ANALYSIS: Rambus headed for workstation niche

By George Lawton, ITworld.com |  Hardware

Said Hemant Dhulla, Intel's marketing director for enterprise chipsets: "One of the
reasons why we are utilizing S-DRAM in the mainstream desktop space is the lower cost
of the platform. As one moves up from midrange workstations, we continue to believe R-
DRAM and dual-memory channel [connecting] chipsets are the better solution.
[Ed. note: DDR-DRAM is a synchronous format. It evolved from the earliest S-DRAM
designs. The terms S-DRAM and DDR-DRAM are sometimes used interchangeably.]

R-DRAM memory incurs a premium; this is an issue in the server market, where using
less expensive memory is more crucial than it is in high-end workstations. Dhulla
admits that DDR-DRAM may be a better play here.

"In the server market, the typical server has a boatload of memory associated with
it. DDR allows computer designers to build up the density of memory. Lower cost and
higher performance can be achieved with interleaved memory subsystems designs," he
said.

In the low-margin mainstream systems business, a royalty charge can upset vendors.
In fact, royalty issues are among the most niggling for Rambus. For big semiconductor
manufacturers, and for board or systems makers further down the food chain, the
obligation to pay royalties on every Rambus-enabled computer shipped has been a
stubborn requirement all along.[Rep.note: Rambus officials were unavailable for
comment.]

The royalty issue does not go away, even if Rambus were to disappear, however.
Rambus holds patents that relate to competitive next-generation architectures such as S-
DRAM and DDR-DRAM, the latter highly touted by Intel competitor AMD. Both of these
technology standards emerged in the wake of Rambus technology, forged by large
semiconductor makers that had grown slow to innovate in their work on memory-exchange
protocols. But Intel's Dhulla suggests that patent portfolios are part and parcel of
the semiconductor world, and those relating to DDR-DRAM will not prove to be
inhibitors.

Includes material from IDG News Service sources.

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