Spansion, a flash memory maker, said today that it’s figured out a way to cut data center power consumption by replacing a particular type of computer memory. It’s a money-saving approach as well: the switch from dynamic random access memory to Flash memory in one data center cut the cost of owning those servers (which includes power consumption) by almost 50 percent, the company said.
Computers are using more and more power — and costing IT departments a lot more money. Chalk it up to the ever-growing mountain of information that computers needs to sift through, and quickly. This has prompted search engines such as Google to use servers stacked with fast DRAM memory to rapidly offer up search results.
Traditionally, the way to handle more information has been to buy more servers in order to get more DRAM (Micron is offering lower-power DRAM as a “green” product). Spansion hopes to change all that by using a proprietary Flash memory called EcoRAM that replaces DRAM.
Flash doesn’t need to constantly refresh the data on the chip the way that DRAM does, so it consumes about a tenth of the power when handling a gigabyte of data. Plus you get more memory using EcoRAM (up to 128 gigabytes compared to 32 gigabytes for straight DRAM), which could translate into fewer servers, at least if you’re buying them primarily to boost memory speeds. Flash is slower, but Spansion maintains that EcoRAM is only slightly slower than DRAM yet costs about the same.
Spansion is working with Virident Systems, a startup in Milpitas, Calif., to deliver this new memory technology. This is a big opportunity for Spansion, because if EcoRAM succeeds it gives the memory company a product with higher margins than traditional Flash, which is a commodity offering. EcoRAM isn’t going to replace DRAM in every server, but if it finds a big enough market, lowering power consumption could raise Spansion’s bottom line.