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Bank of America Deploys RFID in Data Centers

The financial institution is using EPC Gen 2 tags to inventory its computer servers and other IT assets, and to record whenever any are removed from and returned to a data center, so that all equipment can be accounted for.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
In terms of risk mitigation, knowing the location of servers and other hardware holding customer data is a business imperative, Conroy says. Being able to more quickly identify the assets using RFID, relative to bar-code scanning, offers a clear benefit, he adds, though one that is difficult to quantify. According to Conroy, Bank of America is also beginning to utilize the readers in the data centers to identify the magnetic data-storage tapes that are moved into and out of those facilities on a regular basis. He says the system may be upgraded to trigger an alarm when a portal reader detects a magnetic tape being removed from a data center before it is properly cleared for removal.

Thirdly, having up-to-date, accurate inventory data simplifies the process of complying with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations designed to account for corporate assets.

But the RFID system also offers the bank a better method for tracking the shipping and receiving of the IT assets it purchases. This higher level of visibility will lead to faster payment and order discrepancy resolution with vendors, Conroy says. In addition to attaching an RFID tag to each IT asset vendors ship to Bank of America data centers, the vendors' advance shipment notices will also include the unique identifier encoded to each tag. When receiving the shipments, the bank will then reconcile the tag data with those numbers listed on the notice.

"This can trigger the employee receiving the goods to clear the invoice—if the shipment is correct," Conroy says. The bank's accounting system can thus be prompted to issue payment for the assets, while the equipment is transferred to a staging area, where it is readied to be put into operation. RFID readers installed at the receiving dock, and in the staging area, will also expand the asset visibility throughout the data center.

Once tagging IT assets becomes a common practice, Conroy says, it will also be easier for banks to integrate IT equipment into their data centers that are acquired through mergers and acquisitions. The manual steps underway to account for IT assets resulting from Bank of America's recent acquisition of brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, for example, would have been automated.

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