Category Archives: Storage

Denver hosts Green Grid meeting

Denver will play host next week to the first technical summit of The Green Grid, a non-profit consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in computer data centers.

Energy use is a growing concern for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other big computer users, which are building huge data centers around the globe to handle soaring demand for broadband Internet services. Google engineer Luiz André Barroso has predicted, in fact, that energy costs may soon surpass the cost of computing equipment for large users.

The April 18-19 Green Grid event is expected to bring together leading technical experts from founding companies AMD, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems. Longmont-based Copan Systems, Inc., a privately held maker of energy-efficient disk storage sysytems, was one of nearly 30 additional new members announced this week, including Brocade Communications, Cisco, Juniper Networks, Novell, QLogic, Texas Instruments and others.

This will be the first event for the organization since its launch this February. The two-day summit’s three main goals are: how to define and measure data-center efficiency, how to build more efficient data centers and how to improve the efficiency of daily operations.

EE Times reports that one possible solution the group may debate is shifting data centers from AC to DC power. While Intel has been touting that idea recently, Google has been pushing another approach calling for the computer industry to replace a wide variety of multi-voltage power supplies with standard, more efficient 12-volt power supplies.

For more information, see the Green Grid website: http://www.thegreengrid.org/.

Ramtron boosts memory

Colorado Springs-based Ramtron International Corp. (Nasdaq: RMTR) has quadrupled the storage capacity of its ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) chips to 4 megabits (Mb), and has reached a manufacturing agreement with Texas Instruments (TI) to produce the new devices.

FRAM chips are one of several competing “non-volatile” memory technologies, which can retain stored data when their power supply is turned off. Ramtron has been developing FRAM memory for 20 years. But it only started commercial production of the chips a few years ago, and then at relatively small storage capacities of 1 Mb or less. The latest flash memory chips, in comparison, can store up to 16 Gb, or roughly 4,000 times more data than Ramtron’s new 4 Mb chips.

Ramtron’s 4Mb chip

Ramtron’s new 4 Mb chip

Nonetheless, Ramtron’s chips have found a number of niche markets in recent years — including electric utility meters, auto navigation and entertainment systems, printers and specialized disk drive controllers — where users are willing to pay a premium for fast, durable, power-efficient non-volatile memory. The company says it has now shipped more than 150 million FRAM chips.

Last year, Ramtron’s sales grew 18% to $40.5 million, while gross profit margins increased to more than 50%.

Although Ramtron initially planned to manufacture its own chips, it long ago sold its production facility in the Springs, and has relied on third-party manufacturers, including Japan’s Fujitsu Ltd., to build its chips. This week’s deal adds TI as an additional supplier.

TI and Ramtron have been working together since 2001 to develop a process for making FRAM chips with circuits as small as 130 nanometers. While Ramtron continues to produce stand-alone FRAM memory chips, TI has licensed the technology with plans to eventually embed blocks of FRAM memory within other kinds of logic chips.

Ramtron CEO Bill Staunton says that besides the 4 Mb chips, his company plans to use TI’s manufacturing line to produce samples of “at least one additional product” during 2007.

Engineering scholarships, kudos to Seagate

While we’re on the subject of education, it’s worth noting Seagate Technology’s generous local scholarship program, offered for a third consecutive year, which provides scholarships of up to $2,000 for engineering students at Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Incoming freshmen recipients will receive $2,000, and returning student recipients will receive $1,000, based on the following criteria: grade point average, financial need, community involvement and technical innovation/creativity.

Applications for the Seagate Scholarship Program are available on the company’s Web site. Completed applications will be accepted through April 12, 2007. Scholarship recipients will be notified in late April.

Call me crazy, but isn’t it about time for some actual Colorado-based tech companies to step up to the plate with scholarship funds to support our next generation of engineering talent?