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Can RFID Unwire Data Centers?

Could Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) be the perfect solution for keeping track of servers and storage? HP foresees some potential, and has been testing the technology at Michigan retailer Meijer, although cost remains a big user concern. (See HP Brings RFID to Data Centers.)

Up until now, RFID has been synonymous with retailers and defense contractors tracking pallets, packages, and inventory. (See RFID Rocks Back-End Storage, Dutch Bookstore Rolls Out RFID, and Reva Taps Into RFID Data.) Retail giant Wal-Mart, for example, has already strong-armed its top suppliers into RFID compliance. (See Storage Networking's Heaviest Hitters, More Users Signal RFID Intentions, RFID Software Ramps Up, and Tagging the Future.)

This, however, may be about to change. Today, HP revealed that it has been testing the technology on data center kit at Grand Rapids-based Meijer. Tim Osbeck, the retailer's operations and technical support manager, told Byte & Switch that he used the HP solution to track 120 of its 600 servers between July and early October as they moved between different racks. So rather than send IT staff around on foot to record moves and changes, the GUI queries the wireless tags for instant, up-to-the-second inventory.

The additional benefit of the wireless app is greater security at a time of immense regulatory pressure. (See Regulators Rip Records Managers, Top Tips for Compliance , and Storage Goes to Law School.) "Knowing that one of our servers with critical information on it has been moved or opened, would help me sleep better at night," he says.

Although Osbeck focused on servers initially, he feels that RFID is a great fit for tape storage. "There could definitely be some benefits there," he says. "It's knowing what tapes are in the data center and knowing if a tape with sensitive data on it went outside the data center."

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