by Anton Shilov
01/19/2004 | 12:13 PM
While a number of DRAM makers are ready to start mass production of next-generation DDR-II memory components, the question whether the new type of memory turns out to be widespread this year or not is open to dispute.
Whilst addressing some DDR memory issues, DDR-II SDRAM brings some extra concerns, such as pricing and enhanced latencies. Even though a bit lower performance may sometimes be accepter for the sake of technology advancement, exceptionally high cost and relatively limited supply usually restrict dozens of customers from buying such products.
Putting some technological advantages of DDR-II memory aside, right now this type of DRAM can provide the industry quite a limited set of benefits. The list includes such peculiarities as: lower power consumption and heat dissipation, higher density of high-speed chips and higher potential speed (e.g. 533MHz). There are a lot more disadvantages DDR-II brings us: higher latencies and lower performance on mainstream frequencies, higher price, and new types of chip packaging and memory modules PCBs.
According to certain performance estimations, initial DDR-II platforms will hardly be able to demonstrate significant speed benefits over DDR solutions. Moreover, they will not be able to take real advantage of dual-channel 533MHz DDR-II SDRAM (PC2-4300), as there are no processors with 1066MHz processor system bus expected to come this year. CPUs with 800MHz PSB have enough bandwidth provided by dual-channel 400MHz DDR (PC3200) systems.
As you see, all the bright sides of DDR-II are rather negligible for mainstream personal computers, where performance, price and maturity of technology play a big role. On the other hand, there are servers, workstations and mobile computers, where power-consumption and density of memory chips are very important, while the question of pricing comes second.
There are four DRAM makers who have been working on DDR-II samples for some time now – Elpida Memory, Micron Technology, Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor. Altogether these companies commanded more than 65% of DRAM market in 2003. Infineon Technology AG, which hold 12.2% share last year, has not been too aggressive with its DDR-II ramp so far.
Even though Elpida and Micron received massive investments from Intel Corporation presumably in an exchange for faster DDR-II ramp, some Taiwanese news-papers think DDR-II modules will still be two times more expensive than DDR.
Historically, pricing has been very important for DRAM. It effectively killed RDRAM on PC market and is likely to restrict the pace of DDR-II adoption this year in mainstream computers. Where we will still have a chance to see DDR-II are expensive workstations, servers and high-performance notebooks. It is quite possible that the situation will change by early 2005 due to various reasons, though, DDR-II will hardly become enough affordable for general-purpose PCs before Q4 2004 anyway.