A New Class of Solid-State Memory

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

This development is not simply a big step forward, it's the creation of a whole new class of solid-state memory, Cambou said. "What we have done is combine the best attributes of NOR flash and NAND flash to come up with EcoRAM, a completely new product," Cambou said.

NOR-based flash, which first came to the market from Toshiba in 1988, has long erase and write times but provides full address and data buses, allowing random access to any memory location.

NAND flash memory, with a much faster read-write performance, also originated at Toshiba and forms the core of the removable USB storage devices, as well as most memory card formats now available.

Spansion EcoRAM also takes advantage of the fast read/write speeds of Spansion's own MirrorBit Eclipse architecture, which enables eight times more capacity per DIMM and presents the potential for IT managers to replace four conventional DRAM-based servers with one Spansion EcoRAM-based server.

MirrorBit offers higher yields than traditional NOR and scales more easily to higher densities, Cambou said. MirrorBit, as a simpler memory cell, requires fewer manufacturing steps to produce than other technologies. As a result, MirrorBit technology can be produced at a lower overall wafer cost.

Cambou wouldn't be specific about which potential customers are currently testing it in their data centers or when EcoRAM may become generally available. "All I can say for now is that this is a 2008 project," he said.

Cambou did say that "all the big Internet companies are interested in this," hinting that Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, eBay and others are likely current testers. "We decided to focus our initial testing on companies that do high-transaction server production loads like search," Cambou said.

With Google alone now estimated to be utilizing about 450,000 servers and preparing to build a huge new facility in Iceland, any power draw savings at all -- no matter how minute -- can make a substantial difference in power and cooling and in bottom-line cost.

In addition, the word being whispered around the industry is that Facebook, which recently overtook MySpace.com in number of subscribers, is planning to move off leased, colocated data centers and will build its own fleet of data farms. Mark Zuckerberg and Co. will be looking to use the latest, greatest and greenest data center components available on the market, and EcoRAM fits that bill exactly.

"There is a class of applications in data centers that are constrained by the addressable main memory a server can handle. Solutions like Spansion's, which revolve around creative use of technology, are critical for solving the growing energy crisis in data centers," Rufus Connell, vice president of Frost & Sullivan, an industry consulting company that focuses on market research and analysis for corporate growth, told the audience.

The announcement of EcoRAM had to have made waves over at Intel, which is investing a great deal of time and effort into developing NAND flash and PCM (phase-change memory) solid-state processors into data center-ready components.

This story was updated to include new information about the size of DRAM DIMMs.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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