Sears' new line: cloud computing services

Grazed from Chicago Business.  Author:  Lorene Yue.

Sears Holdings Corp., known for selling general merchandise, is getting into the business of selling space — specifically, data-storage space.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer announced today that it has launched MetaScale, a wholly owned subsidiary that will provide data-management services.

Sears sees the venture as a natural extension of the resources it has spent over the past two years building the infrastructure it needs to manage data for its more than 4,000 Sears and Kmart stores...

"We have this great capability," said Tom Aiello, a Sears Holdings vice president of public relations. "Why don't we go ahead and take this to other companies that can benefit, and get the revenue?"

He declined to say how much MetaScale will charge for its services, nor would he provide a revenue estimate. He also would not say how many employees work at MetaScale.

MetaScale will allow future clients — it hasn't named any yet — to store and access vast amounts of data for a variety of functions for financial, scientific, research or archival purposes. The company is "uniquely positioned to serve the needs of large-scale enterprise projects," Keith Sherwell, chief information officer for Sears Holdings, said in a press release.

Sears isn't the first retailer to get into the business of data storage and probably not the last, said Mark Jeffery, senior lecturer of executive programs at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

"I can see there is an opportunity," Mr. Jeffery said. "There are few companies that have the strategic technology."

Amazon.com in 2006 made its elastic compute cloud, known as EC2, available for public use and has since further developed its web services division.

So, why Sears? The retailer offers consulting services as well as data storage, which is unique among cloud computing service providers, Mr. Aiello said. "We offer end-to-end solutions."