Data centre managers are being offered a new way to reduce energy consumption courtesy of a company called Spansion. 

The company is building servers that use flash memory as a replacement for dynamic random access memory as main system memory.

Spansion, which was spun off from AMD and Fujitsu in 1993 to embed flash memory in cell phones, automobiles and consumer electronics, is focusing on the IT market for the first time with a product called EcoRAM. While flash memory is starting to replace some hard disks for general storage needs, Spansion executives claim that their innovation is to use flash instead of DRAM on the motherboard.

These flash-based servers will come with larger price tags but provide eight times as much memory at the same energy cost, potentially helping out companies such as Google, which rely on massive server farms, says Hans Wildenberg, executive president of Spansion's server group. More memory will be useful for search applications that have to pore through rapidly increasing amounts of data, he said.

While today's high-end servers might offer 32GB of main memory, "our servers will start at 256GB and go all the way up to half a terabyte," added Wildenberg.

Spansion is partnering with Virident, which makes software called GreenGateway that essentially tricks servers into thinking flash memory is DRAM. Spansion's EcoRAM flash memory can thus be plugged into the dual in-line memory module slots on a motherboard.

Spansion is in talks with major server vendors to potentially start production before year-end, Wildenberg says. Spansion predicts that its technology will let customers replace four traditional DRAM-based servers with one flash-based server, and cut total costs by as much as 60 percent.