March 8, 2001–San Jose, California–The critical battle for the future of DRAM technology is being waged in the PC memory arena between DDR DRAM and RDRAM, but San Jose, CA-based market research firm Gartner Dataquest cautions not to expect to see an end to the dispute this year.
Microprocessors with clock speeds measured in GHz are expected to be the norm in the future. Increasing clock speeds have been driven by the demands of the PC, which accounted for about 75% of the DRAM market in 2000, and enabled by advances in semiconductor design and manufacturing. Memory buses cannot supply data fast enough for these new microprocessors, which require data transfer rates of 1.6GB/sec. and higher.
“While microprocessor vendors have continued to increase microprocessor performance, access time to data held in a system main memory has struggled to keep pace, creating a bottleneck to higher system performance,” says Richard Gordon, principal analyst with Gartner Dataquest’s worldwide semiconductors group. “This data transfer rate, or bandwidth, shortfall has led to the development of new DRAM technologies such as RDRAm and DDR DRAM.”
Intel and AMD have been the leading PC microprocessor vendors, reports Gartner Dataquest, but AMD has stopped relying on Intel to provide a lead and is following its own path in support of DDR DRAM.
“Through DDR DRAM, DRAM vendors have seized the only chance they have to keep control of the DRAM technology roadmap, and to avoid the ignominy of becoming little more than silicon foundries for Intel and Rambus,” Gordon says.
To avoid the recurrence of this technology transition debacle, Gartner Dataquest analysts are suggesting that DRAM vendors should make more of an effort to form an industry-wide DRAM alliance–which must include AMD and Intel–to develop a credible technology roadmap. The alliance should strive for transparency between participants to avoid conflict and the possibility of damaging legal action.
“The next couple of years could see a highly fragmented DRAM market in technology terms. The year 2001 is likely to see shortages occur, owing to product-mix issues, so DRAM vendors must plan for flexibility in their strategy for wafer starts,” says Andrew Norwood, senior analyst with Gartner Dataquest’s worldwide semiconductors group. “DRAM vendors should maintain equal support for both DDR DRAM and RDRAM, and be prepared to ramp up volume production for whichever technology the market adopts.”