The newly-formed Direct Rambus DRAM Implementers Forum may consider a new chip design with fewer memory banks as a way to cut the cost of the new packet-memory device.
Farhad Tabrizi, director of strategic marketing for memory products with Hyundai Electronics America's Semiconductor Division, San Jose, said some members of the new forum have proposed the concept as a means for hastening use of the high-speed interface in the mainstream PC market. Tabrizi said the suggestion is preliminary, but should be explored by the Direct RDRAM forum.
The new group, formed earlier today at the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, Calif., includes Intel, six DRAM producers-Hyundai, Infineon Technologies, Micron Technology, NEC Corp, Samsung Electronics, and Toshiba-memory-interface architect Rambus Inc., and one PC OEM, Dell Computer Corp.
Cutting Direct Rambus production costs is a prime objective of the new industry body. It wasn't clear if the proposal to reduce the number of memory banks used by the Rambus interface would be cost effective, since it would entail new mask stages and qualification testing. But Tabrizi said any likely means to achieve cost reductions "are on the table for discussion."
Don Baldwin, vice president of sales for Micron Technology Inc., Boise, Idaho, hailed the new forum as "giving the producers a voice in reaching an industry consensus on design, test, and specification issues."
"Up to now, it's been pretty much of a one-sided affair with Rambus Inc. issuing all of the specs," Baldwin said. "The new organization should bring a lot of fresh ideas into the Rambus process."
Tabrizi also suggested that some very tight Direct RDRAM specifications related to timing, setup, and hold times "might be relaxed to allow producers to increase yields without affecting overall performance." He said the new forum should consider whether certain specs are overly rigid and needlessly run up costs.
However, Avo Kanadjian, senior vice president of memory marketing for Samsung Semiconductor Inc., San Jose, said he personally was opposed to relaxing any Direct RDRAM specs simply to increase yields. "I think the best course is to make the effort to meet all specifications," he said.
Pat Gelsinger, an Intel vice president and general manager of the company's Desktop Products Group, said Intel will study other ways to reduce Direct Rambus costs, including in the area of die shrinks, higher throughput testing, and lowering chip-scale packaging expenses.
Asked if Rambus, the Mountain View, Calif., designer that developed the new interface, would cut its royalties to lower Direct RDRAM costs, company president and chief executive Geoff Tate said the fees paid by DRAM producers "are only a very small portion of the chip cost. That has little effect on the chip price."