Semiconductor Engineering editor in chief Ed Sperling has confirmed that evolving business models, acquisitions, minority investments and increasing uncertainty are creating fundamental industry shifts.
“The announcement that Rambus is developing memory controller chips, expanding its business beyond just creating IP for the memory and security markets, is the latest in a stream of public disclosures and behind-the-scenes deals that have been underway for the past 18 months,” Sperling explained. “And while the Rambus move is significant by itself, in the context of all the other moves over the past 18 months it blends into a landscape of equally dramatic changes.”
Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights and Strategy, told Semiconductor Engineering the industry has entered a verticalization phase.
“We see this cycle every 7 to 10 years, where the specialists realize that the sum of the parts has more value than the parts. This is more of a solutions-oriented approach, and you see this with companies like Apple, as well as with ARM and TSMC, where you can have your part based on what is a hard macro,” he confirmed. “ARM could produce chips if it wanted to. And MIPS started out with chips, then moved to IP, and now is back to chips. Really what this comes down to is control of the investment.”
Moorhead noted that with Rambus, there was a lot of pull from server OEMs.
“There was a demand for a new look and vision, and ironically it was the end customers driving this. And Rambus was already getting so far into debugging and fine-tuning that they were doing a lot of the work, anyway.”
Ely Tsern, VP of Rambus’ memory products group, expressed similar sentiments, pointing out that there are currently a number of key market trends underway.
“One is the Big Data wave, with an increase in memory, bandwidth and capacity, and there has been a big uptake in servers and data centers. The second is a transition from DDR3 to DDR4, which started last year and is seeing a rapid adoption curve,” he said. “The problem, though, is that DDR4 is really hard, and it’s designed to increase in speed every year. To make that work, you need buffer chips to see an increase in speed, and there are some new fundamental challenges in the technology.”
As Moorhead told EE Times earlier this week, that is precisely why Rambus’ server memory interface chipset will offer a higher level of performance and quality with an eye toward future memory speeds.
“DDR4 is very technically challenging, and in particular, server vendors and server memory providers need higher capacities with improved performance,” he added.
“[Plus], the most expensive item in Big Data applications is memory, so the price point is a lot higher than you would imagine… It’s not just one DIMM per server or one chip per DIMM. It could be 8-48 DIMMS per server and up to 9 chips, including buffers per DIMM.”
As we’ve previously discussed on Rambus Press, the new RB26 DDR4 chipset offers industry-leading performance and margin, complying with the latest JEDEC spec at 2666 Megabit per second (Mbps) and offering built-in support for 2933Mbps. The chipset – which includes a roadmap with value-added features – is currently sampling to key customers and critical ecosystem partners.