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Rambus goes fabless with DDR4 server memory chipset

Posted: 19 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RDIMM? datacentre? server memory?

Rambus said its new RB26 DDR4 chipset offers "industry-leading performance and margin." It complies with the latest JEDEC spec at 2,666Mbit/s. It also comes with built-in support for 293Mbit/s "so that we can respond to speed margins customers are asking for," said Tsern.

Rambus also takes pride in the new chipset's frequency-based power optimisation. "Power is a big issue in servers and datacentres," said Tsern.

The DDR4 server memory chipset also comes with integrated tools for bring-up and debug.

The chipset is currently sampling, scheduled for full production in late 2015.

Why only now?

But why is it necessary for Rambus to get into the fabless chip business now?

"We've been in a stealth mode for the last several years," Tsern acknowledged. But now that the company "has established its licensing business," he said, "we see it's the right time for us to grow the company by getting into the high-value chip market."

Tsern sees the server memory as an attractive growing opportunity, considering the rapid growth of enterprise servers and datacentres in recent years. "Everyone wants memory modules to get closer to processors," he said. The reality, though, is that module buffers have become the bottleneck today, he added. A better server memory interface chipset is necessary to achieve the memory speed and capacity needed for all server CPUs using DDR4.

The server DIMM chipset consists of a register clock device and data buffer. Per one LRDIMM, for example, one register clock device is used in conjunction with eight data buffers, for example.

Server DIMM Chipset1

Moorhead agreed. The annual market size for servers is around 10 million units. But what's important is "it's not just one DIMM per server or one chip per DIMM. It could be 8-48 DIMMS per server, and up to five chips, including buffers per DIMM."

Further, Moorhead explained, "What matters is that the most expensive item in big data applications is memory, so the price point is a lot higher than you would imagine."

For a company like Rambus, which grew up perfecting its IP business, entering the actual chip business is a big leap. What challenges lie ahead?

Server DIMM Chipset2

Moorhead said, "I think the challenge is the level of product testing, which is typically not done with IP." He added, "I believe though, part of the reason they decided to do chips was that they found themselves having to help debug the hardware anyways."

Rambus is also getting into the server memory interface chip business, knowing full well that the company's strength will be in keeping up with the technology roadmap of new memory technology to be used in future server systems.

Rambus said the company has a plan to meet the increasing speeds beyond DDR4, offering buffer support for different memory types while enhancing system performance and reliability.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times U.S.

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