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Without making any announcements to the general public, Hynix Semiconductor has begun shipping samples of its Fully-Buffered Dual in-line Memory Modules (FB-DIMM) that are designed for future high-performance servers. While the company initiated sampling more than half a year later than some of its rivals, Hynix promises that its FB-DIMMs will hit production as early as in the first half of 2006.

Hynix did not reveal any specifications concerning its FB-DIMM chips, e.g., clock-speeds and density of memory chips as well as manufacturing processes used to manufacture those chips. However, the company indicated that its FB-DIMM products “utilize JEDEC-standard DDR2 SDRAM” and will be available in 512MB, 1GB and 2GB versions when they are in volume production in the first half of next year.

FB-DIMMs utilizes typical DDR2 SDRAM chips, but the modules’ design is completely new: in the FB-DIMM, all signals – clock, address, command and data – to and from the DRAM on the module are buffered at the high-speed Advanced Memory Buffer (AMB) chip located on the DIMM. This helps to secure the DRAM timing margins during high-speed operation with a much shorter signal path between the DRAM and the AMB.

The FB-DIMM also adopts a Point-to-Point serial connection on the bus between the memory controller and the DIMM, as well as between the DIMMs themselves. This allows increased bus speed with a shorter connection path. It also greatly improves the maximum number of DIMMs that can be loaded on the bus – up to eight 2-rank DIMMs – with less concern about signal degradation.

FB-DIMMs are designed primarily for Intel-based server platforms, the first of which is code-named Bensley and based on the Blackford chipset. The platform will support FB-DIMM memory, PCI Express bus and is expected to support Intel’s Hyper-Threading and Active Management technologies. According to Intel, first shipments of the Bensley platform development kit were scheduled for mid-Q2 – late-Q2 2005, whereas ,ass availability target was recently set to mid-2006. Bensley will be powered by dual-core Intel Xeon processors code-named Dempsey, which will be made using 65nm process technology and utilize LGA771 packaging, incompatible with current infrastructure.

Recently the World Trade Organization ruled that punitive tariffs on Hynix’s products imported into the U.S. should remain. Similar ruling may be expected about duties the company has to pay in the EU. Given that a lot of servers are produced in Europe and the USA, the market for Hynix’s FB-DIMMs produced in Korea will be limited to Asia, whereas for the U.S. market Hynix will have to make FB-DIMMs in its fab located in Eugene, Oregon.

Elpida Memory, Micron Technology and Samsung Electronics have been sampling their FB-DIMM products for months now.

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