In 2010, Alog Data Centers—a Platform Equinix company and one of Brazil's leading data-center firms—faced a critical challenge. The company's business was expanding by 20 percent annually in response to the global trend toward cloud computing, as well as managed and colocation services. It operated three data centers, located in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Tambore, with plans to open a second facility in Rio de Janeiro. As such, Alog needed a more efficient way to manage its corporate customers' computing and storage needs.
Nelson Mendonça, Alog's operations director, began considering how to upgrade the company's IT hardware inventory system, which comprised a mix of spreadsheets, bar codes and manual processes. In addition, Alog needed a more efficient way to comply with new international standards (akin to the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act) mandating periodic fixed-asset reporting and auditing for IT service firms that have public companies as clients. Mendonça says his overarching goal for Alog was to upgrade the security of client data, streamline reporting processes and reduce associated costs.
In general, data centers are required to perform inventory counts every three months to comply with government and industry regulations, but they need to do it more frequently for internal purposes, says Lucas Almeida, the director of operations at São Paulo-based RFIDeas, the technology integrator that partnered with Alog to develop and deploy the RFID asset-management solution, known as Automatic Real-Time Information System (ARTIS). "The existing manual processes are error-prone, inefficient, laborious and time-consuming," he explains. Automation via RFID reduces human error, inefficiency and liability, reducing costs and complexity while increasing flexibility and control, he says, adding, "It provides full visibility of the IT assets' life cycle to the business level."
"The potential security vulnerabilities, compliance risks and operational inefficiencies caused by a lack of institutional control over an organization's IT hardware are becoming a priority" for data-center leaders, Almeida says, noting that in today's constantly changing data centers, as much as 40 percent of IT assets are moved in or out, or are shifted internally, each year due to equipment additions, provisioning, servicing and end of life. Consider the havoc wreaked if a single laptop ends up missing from any one business, Almeida suggests; now compare that with the potential harm if a server containing critical client data vanishes from a facility responsible for safeguarding that information.
The Road to RFID
"In the very beginning, we tried to reach RFID companies to evaluate RFID technology," Mendonça says. "We set up a group of three people—a software developer, an IT operations coordinator and a business intelligence analyst—to conduct a viability study."
What Mendonça's team discovered, though, was a dearth of companies specializing in RFID in Brazil, as well as costly proposals from firms based elsewhere. "All the project proposals we received were much more expensive than we had expected," Mendonça states. "More importantly, there were no business cases with proven substantial ROI and short payback time."
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