The Softer Side of Sears?If you’re over a certain age, going to Sears didn’t used to mean venturing into the deserted end of the mall populated by companies like Spencer’s Gifts, Lenscrafters and that nasty cafeteria place where only people really over a certain age seem to eat. For me, Sears was where I went to get me first “good” pair of tennis shoes, and my first suit. The suit was a marvel. It was made from a material that didn’t exist in nature—I’m pretty sure it was fire retardant– and consisted of a jacket, reversible vest and pants that was advertised as having something like 137 possible combinations. Sears was where Dad went to buy his tools, and Mom got her harvest gold matching washer and dryer. Obviously, the company has a special place in my heart, so you cannot imagine my excitement regarding their entry into the data center market.

Isn’t this really the quintessential American story? One day you’re selling watches via catalogues and just 120 years later you’re bringing 10,000 square feet of raised floor to towns throughout the country. Obviously, when Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck started out in 1893, they couldn’t envision their company moving from catalogues to computing, but the great companies always find a way to adapt.

Apparently, they are going jump into this new endeavor by converting a number of their standalone Tire and Auto stores. I think this is a very interesting strategy. While you won’t be able to have a new Die Hard battery installed while you sign up for space, I think they might keep the lifts right there on the raised floor. While this architectural feature may not have a high degree of practical value, I, for one, don’t think you can underestimate the cool factor. I hope that they also make sure that the folks staffing the facility continue to wear those shirts with their names inscribed on them, since my confidence level is always raised when I’m on a first name basis with the guys who are supporting my equipment.

Maybe if this venture takes off they might even start publishing their catalogue again—I loved that thing. How convenient would it be to curl up on a cold December evening and pick out what you want for Christmas and 250kW of data center space at the same time? That folks would be real retail colocation. I think this marriage of traditional retail and the data center can really take our industry in a new direction. The potential for cross-promotions alone cannot be underestimated. Who could say no to the prospect of getting a new Kenmore refrigerator/freezer with the purchase of a managed service package, or for you home improvement junkies out there, what about a Craftsman tablesaw? When you get right down to it, there are a bunch of providers that can offer 150W/square foot but give me the guys who can also throw in a new cordless drill every time.

I think this bold move is just the thing one of our country’s most venerated brands needs to retain its place amongst the pantheon of corporate giants. I have no idea how other data center providers will react to Sears entry into the industry, but I’ll bet you Target and Walmart are nervous.

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