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Cisco Deploys RFID in Its Data Centers

Current economic conditions make asset tracking more critical for organizations with IT-intensive operations.
By Jennifer Zaino
Dec 08, 2008Cisco Systems is a giant in the IT industry. As a dominant force in the networking equipment market, Cisco has large enterprise and telecommunications customers across the globe. The company's data centers, which support both external customers and Cisco employees, span eight sites—from Boxborough, Mass., to Bangalore, India. Those data centers host thousands of IT assets—servers, routers, switches and storage devices—all of which must be tracked, managed (sometimes by employees at another facility), and often rerouted to and repurposed i a separate location.

In most of Cisco's data centers, the processes surrounding the accounting for and locating of IT assets are handled manually, with the help of traditional auditing and monitoring tools. But at its Amsterdam data center, Cisco piloted the use of active RFID technology to provide real-time insight into the whereabouts and movement of such devices. All of the items in that data center are RFID-tagged, and a custom asset-management repository application creates reports enabling the data center teams to work with that location information.

Cisco's Mobility Services Engine appliance employs AeroScout's location engine technology inside the server.

Now Cisco is extending the pilot to its Richardson, Texas, data center, a growing site that will also serve as a showcase for customers of the company's technologies. The ultimate goal is to leverage active RFID technology, in combination with Cisco's Wi-Fi networks, to track assets at all of its IT data centers—though whether that will happen in six months or over the course of the next few years depends on available budget and resources.

Current economic conditions could impact that goal, but not necessarily in the way you might think. Increasing budgetary and financial pressures may make asset-management projects more critical for organizations with IT-intensive operations. "It's about getting more with less," says David Hensley, a program manager for Cisco IT Data Center, who is responsible for the company's current RFID trials. "It's about understanding what we have, and doing more with the inventory we have. RFID is a component of that within Cisco, so personally I believe that RFID will become more critical to the organization as the economy continues to go this way. We want to make sure that we manage expenses and capital, and RFID and asset management are tied to that."
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