the offline world with IT landscapes that continue to grow in size and complexity is one of the major tasks that businesses must address to take part in our digital society. One key element is a scalable infrastructure , meaning the option to increase the available computing power at data centers during peak period – such as Christmas – and to handle fluctuations in data volumes flexibly.
Hybrid Cloud as a solution
A Hybrid Cloud , which temporarily expands a private cloud through a public one, could offer a solution. It allows companies to combine the power of their own data center with additional server capacities rented from an external provider. This offers a clever solution to data privacy issues: sensitive data is stored solely within the private cloud, while all other data runs through the public cloud.
While the principle is attractive, the practical elements of setting up such a system are anything but easy for companies. First, any data being released to the outside ought first undergo a comprehensive review, and not all information should be forwarded to third parties. The topic of data management takes on entirely new dimensions in this kind of heterogeneous server landscape and may necessitate the hiring of an employee responsible solely for this area. Network connections between the private and public cloud can also be a hurdle. In many cases neither bandwidth nor availability are sufficient for rapid data transfer and must be upgraded. The same applies to interfaces between the two types of clouds, as a lack of uniform standards sometimes causes incompatibilities. Companies should also remember that not all providers are equally trustworthy. Certificates and guaranteed availability levels are helpful indicators here.
Setting up a powerful data center offers retailers another important tool as well: the ability to analyze customer data, including their behavior in the online shop and their preferences. This can shine a light on previously neglected cross-selling opportunities that can boost sales for any online store.
Data Center Trends at CeBIT
To stay successful, retailers must start planning for these types of IT investments today — and take a stance on what orientation their data centers will have. Concrete insights into future-ready server and storage hardware, the role of virtualization in the future and physical security are all on hand at the CeBIT in Hannover. The Data Center Converged symposium in Hall 12 features experts exploring potential data center scenarios and trends on the IT landscape.
Mining customer data for gold and the future of sales and marketing will be on display for CeBIT visitors in Hall 4, at the new Marketing & Sales Solutions showcase.