McData sees plastic data centre future

Data centres filled with weighty metal products may become a thing of the past if storage networking specialist McData gets its way. On a recent trip to Australia, the company's chief executive John Kelley told ZDNet Australia he had instructed his company's engineers to think plastic when designing new storage networking switches.

Data centres filled with weighty metal products may become a thing of the past if storage networking specialist McData gets its way.

On a recent trip to Australia, the company's chief executive John Kelley told ZDNet Australia he had instructed his company's engineers to think plastic when designing new storage networking switches.

"I came to our engineers and said, 'think about this, the new Boeing 787 airplane was going to be made out of all polymers," Kelley said in an interview. "My guess was it was pretty expensive, I said, but we gotta explore this, figure it out."

According to the executive, plastic or more technically, polymer-based chassis, offered a number of advantages over metal counterparts. "There's a safety scenario, there's a weight scenario, and then there's an environmental scenario," he said.

"If you go into a data centre, there's all those machine racks. The casings are metal, and the devices are metal. So one of these things happens, you drop a screw, a screwdriver, whatever, it'll short out."

"There are safety issues, because of all the power going in. But plastic is non-conductive."

Furthermore, he added, it was "literally" possible to lift some of his company's new chassis hardware with two fingers. "The weight for these devices was getting very heavy," Kelley said of metal-based data centre products.

Kelley also claimed polymer-based products were more environmentally friendly, due to the relative ease with which they could be recycled.

The executive said his engineering team was tremendously excited by the possibilities offered by the futuristic materials.

"What happens is, you get the engineers psyched up because they're doing something unique," he said.

"It would be the first set of green products coming out. We are out on the cutting edge," said Kelley, adding he hadn't heard of other vendors plotting similar moves.

"If you talk to the engineers, it will allow us to do some interesting things with air flow and cooling," Kelley continued, noting maintaining overworked devices at safe operating temperatures was a constant problem in data centre environments.

Kelly said McData's incoming group of Director-class storage networking systems would feature the new plastic chassis, but some of the other products would take another generation to make the conversion.

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