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IBM Serves Up Blade for Retailers

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IBM took another big step today in its quest to build client-centered infrastructures, this time pushing out a custom-designed blade offering for the retail business sector.

In its quest to offer client-centered infrastructures, Big Blue Monday unveiled a custom-designed blade aimed at retailers.

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The vendor fastened its IBM Store Integration Framework certification to its BladeCenter S offering, enabling retailers to plug in more than 75 retail business applications that run the gamut from self-scanning technology to store surveillance, digital signage capabilities and workforce management tools.

IBM launched the BladeCenter S in June 2007. In October, the OEM tacked on an Office Ready Kit, which tweaks the chassis for expansion from a 7U unit to 11U, added a noise attenuator and improved air filtering capabilities for quiet operation.

The retail-focused blade is the latest development in IBM’s client strategy to provide specialized solutions for niche industries. IBM has already pushed out specialty systems for telcos, high-performance computing settings and small and midsize businesses.

“The retail environment has unique needs, and what we’ve done is provided an all-in-one data center that provides greater capabilities and also helps solve inherent issues that come into play in the retail environment,” Alex Yost, vice president of IBM’s BladeCenter, told

The offering also supports a slew of Oracle retail applications. The integrated platform’s smaller footprint and enhanced filtering capabilities solve some unique computing issues found in most store environments, added Yost.

It also boasts a few improved security features. A locking-door element prevents unauthorized tinkering by employees and other unauthorized users, and the Smart Surveillance System integrates data from monitoring devices, such as video cams and radar, aimed at reducing overall security costs.

The capability to easily plug in such technology pieces will prove attractive to retail tech teams that often must deal with disparate appliances and hardware pieces to make all necessary systems operate, said one industry watcher.

“They’re creating a turn-key solutions that helps IT avoid having to do all that front end work of hooking up the technologies, making things easy to install and avoid any ‘dorking’ with the network,” said Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics.

While IBM was silent on which niche industry it will target next, Clabby predicted it will be a financial segment, possibly the banking market niche, given the similar technology issues that segment faces today.

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