The potential is appealing because it would help IT managers keep track of changes in server racks when something is moved, not working, or to facilitate real-time asset management.
"The way a lot of companies do it now is once or twice a year where someone physically has to view each server and copy down the information on a clipboard, then enter that information into a database or spreadsheet," Cyril Brignone, a Project Manager at HP Laboratories, told internetnews.com. "It's very inefficient."
Adding RFID tags hasn't been a practical solution because there is typically too much interference in a server rack for the chip's radio frequency to work reliably. But HP Lab's developed a custom RFID reader it said overcomes the problem, along with a graphical software interface to track server assets.
In a demonstration, Brignone showed how, when a server rack door is opened, a remote terminal display of the server layout shows the open door. Similarly, the graphic of a server rack lights up where an individual rack is removed.
HP is still working on how it plans to commercialize the technology and plans further testing with potential customers. Grocery chain Meijer, with almost 600 production servers, was one company HP has already used as an early tester with good results.
"Being a good retailer, we were familiar with what RFID could do, so we were interested in what HP had," Tim Osbeck, manager of operations and technical support at Meijer, told internetnews.com.
Osbeck said Meijer didn't have a specific problem with server inventory control, but he liked the HP solution from a security point of view and as a way to get much more current information on the whereabouts of his IT assets.
"Today, we keep a lot of information collected manually on spreadsheets," said Osbeck. "That could go all away with what HP's developed. Also, I like the interface."
Just how HP will price the technology and it what form remains to be seen. Osbeck said price would be a factor for his company in any decision. "If it's $100,000, we're not interested, but if it's a $5,000 add-on, we would be."
Brignone said HP will also experiment further with the interface and connections to enterprise software. Last year HP purchased IT management specialist Peregrine, which Brignone said would be one of many logical integration points HP is looking at.