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T-Systems, Intel Test RFID to Track Servers at Model Data Center

At their jointly operated DataCenter 2020, the companies have installed passive EPC UHF tags on servers, as well as readers on racks and doorways.
By Rhea Wessel
Feb 01, 2012Germany-based systems integrator T-Systems and Intel, the U.S.-based manufacturer of computer processors and other technology, are evaluating the results of an implementation of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC RFID passive tags to track IT assets at a model data center located in Munich. The two companies are currently considering whether to roll out the technology at other data centers as well.

The application employs information collected via radio frequency identification to locate hardware components, particularly servers installed in racks. An RFID pilot was carried out in 2010 and 2011 at DataCenter 2020, the test-bed data center run by T-Systems and Intel. Integration of the RFID-based data into the Aperture data-center management software used by T-Systems is ongoing, the firms report, and is expected to be completed in mid-2012. Once the integration is finished, T-Systems will be able to use the data collected via RFID in Aperture's workflow and procurement applications.

DataCenter 2020, designed to test methods for conserving energy, is used as a showcase for customers, and as a place to test various hardware configurations. "Because of the test configurations for customers, we have to know which equipment is installed in which rack, and in which room," says T-Systems' Manuel Mair, who serves as the data center's project manager. "Now, with RFID, we do it automatically instead of with an Excel sheet."

With RFID-tagged servers and racks, data-center operators can now perform quick inventories, including those necessary for financial controlling. What's more, they can easily locate hardware requiring repair, and can be alerted in the event that an employee tries to install a server in the wrong rack.

At present, some 150 servers in eight racks are tracked via Omni-ID Prox Label UHF RFID tags compliant with the EPC Gen 2 standard. A tag is attached to each server, with the tagging taking place onsite when new equipment is slated to be added to the room. (The data-center operators could imagine later relying on tags placed on servers by the hardware manufacturer.) The equipment is then identified at the rack-room entrance, using a customized portal reader made by Deister Electronic. The portal includes an infrared motion detector, so that identified hardware can be registered as entering or exiting the room.

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