SAN MATEO, Calif. Elpida Memory Inc. reaffirmed its commitment to making Rambus DRAMs, saying it will shift production to its most advanced 0.13-micron manufacturing technology this year, and plans to produce the memories at a new fabrication facility using larger 300-mm wafers starting next year.
Elpida's continuing support for RDRAM was in question earlier this year. The company was unsure about investing in newer manufacturing techniques for RDRAM because customer demand remained uncertain. RDRAMs account for 5 percent or less of the total DRAM market.
Since then Elpida has seen demand for RDRAM increase for use in high-end PCs, networking gear and other applications. The uptick is being fueled partly by the introduction of a faster 1,066-MHz RDRAM that will be tied to a new 32-bit Rambus-in-line memory module (RIMM) designed to reduce the board space of the memory subsystem, said Jim Sogas, vice president of sales at Elpida's U.S. office in San Jose, Calif.
"It looks like demand is starting to materialize. We're moving forward with our product plan for [1,066-MHz RDRAM] and it looks like it ties in pretty well with the new 32-bit RIMMs," Sogas said.
"My take is that there's enough performance benefit from RIMM-based systems and the costs have gotten pretty close [to SDRAM] . . . that some platforms will be rolling out in the near future with Rambus on it," he said. "You're probably seeing some resurgence in the sense that some platforms that have not been targeted toward Rambus are flipping back to Rambus. It's still going to be a nichey memory but it looks like it may have found its place."
The move is significant for OEMs building RDRAM-based PCs, networking gear and consumer electronics devices because it means that they can count on at least two top-tier memory suppliers to manufacture the devices. The other is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
High-end PCs continue to be the biggest draw for RDRAM, but there's also some pull coming from networking gear using network processors with hooks to RDRAM. "We see a lot of life for the Rambus product in the networking space. The volume won't be as big [as PCs] but the market is there," Sogas said.