The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retailers? Turning Into Datacenters

At least, that's one thing Sears is trying out.
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Sears! Once the catalog king, then an eminent brick-and-mortar retailer, and now, perhaps, a real-estate holding company that leases out space for computers that power the cloud.

Data Center Knowledge reported today that Sears had created a new unit -- Ubiquity Critical Environments -- to look into repurposing its shuttered stores as datacenters, starting with this one in Chicago.

Yes, this is this week's sign that the 21st century is upon us.

Sears Holdings has a portfolio of 2.5 million square feet of retail space. Not all of it will be suitable for housing server farms, but some percentage of it will be. Ubiquity is tasked with figuring out which stores could be converted. 

Right now, mall sites are out, but you never know. "I don't think the industry is yet ready for a mall-based data center," Ubiquity's manager told the site. "That may take some time. The stand-alone location is optimal." 

(Imagine wandering an empty mall. Closed, closed, closed. But behind each grate, you hear the whir of a shard of the Internet. Finally, you come to an open storefront. It's a Starbucks and there are 30 IT guys at makeshift standup desks.) 

Sears is considering other options for its closed stores: renting them out as "disaster recovery facilities (euphemistically: "business continuity centers") or leasing their roofs to wireless carriers.

It's weird out there.

H/t: Motherboard

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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