New one gigabit DDR (Double Data Rate) memory chips from Samsung may never see production, as Intel has backed the competing Rambus technology.
DDR is a progression from the current PC100 bus standard in use today, which allows for frontside bus speeds of 100MHz, and PC133 technology from VIA. The frontside bus is the interface between the memory and the procesor, and has become a bottleneck in recent years as chip speeds have increased.
DDR allows for up to 350MHz speeds on the frontside bus, whereas Intel has opted to hold out for Rambus, which will offer 800MHz and could scale much higher.
The chip from Samsung, demonstrated last week, uses a 0.13 micron fabrication process, which makes the chips smaller and cooler than current technology, and cheaper once large-scale production is in place. However, Samsung has only demonstrated the technology in lab conditions, and would have to invest heavily in plants to realise large-scale production.
Jackie Barrera, workstation and server business manager at Kingston Technologies, one of Samsung's major customers, told PC Week that the chip uses the same production process as the current 256Mbit chips, which would reduce the cost of rolling it out. "Samsung is ready, and Kingston is ready (to produce memory modules based on the chips,) but Intel is not ready with chipset support," she claimed.
"People always want more memory capacity," said Barrera. "My personal belief is that DDR is a worthy link between PC100 and Rambus. We're using what we already know works. It makes sense that it takes off and fills the gap" between PC100 and Rambus, she said.
Richard Gordon, senior analyst at Gartner Group Dataquest, told PC Week that the DDR chips would only appeal to those with high-end computing needs. "At the moment, there is already some use of DDR at the high-end," he noted.
However, he added that Intel is unwilling to support DDR. "RAM chip vendors are the only ones supporting DDR because they want some control over the DRAM market. Otherwise they simply become foundries for Intel and Rambus," he said.
"Intel has very clearly stated that the next substantial jump will be Rambus," said an Intel spokesman. "It is slated to start shipping at the end of the third quarter, and Intel's 820 chipset supports it. Both Samsung and Micron have shipped samples and are gearing up for volume production."
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