Kingston takes stance on Rambus Affair

It's neutral but everyone needs more memory

Irvine, CA Senior executives at Irvine-based Kingston Technology today gave their take on the current argy-bargy over double date rate (DDR), synchronous DRAM and Rambus.

The 1500 strong manufacturer, which has a 13 line surface mount technology (SMT) plant where tier one vendor AST used to ply its wares, said that SDRAM will still be mainstream for a good old while, for practical reasons.

Wai Szeto, VP of Kingston's strategic business development, backed up by co-founder John Tu, implied that engineering and economic reasons had confused the real issues.

Szeto said: "The mainstream is still SDRAM. SDRAM is still the most cost effective [memory solution], and with a small investment you can go to PC-133, even though the platform is running out of performance.

"Pretty soon, the CPU bus will be 400MHz. There is a mismatch between memory and the CPU."

He said that Intel, which he described as the leading promoter of technology in the market, had told the market: "There's no problem, we've got a solution with Rambus." The chip giant told the industry that Rambus memory had a lot of headroom in terms of fast microprocessors.

"Over half of the PCs available now were to be supported by Rambus, but unfortunately the timing has been very bad," he said, referring to economic, not technical arguments. "A few years ago, the DRAM business was not profitable so no-one could afford to invest," he said.

"Technically, we should have been working with a faster technology but economically, we still have to rely on SDRAM," he said.

"I would love to see a new memory technology come up but SDRAM will dominate next year."

Then he commented on the technology issue. "Double data rate (DDR) is a good technology but the biggest advantage of Rambus versus DDR is that Rambus is a high speed, narrowband bus.

"The overhead inside the CPU is very high but the pin count is very low," he said. "Intel has been betting on the Moore's Law principle and DDR is a wide bus technology. Kingston's position is that we're good at everything. It's not up to us to tell people where to go."

He said: "My prediction is that between now and next year, the majority of production will be SDRAM. Rambus will have between 15 to 20 per cent of the high end [workstation] market."

He added: "For DDR, we don't even have a standard. DDR may be a good choice for servers." Companies selling high end, expensive servers, did not really care about large pin counts.

Rambus was a better choice for desktops, he said.

The interesting thing here, is that Kingston Technology supplies a large amount of memory, in the shape of modules, to the white box market, to PC customers and also sells its memory through the distributor and re-seller channel.

It has relationships with Microsoft, Intel, Hitachi, Rambus, Sun, Alpha, Samsung, Micron, Hyundai, Toshiba, Infineon and just about everyone else in the PC cosmos.

Most insiders are aware that OS application software running on a Wintel or Winamd platform needs a lot of memory to make a PC, whatever its incarnation, sing.

And as Kingston makes and sells memory modules to most, it's hard for us to see how the firm can lose.

Further, and later in the day, we were taken on a tour of its Dayton joint venture with Toshiba and other memory manufacturers, which has a state of the art clean room as part of its facilities, and which looks to us like it's got lots of capacity.

Although the clean room is only part of the building, the $100 million investment was funded entirely out of the pockets of billionaires and co-founders David Sun and John Tu.

It currently ships in eight inch wafers, although it has support for 12-inchers too, and dices and slices them before they get routed into the SMT establishment next door. We'll write up a full description of this interesting development later, as well as giving John Tu's take on the market. ®

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