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RF Code Debuts Inexpensive Server-Tracking Solution

The company's solution combines infrared beacons and active RFID tags, enabling data centers to track the locations and conditions of their servers using a single RFID reader.
By Claire Swedberg
Every 10 seconds, each tag transmits its own ID number, as well as the ID of its rack's control box, to an RF Code M200 reader, installed in the data center's ceiling. In that way, without the need for triangulation or multiple readers, the server's location data (based on the ID number of the particular rack in which it was installed) can then be sent back to the server via a cabled connection. RF Code software can sit on the back-end system, either as a stand-alone system or integrated into the data center's own management software.

An R114 tag
The readers can cover an area of 2,000 to 5,000 square feet, depending on the height of the racks, as well as that of the ceiling. If the tag has a temperature or humidity sensor built into it, this information is also transmitted to the interrogator.

The IR/RFID tags can receive IR data from the light strips only if they are located within five to six inches of those strips. In that way, if they are removed from the rack, the system fails to receive a transmission and is immediately alerted that something has been taken. The short range of the IR signal ensures that no stray data from other IR light strips on other racks is received by tags in the data center.

The A740 control box can be powered by a mini USB port, or via a standard power connection.

The system's cost is approximately one-third the typical expense of an installation using only active RFID tags and readers, Gaskins says. The A740 IR control box with two light strips costs $199, each R104 or R114 tag is priced at $19.95 and the interrogator's price tag is $1,249. In a typical data center with 100 racks, he says, the entire installation would cost about $23,647, or $236.47 per rack.

"We're really excited about this solution," Gaskins states. "It's designed to be customer-installable"—which, he notes, is an advantage to many data-center managers who have security constraints regarding which personnel can work around the servers. Those still utilizing the older RF Code RFID-only solution can continue using that system, or they could upgrade to the IR/RFID version without making any changes to the existing Zone Manager middleware. "We expect that many will want to switch over," he says, especially as more data centers evolve to open racks.

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