Where Does Rambus Fit in the Near Term?
It is easiest to evaluate this question is by first examining where Rambus does not seem to be preferred. It does not fit in the low end due to cost. It does not appropriate for notebooks because of power requirements. It does not fit into the midrange because of compromised price/performance. It may be a good solution for server platforms after the year 2000. The near term trends in graphics memory do not lean toward Rambus.
The last PC market segment opportunity for Rambus is the high-end. These uniprocessor systems, using the newest CPUs and the largest caches, will have comparatively low external bandwidth requirements. Even the cached Celeron 333 could demand more external bandwidth than Katmai at 500MHz. Regardless, this market segment is Intel’s key leverage point for the deployment of Rambus. The most important leverage Intel has will be the Camino chip set.
In the high-end market, Direct Rambus will have to survive mostly on hype until the CPU bus clock exceeds 133MHz. Outside of the mainstream, there will be some demand from specialty markets such as 8 or 16 way multiprocessor servers and possibly some high end graphics applications. After the year 2000, Merced workstations will also probably fall into the Rambus camp, but volumes will not reach mainstream proportions until possibly 2004 or so. Regardless of these barriers, it appears that Intel will do all that it can to ensure that Rambus penetrates the market as widely and quickly as it can. This will be interesting to observe.