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Vizualiiz's LightsOn Solution Uses RFID to Locate Servers

Several data centers are employing the system to view a 3-D map of their facilities, including every rack, shelf and server, and to manage the maintenance of IT equipment.
By Claire Swedberg
According to Cartwright, LightsOn reduces the amount of time spent conducting inventory counts from days down to minutes. His tests, he says, have shown that the system can read approximately 1,500 passive RFID tags within 15 minutes. The software runs on the Linux operating system, with user-interface tools to manage read data and a reporting tool to generate business reports. The system includes a display of a customer's data centers in three dimensions—in other words, it can display not just in which rack or row a server is located, but also whether it is positioned at the top, bottom or middle of that rack, based on information input at the time that the tags were read.

With the system in place, an RFID tag is attached to every server or other associated piece of equipment. Vizualiiz does not recommend a specific tag manufacturer; however, the company is currently utilizing tags provided by Omni-ID. A handheld reader is used to enter a rack's location and ID number, and to then read the server tag in order to associate that tag to that specific rack position. "We've done a lot of testing to reduce the purchasing risk for our clients, and today, we're recommending the DoTel DOTR-900 RFID reader," Cartwright says, noting that other UHF handheld models would work as well.

Bob Cartwright, Vizualiiz's president
The read data is then forwarded to the Vizualiiz software residing on the user's back-end system, or on a cloud-based server. The software links the rack data to the RFID number, enabling a user to log in and view a three-dimensional map containing icons indicating which server is located at which rack position. Companies can utilize the software to locate a specific type of server, servers produced by a particular manufacturer or servers of a specified age.

What's more, the solution can be used for inspection and servicing purposes. For example, the date of each required inspection is stored in the software, and can be reviewed by data-center management. Vizualiiz can also provide functionality in the software, using color-coded icons to alert data centers regarding services needed. For instance, in the event that a server requires inspection or maintenance within 30 days, its ID and location would be displayed in yellow. If the maintenance or inspection date had already been reached, the same information would instead be displayed in red.

According to Cartwright's calculations, the labor cost for three audits of 15,000 items within a single year, performed using bar codes, would be approximately $56,250, based on the number of hours required to manually search for and scan bar codes. To perform the same task using the Vizualiiz RFID system would cost $3,375 in labor, he says, since a handheld reader need only be swept near each server. Because the system decreases the risk of assets being lost simply because they can not be found—even if, in fact, they are still located within the data center—LightsOn can save a company money, he says, by reducing the need to order additional inventory.

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