Sears Turns Retail Stores Into Data Centers

Sears Holding Company Ubiquity Data Center Wireless Trading Tech

Sears Holding Corporation ($SHLD) retains a massive portfolio of commercial real estate, much of which is sitting empty. The solution: turn empty retail stores into high-tech data centers. The company is doing so through a unit called Ubiquity Critical Environments, ran by COO Sean Farney who has “19 years of experience designing, delivering and operating highly available, revenue generating, infrastructures” and previously worked for Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft, Interactive Data, and Sears Holding (LinkedIn).

The plan is to convert Sears and Kmart retail stores into high-tech data centers, disaster recovery facilities, and provide infrastructure to enhance “wireless service to support low-latency trading operations” (Miller). This could turn into an extremely profitable model for similar retail conglomerates holding massive real estate portfolios to follow.

Ubiquity Data Center Sears Kmart

Rich Miller, from datacenterknowledge.com, has a great article discussing the creation of Ubiquity and the company’s plan. Here is an excerpt:

The first Ubiquity project will be a Sears store on the south side of Chicago, nestled alongside the Chicago Skyway. The 127,000 square foot store is closing at the end of June, and will be retrofitted as a multi-tenant data center. Farney says he already has a commitment for the first tenant at the site on East 79th Street, which has 5 megawatts of existing power capacity and the potential to expand.

“When malls were being built, they gravitated to the intersection of freeways and highways, and Sears got entry to all of them,” said Farney. “These rooftops have proximity to the greatest mass of consumers available. As wireless users grow, the size of the cell is shrinking, creating holes in coverage. Having rooftop access to the cars and pedestrians around the malls is important. The Sears portfolio can capture that.

“Sears and Kmart never deployed wireless on the rooftops, so there’s no rooftop usage at present,” he added. “There’s tons of interest. I will put as many of the rooftops in play as I can.”

That includes the Sears store being closed in Chicago, which has a 100-foot-tall tower atop the store that creates some interesting possibilities for wireless, including high-speed wireless service to support low-latency trading operations. The top of the tower at the 79th Street store offers line of sight to trading operations at 350 East Cermak, eight miles to the north, as well as the CME Group data center in the western suburb of Aurora. (Miller, DCK)

[Sears Photo: Andrew Turnbull/Flickr; Data Center Photo: Ubiquity]