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Memory makers seek more speed

Eight manufacturers agree to a new high-speed standard for DRAM chips.

Eight semiconductor manufacturers have agreed to a new high-speed standard for DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips, the most widely used memory chips for personal computers.

Samsung, NEC, Hyundai, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, and Fujitsu all agreed to the new standard, dubbed Double Data Rate (DDR), that essentially doubles the data transfer rate from a DRAM chip to the main processor.

DRAMs made to the new DDR standard will be considered an interim step in Intel's eventual plans to incorporate Rambus' high-speed memory. Both technologies promises to improve overall system performance by speeding up the rate data travels from memory to the processor, a critical data path in all personal computers and a performance bottleneck which has plagued PCs since their inception.

Semiconductor manufacturers have a vested interest in offering a viable and inexpensive alternative to Rambus' proprietary memory technology, noted Dataquest analyst Jim Handy.

Like all standards, the agreement is also important because DRAM chips are a commodity that must work with hardware from other vendors. "Standardization is a very important thing," said Dataquest analyst George Iwanyc. "You really need the manufacturers producing the same part."

"It's important because there's never been a standard for dual data rate," Handy agreed. "They need to make sure that their parts can replace each other."