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Data centres to gain from expanding DDR4 portfolio

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Kingston Technology? DDR4? DDR3? Intel? AMD?

Kingston Technology's HyperX division has recently revealed its next-generation HyperX Predator DDR4 Memory at PAX Prime and is shipping 16GB kits of four starting at 1.2V, with frequencies from 2133-3000MHz. Predator is intended for the Intel X99 chipset and the Haswell-E processor. It is targeted at advanced PC users such as gamers, stated Mike Mohney, senior technology manager at Kingston, and at those looking for high performance to support CAD and video editing applications.

Beyond Hyper-X, however, DDR4 will be very much an enterprise play in its early days, he said, which is a "flip-flop" from how DDR3 debuted and matured. It was initially aimed at client devices, and then found its way into servers. He said Intel smartly predicted where computing would be in 2014, specifically that data centres would be dominant, with significant growth in part due to the demands of the cloud. These "mega" data centres require increasingly more memory bandwidth.

There had been speculation as to when DDR4 might be widely available, but he said Kingston has had a roadmap in place since 2007. "Anytime we work with Intel or AMD, we're on a schedule. We know and have known what's coming." He said the enterprise market will initially absorb the cost of DDR4. As prices come down it will be adopted in client devices sometime next year. In the meantime, DDR3 is plentiful at stable prices. Kingston will be demonstrating its DDR4 server platform at IDF.

Companies such as Samsung and SK Hynix began manufacturing their first DDR4 chips in early 2011, prior to the release of the JEDEC DDR4 DRAM standard in September 2012. Micron announced in April it was ramping up production of DDR4 memory to support upcoming Intel CPU launches, including 4Gb-based DDR4 module production at 2,133 megatransfers per second in support of Intel's Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product family-based systems.

Gordon Patrick, director of marketing for enterprise computing at Micron Technology, said DDR4 is definitely more an enterprise server play, and it's not likely it will turn up in the mainstream notebook or Ultrabook segment in its early days. Micron will simultaneously support DDR3 and DDR4 for some time. The company recently introduced a monolithic 8Gb DDR3 SDRAM component based on its latest-generation 25nm DRAM manufacturing process, which expands the capabilities of DDR3 for customers that aren't ready to make a transition to DDR4. Patrick said 8Gb monolithic will become the "sweet spot" and that enterprises will select what is best for them based on their requirements, such as power consumption, performance, and overall total cost of ownership.

One of the reasons why DDR3 and DDR4 will co-exist for some time is that their architectures are significantly different, with DDR4 representing a major departure from that of previous DRAM standards. While the JEDEC standard focuses on reduced power consumption and better performance, there also innovations around packaging, stated Sylvie Kadivar, director of strategic marketing for DRAM at Samsung Semiconductor.

The company announced in August it had started mass-producing 64GB DDR4 RDIMMs that use 3D "through silicon via" (TSV) package technology. The RDIMMs include 36 DDR4 DRAM chips, each of which consists of four 4Gb DDR4 DRAM dies and is manufactured using Samsung's 20nm class process technology. To build a 3D TSV DRAM package, the DDR4 dies are ground down as thin as a few dozen micrometres, then pierced to contain hundreds of fine holes. They are vertically connected through electrodes that are passed through the holes. This allows the module to perform twice as fast as a 64GB module that uses wire bonding packaging, while consuming approximately half the power.

These modules are aimed at supporting enterprise servers and cloud-based applications, and at future requirements of data centres. Kadivar said the memory footprint is continuing to grow in data centres due to the growth of in-memory computing, virtualisation and cloud computing. "Wherever there is demand for increased performance with lower power consumption, that's where you're going to see DDR4 take a leading role."

Samsung also expects to support both DDR3 and DDR4 for the foreseeable future. "Customers will most likely leverage both technologies based on their roadmaps."

- Gary Hilson
??EE Times

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