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IT-Austria Taps RFID to Track Assets

The financial data center operator is using approximately 10,000 EPC Gen 2 tags to track server racks and other IT hardware at two of its data center sites.
By Rhea Wessel
Feb 19, 2009IT-Austria, which operates large data centers for the Austrian financial sector and reported sales of €165 million in 2007, has implemented EPC RFID technology to track IT assets through their complete lifecycles, from purchase through installation, operation, maintenance and disposal. The project was completed at the end of 2008, at three separate data center sites in Vienna, and includes approximately 10,000 tagged components, such as server racks, IT hardware and other office equipment.

Technology solution provider Tricon and Rodi IT Consulting, an independent project consultancy, helped implement the system, which employs a variety of tags and tag housings designed to fit different types of IT assets, and able to be attached to metal, plastic or glass. All of the tags contain EPC Gen 2 RFID inlays from Alien Technology.

Heinz Windischbauer
Before IT-Austria adopted the RFID solution, inventory was taken sporadically, using handheld scanners to read bar codes attached to the assets—a time-consuming process. Since IT assets are the company's second most costly outlay, behind salaries, IT-Austria decided to speed up and improve the efficiency of its IT asset-auditing and maintenance-tracking processes. The firm now performs an inventory of its IT assets every four to 12 weeks, says Heinz Windischbauer, a sales and project manager at Tricon, and uses the information it collects for inventory purposes, as well as for maintenance management.

Tricon implemented its Tricon Inventory Management (TIM) asset-inventory software, which provides an interface between IT-Austria's existing asset-management database and the handheld RFID readers its workers use to take inventory. IT-Austria can check the RFID tag data in the database to make sure all assets are in the places they're supposed to be. The RFID data is also used to update inventory status reports. Inventory status information helps the company's bookkeepers monitor specific server and maintenance costs, and attribute those expenses to the proper customers.

When it's time to conduct an asset inventory, an employee can access an inventory list (a list of assets that are supposed to be in a particular area or department) on a handheld RFID interrogator. The worker waves the reader by an RFID tag mounted near the door, in order to identify the room or area in which the inventory is being taken. The employee then reads the RFID tags on the assets in that room. Each time a tag is interrogated successfully, the system indicates this to the operator. Once all tags within a designated area are read, the operator transmits the data from the handheld device to the back-end asset-management database, via the wireless LAN connection.

IT-Austria can also use its RFID-enabled asset-management solution to generate such things as maintenance or service history reports for a specific customer's servers.

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