Trying to Guess Technology’s Future Impact on Retail

CopePicBy Craig Cope

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mike Altendorf, vice president of information technology for Do it Best Corp., to discuss current trends in technology and how new technologies in the future may impact retail.

Our conversation began with the topic of cloud computing. We are constantly hearing about “the cloud,” but do we really understand “what is the cloud?” Mike began by explaining that cloud computing can be broken down into three service models.

The first and most basic is called Infrastructure as a Service, abbreviated as IaaS. In IaaS, you are essentially purchasing the computing resources. The user must manage the operating system, software, etc. This enables the user the flexibility of not having to purchase the computer hardware and the cloud provider manages the hardware in a safe and secure data center.

Mike pointed out that when retailers host their own server onsite it normally is not located in the most optimal physical location and is exposed to other environmental factors such as dust, heat and office clutter. In fact, data centers have complex environmental controls maintaining the optimal temperature, humidity and other air qualities that enable the server to perform at its optimal performance.

The second service model is Platform as a Service, abbreviated PaaS. PaaS offers the same benefits as IaaS, but also includes the operating system. Users are responsible for the software application they choose to operate. Some providers offer pre-configured options that enable users to pick and choose which application features they want to use and which ones they do not need. This set-up can allow users the ability to develop their own customized software with little expertise.

The third and final service model is Software as a Service, abbreviated SaaS. The user is “renting” the software they choose to utilize. If Facebook charged a fee for its service this would be an example of SaaS. The user simply uses the software and computer resources of the cloud provider. SaaS offers customers no hardware cost or set-up cost and it’s often a pay for what you use price model.

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