How Data Centers Are Re-Architectured With RFID

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

At the end of each fiscal quarter, financial institutions, large scale manufacturers and content delivery network providers need to account for every server that is currently in service, has been moved, replaced, is in need of replacement, and at the base level, servers, and assets that have entered and exited the server room.

An average data center contains in excess of 10,000 or more data servers. Organized in racks spread among hundreds of rows and containing up to 20 servers per rack, accountability for each server in every rack becomes a challenge not only to perform accurately but also in a timely manner. In addition (particularly in the financial sector), companies have a need to account for and destroy hard disk drives containing confidential information when they reach the end of their lives.

Up to this point, data centers have utilized a combination of barcode and manual data entry as a means to keep track of equipment. The combination of physical labor and human error causes excessive inventory time and also widens the possibility of inventory omissions which would cost the company in terms of productivity and monetary loss.

Operational Challenges

To address the challenge of increasing inventory accuracy and decreasing inventory time and physical labor, data center managers have turned to RFID. In addition to offering instantaneous identification, the biggest benefit is not requiring a focused line of sight-reading, which is required to read a barcode. This reduces the amount of time spent reading each asset and allows for the RFID reader to identify more than one asset in a given instance versus “one at a time” with barcodes.

The metallic rich nature of a data center (metal server racks and cases) poses a challenge to the physics of RFID. Metal has a tendency to interfere with an RF signal. The challenge at hand is to use an RFID tag that is not only rugged enough to survive the day-in/day-out shuffle of servers from one location to another but also to provide performance that is not hindered by the presence of metal. Additionally, the physical size and form factor of RFID tags have limited use in applications such as servers and small IT assets due to the limited amount of tag real-estate on an already crowded server faceplate and chassis.

Passive RFID technology has traditionally been challenged when attempting to function either in a metallic rich environment or when directly applied to metal. Active and Battery Assisted Passive (BAP) RFID and Passive RFID companies such as Xerafy have been able to provide on-metal, rugged tags that meet the challenges of today’s data centers. The latter is widely considered a more viable choice given the absence of a battery that would otherwise limit its operational lifecycle.

Customized Solutions

Customized to meet the standards of the data centers sector, Xerafy offers the Data Trak, a versatile tag in a 1.5” form-factor that fits nicely on a crowded server faceplate and chassis or can be attached as a hanging tag. The Data Trak features between and 5 and 11 feet (2 and 4 Meters) of read-range respectively on and off metal surfaces.

For blade servers or assets where space to fit tags is limited, the Titanium Metal Skin, at 1.77 x 0.22 x 0.03”, can fit within a 2D barcode label.

In addition, Xerafy offers the iN series of tags that are designed to be embedded into server faceplates and overcome the immediate proximity of metal. The latter offers a completely transparent product offering at the OEM level versus retrofit external tag application.

Re-Inventing Data Center Architecture

With the use of Xerafy’s rugged on-metal RFID tags, data centers experience the benefits of:

  • Real-time asset visibility

  • Inventory management with increased efficiency and accuracy

  • Reduced occurrence of un-accounted assets

  • Stricter adherence to government-mandated asset accountability

  • Relatively short ROI

  • Ability to better manage asset service agreements by better asset maintenance tracking

Overall, data centers have seen approximately 15 times increase in inventory productivity and have reduced the labor as well as reducing the time from the entire inventory process by 80% to 90% by automating with RFID. This also includes goods ordering and receiving, as well as goods removal and destruction.

Overall inventory time with RFID saves a total of 6 days in total. In addition, server disk hard drives when decommissioned are assigned an RFID tag for identification throughout the process providing real-time visibility to ensure drives have gone through all processes of decommissioning and do not pose a threat of accidentally leaving the facility causing a security breach. Also, other IT assets such as laptop computers, network routers, and other capital equipment are utilizing Xerafy RFID tags for improved inventory and accountability.