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RFID Tags Enable Accurate and Secure IT Asset Tracking

FSTC Specifications

The FSTC requirements include the following:

  • Tags must be pre-coded and installed by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
  • Each has a unique OEM identifier and serial number encoded on them.
  • Human-readable text on the tags is the same as the information encoded in them.
  • They must be durable with the ability to survive minor impacts.
  • They must be adhered to servers without penetrating the mounting surface. (Most use pressure-sensitive adhesive.)
  • Each has a one-dimensional barcode (required) along with two-dimensional barcode (if space permits).
  • Tags must be readable from three feet with a handheld scanner and from six feet with a fixed reader. Fixed readers are installed at doorways to track asset movement within a data center.

The tags are generally made of a hard plastic and attached directly to a server chassis or system rack. This class of RFID tag is often referred to as metal on metal (MOM) or RFID on metal (ROM).

RFID tags for Power Systems Servers

IBM began offering FSTC-compatible RFID tags as an orderable feature #5524 in October 2009. In 2012, IBM began shipping a revised RFID tag, feature #ERF1, which is smaller and compliant with revised, FSTC phase 2 specifications. First introduced with the IBM PureFlex Systems, #ERF1 is now available on other Power Systems servers. Feature #5525 is available for models 750, 755 and 795, rack model 7014-T42, and HMC model 7042-CR6. Feature #ERF1 is available on server models 710, 720, 730, 740, 770, and 780, along with PureFlex servers.

These RFID tags are available with new system orders and cost around $20 to $30. They cannot be added later as an miscellaneous equipment specification (MES). For servers consisting of multiple drawers or components, the tag is installed on the primary device containing the system serial number. For example, a Model 740 server with an attached I/O drawer would have just one RFID tag attached to the 740.

The information contained on the tag is predominately the OEM code and then a unique serial number for the tag itself. You would use a database to associate the RFID serial number with the IT asset serial number and other information about the asset (type, model, location, etc.).

IBM Deployment Ready Services

IBM has a set of server-deployment service offerings customized for Power Systems. Some of the more popular services include:

  • Customer-specified placement of adapter cards within servers and server placement within racks
  • Asset tagging (standard and RFID)
  • System customization (partitioning and OS)

For asset tagging, IBM can attach a standard RFID tags or RFID tags programmed with customer-specified information. As part of the offering, IBM can combine the RFID tag serial number, the asset serial number and the purchase order number into a consolidated date file. This information can be used to begin tracking IT assets the moment they arrive at a company’s loading dock.

A Good Time to Start

While RFID tagging has been commonplace within supply-chain industries for more than a decade, it’s only been available for use within the data center for a few years. Still, it’s recommended you order all new servers with RFID tags. While you might not use them initially, over time you’ll build a critical mass of servers with RFID tags that will allow you to fully implement an RFID-tagging solution within your data center.

Charlie Cler supports customers in a solutions-architect role at Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at

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