HP Offers RFID to Track Data Center Assets

The company is using its own RFID technology to track data center assets, such as servers, and it has completed a "point of concept" test with one customer.

Hewlett-Packard announced Oct. 17 that it has completed a successful test using radio-frequency identification to track assets, specifically servers, in the data center.

The technology, which was developed by HP Labs, used RFID readers and tags to track, in real time, the data center assets of Meijer, a privately held Grand Rapids, Mich. company with almost 200 retail and grocery stores.

Specifically, HPs RFID solution was used to track several hundred of the companys servers in the its data center, right down to the computer rack where an individual server was located, said Cyril Brignone, a project manager for HP, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif.

The solution was able to monitor individual devices within the companys data center and also tell the IT staff if a new device, such as a server, had been added to the center or if a server or other piece of hardware had been moved from one location to another.

The technology that HP used was then able to create a high-resolution view of devices in the data center and provide historical information related to additions or changes of servers or other assets.

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"We have created the first real-time automatic asset tracking solution for the data center," Brignone told eWEEK. "We were able to track any asset down to the rack where it was located."

Brignone explained that this solution would eliminate the need for IT professionals to make periodic trips to the data center to manually check that all the assets are there.

Brignone and his team have been working on this data center tracking system for several years—HP has been using and developing RFID technology for about four years now—but there was no indication when the solution would become widely available.

Although it is not ready to wide-spread use, an HP spokesperson said the company decided to announce its new technology following the successful test with Meijer.

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"Right now, there are no offerings at this point," the spokesperson said. "What we had so far was a proof-of-concept test that was very successful."

HP has also been using a similar solution in its own internal supply chain. The companys spokesperson said the technology would appeal to companies as a way to save money, reduce risk and streamline the supply chain.

Pete Abell, the RFID program director for IDC Manufacturing Insights in Framingham, Mass., said more and more enterprises are starting to explore ways to track manage and track assets in the IT department.

"Using RFID to track and manage assets makes good business sense," said Abell, who is preparing a report about asset tracking and management for IDC.

Sarah Shah, an RFID industry analyst with ABI Research in Oyster Bay, N.Y., said that the concept of tracking IT assets in the data center is not unique, but that HP would be able to appeal to those enterprises looking for a cost effective way of protecting infrastructure.

"This appeals to any large enterprise that has a lot of critical information and a vested interest in protecting its data and its equipment," Shah said.

Since most active RFID tags last a long time and can be reused, Shah said companies would spend some money up front. Once the solution was in place, however, the company would not have to spend unless it decided to upgrade or add a lot of additional servers or other IT assets to the data center.

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