Intel works to end "lost" data center devices

Many data centers today inventory physical assets the same way grocery stores track food, with barcodes and scanners. It's not efficient and a certain percentage of assets will become "lost" because asset databases haven't been updated.

But Intel is considering adding active RFID tags to its chipsets, replacing barcode scanning with automated, wireless tracking of devices such as servers, networking computing modules, storage and other data center devices.

There are third-party vendors that already provide asset tracking with active RFID. But if Intel includes this functionality in its chipset, this could make RFID a near universal feature in data centers in the years to come.

Intel has made prototypes of RFID-enabled chipsets, and Jeff Klaus, general manager of data center solutions at Intel, says some have been advocating internally to include this capability. But there has been no formal decision at Intel about whether to move from prototype to production.

The opportunity comes about every two years with a chip upgrade, said he said.

With RFID, a data center worker, for instance, could walk down an aisle and see asset information and immediately populate a table, or use a Google glass-type device, for that matter, to recognize assets.

"There are some data center operators that have no idea how many assets they have, or how many servers they are operating," said Klaus.

One person who sees benefit to RFID in data centers is Scott Killian, who until last year was in charge of AOL's six primary data centers, managing tens of thousands of assets. Today, Killian is vice president of energy programs at the Uptime Institute.

At AOL, Killian said they were required to submit data on all the data centers each year to finance. It would take about two days and many workers to scan all the equipment in just one 90,000-square-foot raised floor space.

Killian said they saw RFID as the future, but said the cost of deployment was a big obstacle. One estimate put the deployment cost at anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million for AOL's operations, he said.

Exactly how this RFID data would become available to data center operators remains to be seen. But Intel has long been in the business of aggregating data, and already collects data such as CPU, memory and motherboard power, and makes APIs available to third-party system management providers as well as OEMs.

Data centers may know the IP addresses of all their equipment, and have very detailed asset logs. But in the period between inventories, equipment is moved around and asset tags may fall off, and the asset record is never 100%, said Killian.


Patrick Thibodeau

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