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Retail Data in a Digital World

25 Feb 2016 by William Freed

In today’s world, customers expect to shop anywhere and at any time, and savvy retailers are transforming and reinventing themselves to meet these expectations. Retail on-demand and the era of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC), as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), mean that the amount of data retailers must deal with has exploded. Additionally, disparate systems must work together seamlessly for competitive advantage.

Handling the avalanche of new data can be a real challenge, and data center strategies are a key part of handling it. While we might often think of the data center as a behind-the-scenes environment, there’s a lot of new thought about how and why adapting data center strategy can deliver real business benefits.

A recent report from research and advisory firm Gartner makes recommendations for a modern data center strategy. How to Select the Correct Data Center Option for the Digital World,” published on October 8, 2015, posits that “The convergence of the Nexus of Forces with the Internet of Things is creating three data center personalities centered on intelligence, risk and agility. I&O leaders must meet these requirements to avoid costly mistakes.” Gartner further recommends that infrastructure and operations leaders look at three different data center “personality” models to classify their workloads. Here’s how Gartner describes them:

  • Intelligent and Integrated Data Center Personality — Focused on creating a data center that behaves like a high-performing factory, churning through ever-increasing volumes of data and, at the same time, behaving like a laboratory, allowing businesses to pick out intelligent insights to help lines of business. Like all factories, the data center, compute, storage and networking need to be broken down into standardized units that are repeatable and scalable through complete automation.
  • Availability and Risk Personality — A personality focused on governance, risk and compliance of data center services, supported by best practices and a risk-aware culture teamed with enabling technologies, improves decision making and performance through an integrated view of how well an organization manages its own unique risks.
  • Innovation and Agility Personality — Focused on agility innovation, creativity and responsiveness to user demands — in particular, to individual lines of business — this personality is characterized by public cloud offerings that offer stable infrastructure and very rapid provisioning. Typically, these data center offerings feature very short-term contracts and pay-as-you-go pricing models, and can be used to support initiatives that may fall out of scope for IT departments.

For retailers, identifying the right data center “personality” makes sense. It is a meaningful way to ascertain current and future data center requirements, taking into account application infrastructure(s), big data and analytics needs, as well as new streams of data from mobile and the IoT, SMAC and more. Once a holistic data center strategy is deployed, retail enterprises can truly embrace on-demand services and grow their businesses with techniques like development of data-rich shopper profiles and analytics-driven marketing, by leveraging a responsive IT infrastructure.

“One of the most impactful assets that businesses have today is the data they are able to collect about how their customers are interacting with their products and services,” says Bob Familiar, national practice director for BlueMetal, an Insight company. Internet of Things provides the means by which you can collect this information in real time and provide meaningful data visualizations to derive transformative business insights.”

If you’re a retailer interested in creating a unified IT environment to support multichannel shopping, and you have questions about your “personality,” download the Gartner report, “How to Select the Correct Data Center Option for the Digital World.”