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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials | Industry Update: November 2000 ]

Memory Update

The statistic gleaned from the motherboard survey I put together that is of particular interest here is the memory type supported. While VCM is supported on a number of motherboards, I did not include that statistic here, focusing instead on the main competitors in the industry right now. The number of motherboards supporting each memory type is in parentheses. As one can easily guess, SDRAM (241) support is the runaway leader, with DDR (33) a distant second. There are also seven (7) offerings that support both SDRAM and DDR on the same board (not included in the individual SDRAM/DDR stats). Trailing by a large margin is the number of DRDRAM offerings at eight (8).

Rambus DRAM (DRDRAM)

With the introduction of the Pentium 4 platform, Intel has breathed some new life into DRDRAM, it seems. The 400MHz FSB is of the P4 is particularly suited for high-bandwidth memory, and currently only DRDRAM is supported. It seems, however, that most in the industry believe that real volumes of the processor will not occur until the Brookdale (SDRAM) and VIA solution (DDR) become available in Q3.

Samsung has reportedly made process improvements that will allow them to ship larger quantities of DRDRAM at a lower cost, and Elpida will be continuing NEC's legacy of producing DRDRAM. As the cost of manufacturing has improved, as well as supply/demand, the price of DRDRAM modules has dropped significantly, such that it is now only 2x to 3x that of SDRAM (vs. 10x the price a year ago).

Currently, DRDRAM has about 3% to 4% of the total DRAM market, much less than the estimates of 20% from earlier in the year, and it doesn't look like it will even double in 2001, however things can change rapidly in this industry.

DDR SDRAM

Support for DDR in the industry is extremely high. Both JEDEC and Advanced Memory International (a consortium of memory manufacturers) are pushing with their full weight to get DDR products into the marketplace and they hope to make it mainstream by the end of 2001. Several motherboard manufacturers have indicated that they believe their boards will be 100% DDR capable by the end of 2001, if not sooner. The anticipated transition from SDRAM seems to be very optimistic.

Smart Modular Technologies has taken on the task of doing module validation for the industry. They are currently validating chipsets from AMD, VIA and ServerWorks. In discussing the situation with Arthur Sainio of Smart Modular, he has indicated that they are currently seeing no major problems with compatibility or stability, and believes the tested platforms are very stable. As a supplier of memory to many OEMs, including making modules under the label of memory manufacturers, Smart Modular is in a position to understand the overall DRAM market, not just PCs. When queried about the future of DDR in the marketplace, Mr. Sainio indicated that based upon current interest in the industry, he would estimate that DDR should have between 7% and 20% of the total DRAM market by the end of 2001.

A spokesperson for Micron indicated that they are ready to produce DDR chips in volume, and are simply waiting for the industry to give the go ahead. In fact, most motherboard makers were chomping at the bit also, and most have pointed towards AMD as the holdup. Though the AMD 760 chipset seems to be ready to go (as does the ALi chipset), the 266MHz FSB Athlons (utilizing PC2100 DDR) have not yet been made available, and most believe that this is where the major demand will be vs. the current 200MHz FSB (PC1600) parts.

Next: Industry Update: June 2000


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