Spansion Reveals 'Flash on Steroids'

Designed to replace DRAM in servers, EcoRAM aims to cut power draw by 75 percent and increase read/write performance.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- The flash memory sector noted a historic development June 25 when Spansion broke out of stealth mode and introduced a new, industrial-strength brand of the solid-state chip before a small group of analysts, media types and industry people here at the Computer History Museum.

Spansion, established five years ago as a joint venture of AMD and Fujitsu and went public in 2005, introduced what it called a "new class" of flash memory called EcoRAM, the sole purpose of which is to help solve the growing energy consumption crisis in enterprise data centers by replacing power-hungry DRAM (dynamic random access memory) in data center servers.

Flash industry observers have known and/or suspected that an updated version of flash to replace DRAM was in the works. With EcoRAM -- which uses only a fraction of the electrical draw that DRAM requires -- it appears that the time finally has come.

DRAM, commonly used in servers of all types for boot-up and other purposes, offers fast access to data but consumes an inordinate amount of power. It stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor within an integrated circuit. Since capacitors leak charge, the information eventually fades unless the capacitor charge is refreshed periodically -- which is why DRAM uses so much power.

DRAM has served the IT industry well for nearly two decades. However, it is expensive to produce, and the highest-capacity form that can be acquired is only 8GB. The 4GB form is the most common.

EcoRAM, which is in beta tests now with a few major Internet companies that officials declined to name, is expected to be much cheaper in the long run and can be acquired in DIMMs (dual inline memory modules) of up to 32GB capacity.

Spansion has combined with fellow startup Virident Systems, whose new GreenGateway technology -- also announced June 24 -- serves as the server architecture platform for the EcoRAM memory. The combination of the two technologies ("We're joined at the hip," said Virident CEO Raj Parehk) allows this "flash on steroids" to do its thing, which is to provide 10 times the read/write speed of DRAM, hold more data and be less expensive to acquire and implement.

"We expect Spansion EcoRAM can help slash energy consumption by up to 75 percent in Internet data center servers and offer four times the memory capacity of traditional DRAM-only servers for the same energy consumption," Spansion President and CEO Bertrand Cambou told eWEEK.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...