IBM Expands BladeCenter Solutions for Retail Industry

New IBM Systems Solutions for Retail Stores Allows Global Retailers to Optimize Technology Infrastructure and Improve Operational Efficiency

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ARMONK, NY - 16 Jan 2006: IBM today announced new solutions based on IBM's BladeCenter platform to help retail customers manage remote store environments more economically and efficiently. IBM's Systems Solutions for Retail Stores helps optimize 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 $117.8 billion to $139.4 billion in 2009, a compound annual growth rate of 3.4 percent.(1) In the wake of increasing competitive pressure, retailers are being forced to differentiate themselves by offering personalized 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, retailers must manage the increasingly complex environments, and increase overall operational efficiency. However, retailers can afford to put only limited IT skills at the remote stores.

Much of the management of these new technologies can be handled remotely from central datacenters. By helping retailers consolidate much of their in-store technology on the BladeCenter platform, IBM 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. The roll-out 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," said 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 solutions -- built on powerful two- and four-way Intel® processor-based servers, and two-way IBM POWER® and AMD processor-based IBM BladeCenter servers -- include software, networking and security features so that 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.

The initial Systems Solution for Retail Stores offering is based on IBM's BladeCenter, and extends to the store consolidation benefits that 100 major retailers already derive from IBM blade technology deployed in their data centers. The new solution will extend the advantages of this consolidation platform to retail stores.

Established in 1670, Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) is Canada's largest department store retailer and oldest corporation. The company operates over 500 retail stores across every province in Canada. HBC recently consolidated its disparate server infrastructure on the IBM BladeCenter platform to support its Citrix environment servicing all retail stores.

"Our implementation of IBM BladeCenter was a critical component of our server consolidation strategy which enabled us to consolidate our server environment by up to 60 percent and greatly improve the manageability of our technology infrastructure," said Ken Whiting, Senior Manager, Enterprise Systems and Networks, Hudson's Bay Company. "The blade environment has provided us great reduction in real estate needed in the datacenter, flexibility for remote management and vast improvements in the performance of our business processes."

Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, MarineMax is the United States' largest recreational boat retailer. The company implemented an on-demand solution based on IBM's BladeCenter enabling it to link sales directly to distributors and suppliers, speeding delivery to customers and improving supply-chain efficiency.

"Using the BladeCenter platform from IBM, we have been able to provide our customers access to more than 7,800 products directly from our Web site in addition to our seventy stores, and streamline our supply chain processes with real-time online order entry and inventory tracking," said Brett McGill, vice president of Information Technology for MarineMax. "We have been able to better serve our customers and respond faster to marketplace trends, while reducing costs due to inventory inefficiencies. IBM's new Systems Solutions for Retail Stores promises to extend efficiencies for retailers even further in the store environment."

Providing Access to Industry's Top Retail Applications

IBM partnered with Intel in 2002 to create the BladeCenter Alliance of software and hardware partners working toward a defacto industry blade standard. Since then, more than 400 technology and solution partners have become part of the BladeCenter Alliance Program. IBM is today working with over 60 application providers, as well as IBM's Retail Store Solutions group, to provide customers access to the industry's best retail applications, such as those for inventory and supply chain management, point-of-sale processes, and mobile technology for remote management:

-- IBM Systems Solutions for Retail stores can be combined with IBM Store Integration Framework (SIF), a cross-enterprise software framework based on IBM middleware developed specifically for retail. SIF supports a variety of physical infrastructures, which makes it appropriate for use in virtually all retail establishments. When combined with SIF's application management capabilities, the entire store environment can be remotely managed from a central data center. -- Point-of-sale (POS) applications from several IBM partners are available for IBM Systems Solutions for Retail Stores today, and others are being validated. IBM is the worldwide leader in retail POS systems, with more than 2 million installed in retail outlets ranging from large chain retailers to small restaurants and pubs. IBM's 4690 Operating System is now supported on BladeCenter. This can serve as the POS controller for 4690- based POS deployments. -- IBM worked with Symbol Technologies to integrate Symbol's WS5120 Wireless Switch into the Systems Solutions for Retail Stores offering, to help provide retailers with better wireless availability, security and manageability while allowing them to simplify deployment and reduce administration costs associated with deploying wireless and mobile technologies.

"Symbol's WS5120 Wireless Switch integrates the functionality of our market-leading WS5000 series of wireless switches for the IBM BladeCenter, delivering a new level of innovation, simplicity and cost-efficiency to wireless networking," said Anthony Bartolo, vice president and general manager of Symbol Technologies' Wireless Infrastructure Division. "By simply sliding the WS5120 into the IBM BladeCenter chassis, enterprises with large distributed locations can now quickly deploy a powerful WLAN infrastructure that delivers scalable, secure and reliable wireless connectivity for mobile workers."

Today's announcement furthers IBM's work to offer tailored solutions to specific industries, which it takes to market with the help of providers well recognized in each industry. To date, IBM has announced several BladeCenter-based solutions, including Systems Solutions for Branch Banking and BladeCenter Business Express for small and medium businesses.

Availability
The initial Systems Solutions for Retail Stores offering is based on IBM BladeCenter and is designed for larger retailers. The BladeCenter-based solution is available today for global customers, with deployment services through IBM Global Services and select IBM Business Partners. Forthcoming offerings based on IBM xSeries servers will cater to smaller stores with less intensive computing needs. The xSeries solution is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2006.

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1 1. Gartner Dataquest: “Forecast: Retail Sector IT Spending, 2004-2009.” September 9, 2005.