Rambus chips to exceed 1GHz, executive says

Rambus Inc. unveiled its updated product road map for RDRAM (Rambus dynamic random access memory) on Wednesday, saying the company plans to take the computer memory chips beyond existing frequencies of 800MHz to 1GHz and faster.

The Rambus road map, or product plan, includes the introduction of PC1066 RDRAM chips, which run at a frequency slightly higher than 1GHz, and PC1200 RDRAM chips, which run at 1.2GHz. Both chips are substantially faster than existing PC800 RDRAM chips that run at 800MHz, said Steve Chan, vice president of partner and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) marketing at Rambus. Frequency is the speed at which the memory interfaces, or communicates, with the rest of the computer system.

The new memory chips will be available in 2002 and 2005, respectively, according to Chan.

Rambus also has faster 32-bit and 64-bit RIMMs (Rambus in-line memory module) on its road map to provide memory throughput of up to 9.6G bytes per second by 2005. RIMMs, which are the cards mounted with the memory chips, currently offer a maximum throughput of 1.6G bytes per second.

Rambus expects to see PC1066 and PC1200 RDRAM find a home in a range of systems, from desktop PCs to low-end servers and workstations, the company said.

While RDRAM currently has the memory market for Pentium 4 processor-based computers sewn up, SDRAM (synchronous DRAM) and DDR (double data rate) memory chips have recently begun to make inroads. Last week, Intel launched the first version of its 845 chipset for the Pentium 4 processor, which supports SDRAM, and is expected to introduce a second version of the 845 that supports DDR during the first quarter of next year.

The move by Intel opens the door to Pentium 4-based PCs that use memory types other than RDRAM. While RDRAM is much faster than SDRAM, its performance edge over DDR memory is less marked. And DDR chips are generally cheaper than RDRAM chips.

Currently, demand for DDR is outpaced by RDRAM, but shipments of DDR memory will surge next year if Intel pushes the use of DDR chips in desktop PCs, said Ilung Kim, vice president of memory marketing at South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., in remarks made at the Computex exhibition in Taipei last week.

"If Intel jumps into the desktop DDR market, it can really take off," Kim said.

And DDR has the opportunity to grab a place in memory markets beyond the desktop. From next year, DDR chips will increasingly be found in servers, reducing the use of RDRAM in this sector of the memory market, said Kim, adding that servers account for about 7 percent of the total market for memory chips.

DDR production is expected to account for 5 percent of Samsung's memory chip output by the end of 2001, representing 30 percent of total worldwide DDR production, Kim said, adding that DDR currently accounts for less than 3 percent of current production. By comparison, RDRAM accounted for 25 percent of Samsung's memory chip production during May and this is expected to rise to 30 percent by year-end, Kim said.

Martyn Williams in Tokyo contributed to this story.

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