The recent launch of Rambus’ RB26 R+ DDR4 server memory chipset has been covered by a number of prominent publications and analysts, including the Wall Street Journal, AnandTech, SemiEngineering, Reuters, ReCode, VentureBeat, The Register, Fortune, Patrick Moorhead and The Linley Group.
“Rambus will be making the transition from an IP licensing business to a true fabless semiconductor firm, designing and selling their own products,” writes AnandTech’s Ryan Smith.
Image Credit: AnandTech (via Rambus)
“Rambus is announcing that they will be designing and selling DDR4 DIMM chipsets. The chips, which will trade under the R+ chipset family, will be for Registered DIMMs (RDIMMs) and Load Reduced DIMMs (LRDIMMs) for server usage, with Rambus producing both the Register Clock Driver (RCD) chip for RDIMM/LRDIMM, and the data buffer chips for LRDIMMs.”
As industry analyst Patrick Moorhead notes in Forbes, the move to add chips to the Rambus IP portfolio is another proof point that the chip industry is experiencing a significant amount of vertical integration.
“Other vertical integration examples are ARM Holdings creating many more hard macros and Apple developing their own A-Series SoCs. Industries all undergo times of specialization and integration and we appear to be in that integration stage,” he explains. “In the case of Rambus’s new R+ DDR4 server memory chipset, this isn’t merely a push model to drive topline revenue at the expense of licensees. You see, DDR4 is really hard to get right at high capacities and high speeds in a reliable way.”
Indeed, says Moorhead, in a world of Big Data server applications, high capacity and reliability are paramount.
“Memory will just keep getting faster in a very technologically-challenging DDR4 server memory world. Quite frankly, server OEMs and ODMs needed a new producer of DDR4 server memory chips, and that new provider is Rambus.”
According to Moorhead, Intel and Rambus have been working closely together to ensure Rambus’ technology works well within their existing processors and chipsets. This includes rigorous validation of both the chipsets and the final DIMMs from the module manufacturers who will ultimately sell their RDIMMS and LRDIMMS to server integrators and cloud data center services.
“This deeply involved model is something different for Rambus and really shows how the company has entered a new phase where they work closely with everyone to ensure a better experience for the enterprise and data center customers,” he adds. “With most of Intel’s chipsets transitioning to DDR4 it only seems natural that Rambus would be working closely with them to ensure that they are cooperating at the right level.”
However, as Don Clark of the Wall Street Journal points out, Rambus won’t actually be physically manufacturing its new chips.
“Like most semiconductor companies founded since the 1980s, it will hire manufacturing specialists to make them,” writes Clark. “[Rambus CEO] Mr. Black said computer makers and other customers wanted another credible supplier of the components. Though Rambus isn’t likely to become a broad semiconductor supplier, he said, the new chip probably won’t be the last.”
Indeed, as Loyd Case of the Linley Group opines, by sampling its new DDR4 Buffer Memory Chipset, Rambus has taken a big step toward selling products rather than simply licensing IP.
“If successful, it could look for additional opportunities to turn its hefty IP portfolio into actual products,” he concludes.