Writing for AnandTech, Ian Cutress recently explained why DDR4 was first launched in the enthusiast space.
“On the server side, any opportunity to use lower power and drive cooling costs down is a positive, so aiming at [Intel] Xeons and high-end consumer platforms was priority number one,” he said.
“Any of the big players in the datacenter space most likely had hardware in and running for several months before the consumer arms got hold of it. Being such a new element in the twisting dynamic of memory, the modules command a premium and the big purchasers got first pick.”
According to Cutress, DDR4 will “start to get interesting” for the masses when the new memory standard hits the mainstream consumer level.
“This means when regular Core i3/i5 desktops come into being, and eventually SO-DIMM variants in notebooks. When DDR4 comes to desktop we will start to see a shift in the proportions of the market share that both DDR4 and DDR3 will get,” he continued.
“The bulk memory market for desktop designs and mini-PCs will be a key demographic which will shift more to an equal DDR3-DDR4 stage and we can hope to achieve price parity before then.”
If we are to see mainstream DDR4 adoption, says Cutress, the bulk markets have to be interested in the performance of the platforms that require DDR4 specifically – while remaining price competitive.
“Given the time from DDR4 being considered to it actually entering the desktop market, we can safely say that DDR4 will become the standard memory option over the next four years, just as DDR3 is right now.”
However, he emphasized that seeing beyond the conventional DDR4 paradigm was more difficult to predict.
“[It] depends on how Intel/AMD want to approach a solution that offers higher memory bandwidth, depending at what cost,” he opined. “Both companies will be looking at how their integrated graphics are performing, as that will ultimately be the best beneficiary to the design.”
As Cutress notes, both Intel and AMD have experimented with eDRAM/SRAM as extra level caches with Crystal Well and PS4/XBone.
“[This] puts less stress on the external memory demands when it comes to processor graphics, which leads me to the prediction that DDR4 will be here in the market longer than DDR3 or DDR2.”
Frank Ferro, senior director of product management at Rambus, concurred with Cutress’ conclusion about DDR4’s extended lifecycle.
“The industry will continue to innovate and look beyond the conventional DDR4 paradigm as mainstream adoption of the standard accelerates,” Ferro explained. “At Rambus, our Beyond DDR4 demo silicon is already capable of hitting data transfer rates up to 6.4Gbps in a multi-rank, multi-DIMM configuration – while achieving 25% improvement in power efficiency.”
In practical terms, says Ferro, this means the memory interface is three times faster than current DIMMs topping out at 2.133Gbps – and two times the maximum speed specified for DDR4 at 3.2Gbps.
“Rambus Beyond DDR4 silicon shows traditional DRAM signaling still has plenty of headroom for growth within the DDR paradigm. Achieving these speeds, within a reasonable power envelope, is more than possible for the industry,” he added.