The Politics behind DDR-SDRAM vs. RAMBUS
It seems the industry has made their decision: DDR-SDRAM is here to stay. So why is Intel still supporting Rambus? It cannot be the supposedly superior performance of RDRAM. I will not reiterate those benchmark results here, but rather go into the politics behind the scenes. When I talked to attendees at the summit, I gathered some interesting insights.
First of all, Intel is probably the only company out there that does not need to pay royalties to Rambus. Rumor has it that Intel cut a deal with Rambus: Give us the Rambus technology for free and in return we help you to make money of the other companies, i.e. chipset and board vendors, PC manufacturers. And as the major PC processor and chipset company Intel has considerable leverage. It can force vendors to use Rambus memory by threatening to withhold information about design changes, so the vendors cannot get their products out in time for a new Intel chip generation. And it would not be the first time for Intel to use this kind of tactics.
Will Rambus Dominate the Market?
This might also be one of the reasons why the analyst community was convinced (and partially still is) that Rambus memory is going to dominate the market. Maybe they believe that because of its sheer market dominance Intel will succeed in steering everybody in the Rambus direction. George Iwanyc, Senior Analyst at
Pretty confusing, if you ask me. It just proofs that things are not always as straightforward as they seem. Right now it looks as if Rambus has lost the battle, however. As somebody at the Summit put it: 'The board and chipset manufacturers will only use Rambus memory if the OEMs force it down their throats.' Nobody likes paying royalties for an inferior product if they have a better option that happens to be free. The other big concern of memory makers is that manufacturing RDRAM requires major changes in their production. The chip is bigger, meaning fewer chips per wafer resulting in lower yields. DDR memory on the other hand requires little change.