How Barcodes and Asset Discovery Tools Stack Up Against RF Code Active RFID

Posted by David Haut
Some data centers use asset discovery tools and barcodes to track and monitor critical equipment. But RF Code’s active RFID solution for data centers delivers superior value than either. This blog explores the key differences—and what makes RF Code’s active RFID solutions for data centers stand apart.

Data centers need to track inventory, and some of the common tools they use are barcodes and asset discovery tools. But another technology offers a compelling alternative to those error-prone and inefficient tools: RF Code’s active radio frequency identification (RFID).

Barcode systems work by scanning a tag that has a pattern printed on it. Each asset you want to track has a barcode attached—like a product in the supermarket. Data center stakeholders must walk the data center floor to scan barcodes on servers and racks individually. If your data center has hundreds of racks and thousands of servers, this costs a lot of time and resources.

Meanwhile, network discovery tools function, as the name implies, by receiving data from equipment through the network. They scan your network for hardware and map inventory. The tools tell you which assets are connected and additional data about the devices.

Both of these solutions have their advantages -- some can be cost-effective and natively integrated with a DCIM solution. While the upfront hardware costs are always a key consideration, barcodes are not ideal for highly dynamic environments like data centers. Here’s why.

Why Popular Barcodes and Discovery Tools Fall Short

While barcodes and asset discovery tools have tracked equipment for some time, these approaches have serious limitations. With critical equipment in constant motion in the data center, bar code tracking systems often require more time and resources to capture asset location data.

In highly dynamic environments like data centers and colocation facilitues, equipment is constantly moving around. Once an asset is moved after an asset's barcode is scanned, that data becomes obsolete and to some degree, costly.

Other shortcomings to factor into your asset tracking tool evaluation include:

Barcodes require employees to walk around the facility whenever they want to do an inventory. This process is extremely slow and prone to errors—as well as frustrating for engineers. It may take weeks or longer of expensive labor and still fail to locate millions of dollars in assets, making barcodes unaffordable. Those upfront cost-savings get cannibalized over time. In addition, if we are determined to feed our DCIM with the most accurate data so we can make better-informed decisions, bar code asset tracking data has a short shelf-life. Once an asset is moved after being manually scanned, the location data becomes useless.

Asset discovery tools, while a step above barcodes, also present their own set of challenges when trying to detect active equipment over the network. The optimal word here is “active.” Network discovery only works when equipment is connected to the network. This means that assets that are not on the network cannot be discovered. Assets at the loading dock. Assets in storage. Assets that have been decommissioned. Not knowing where these assets are that potentially house sensitive data is a risk your organization can ill afford. What is the cost of a failed audit or a lost asset with customer transaction or HIPPA information?

Another issue with discovery tools is the use of network resources. Discovery tools consume a lot of bandwidth and are slow to report. If you are using discovery tools for a regulatory audit, be aware of the risks.

asset discovery tools


Nlyte offers an asset discovery tool that can find devices that are active on the network. Automated discovery is more convenient than manually scanning barcodes, but this solution cannot track hundreds to thousands of assets, not on the network. Undiscoverable devices can hurt an organization’s bottom line at scale when it involves dwell time and capital at rest. By contrast, RF Code’s active and real-time sensor network tracks all tagged physical hardware anywhere in the data center whether it is on or off the network.


HP offers a network discovery tool for small- to medium-sized companies. This tool tells you a device’s name, uptime, and similar basic information. It lets you save time in setting up and managing devices compared to traditional paper-based methods but lacks a deeper set of functionality and data intelligence compared to asset-tracking solutions that employ active RFID.

Active RFID sensors can also track and report on temperature, humidity, air pressure in real-time. HP and other vendors’ discovery tools are incapable of tracking assets that are not connected to the network. RF Code’s active RFID solutions track all active or inactive assets in all data center locations.

Another serious constraint on HP Discovery is that it only gathers data sporadically—detecting devices once per month. By contrast, an active RFID asset tracking solution provides continuous real-time data.


Dell offers an even more basic tool than the alternatives, limited to informing when you initially connect one of Dell’s PowerStore storage devices to your network. It doesn’t serve as a general-purpose tool to protect your data center assets. RF Code active RFID functionalities provide actionable insights for assets from any vendor.

Other Discovery Tools

Several other asset discovery tools are available from vendors like Auvik and SolarWinds, often packaged as afterthoughts to their main products. They all suffer from the same basic deficiencies.

RF Code: Active RFID Engineered for Data Centers

For proper asset tracking and environmental monitoring, you want a more effective discovery system designed specifically for data centers and colocation facilities. RF Code’s active RFID is 99% accurate and automated and delivers data in real-time. The reliable technology tracks and reports on assets that are both on- and off-network for total asset lifecycle management.

Half of IT managers still use manual asset tracking, such as barcodes. Some data centers have moved to asset discovery tools but are also limited. Active RFID requires comprehensive real-time monitoring of assets, power use, and environmental conditions.

RF Code’s active RFID solution guarantees a minimum of 99% accuracy, which is 15%-20% higher than passive solutions like barcodes. 99% accuracy means improved outcomes and lower risks for the organization. RF Code’s active RFID solution is also easy to install and configure.

Businesses are already experiencing incredible savings and performance of RF Code active RFID. For example, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group, the world’s largest financial derivatives exchange, increased its asset management operational efficiency by an astonishing 88%! They also elevated the accuracy of audits from 60% to 99%.

Upgrade from Barcodes or Asset Discovery Tools to RF Code

The amazing results from Cyxterra and the CME Group are not unusual. RF Code’s active RFID is a far more efficient solution for data center assets than barcodes and asset discovery tools. Enterprises deploying RF Code technology have saved over $100 million!

Join the leading-edge businesses by running the fastest and most complete asset monitoring solution. RF Code offers CenterScape software for data centers and Sentry for remote IT locations. If you’re using or considering using bar codes or discovery tolls for asset tracking, schedule time with one of our product specialists to review use cases and conduct a cost-analysis comparison, today.