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RFID Reality Check

11:30 AM -- LAS VEGAS -- Interop -- Could the data storage demands of RFID be overhyped? For some time now, users, analysts, and -- surprise, surprise -- storage vendors have highlighted the data strain of RFID on back-end storage systems. (See HP & BEA Tag-Team on RFID, RFID Rocks Back-End Storage, DiamondCluster Urges Reality Check, and IDC: RFID Success Depends on Networks.)

But in Las Vegas today, a number of IT managers and CIOs were singing a very different tune. At the Interop show here, Russ Leaton, IT director at carton manufacturer Burd & Fletcher, explained that corralling the necessary terabytes is not keeping him up at night. "That's not the big issue for us, because storage is cheap," he added. "The [RFID] infrastructure is the worry."

Across town at another RFID event, Jim Noble, CIO of Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Kraft Foods and Philip Morris USA, explained that storage is not his top priority either. "You would think that I would be losing sleep over my SAP system and how it could handle all this information," he said. "You would think that I would be buying shares in EMC because we have to store a lot of information."

But according to Noble, there is no need for such drastic measures because Altria's product lines only have about eight events, or specific points, where RFID data is collected on the journey from factory to warehouse to store. "That's really not a big deal, [because] we can manage to scale to that without any trouble at all," he noted.

Even software giant SAS, a major beneficiary of any RFID data explosion, admits storage is not the real pain point for users at the moment. Keith Collins, the vendor's CTO, told Byte and Switch that the biggest hurdle is the RFID hardware itself: "The big costs are the per-unit devices -- the RFID chips and the readers."

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