Rambus has been under fire in the online community for quite some time now. The company has been a pretty easy target. A single 128MB stick of 800MHz (400MHz, 2 transfers per cycle) Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) sells for $600-550 while a single 128MB PC133 SDRAM module sells for $100-90.
Granted, these are end-user prices. The best way to get your hands on RDRAM right now is to buy a complete RDRAM based PC from a large OEM such as Dell or Compaq. Large OEMs like Dell are able to lock in significantly lower RDRAM prices with high volume contracts.
There's no argument over the fact that RDRAM is more expensive than plain old SDRAM. Since RDRAM is more expensive, you would be tempted to believe that it offers better performance that SDRAM. We all grew up with the belief that a higher price tag means higher quality, right? So far, most online benchmarks comparing PC133 SDRAM to RDRAM have shown mixed results with RDRAM showing only a slight performance advantage.
To the average techie, it appears as if RDRAM is too expensive and it only offers a slight performance advantage over SDRAM. Add to that the fact that Rambus makes money from RDRAM royalties, and you have an easy target to attack.
In this article, FiringSquad is taking a step back to give our readers a look at the other side of the Rambus and RDRAM debate. What exactly is the connection between Intel and Rambus? Why isn't RDRAM blowing away SDRAM in the benchmarks? When will RDRAM finally become affordable? What's the deal with those RIMM heat spreaders anyway? We went straight to Rambus' Dr. Steven Woo to get some answers. In our meeting, FiringSquad asked several sensitive questions that the good doctor fielded easily.
We had a follow-up e-mail interview with Rambus to obtain the concrete text. Dr. Woo was at WinHEC at the time, so he had a Rambus VP answer the questions for us. Keep in mind that Rambus is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: RMBS). If a few of the answers seem a bit dry, remember that Rambus has to walk that fine line between the SEC and keeping internal information confidential. Please forgive the marketing flavor in a few of the answers -they are from a VP after all.
As always, our questions are in bold, and Rambus's answers are in normal font.
Firingsquad: Good morning. Can you please state your name and position for our readers?
Good morning. My name is Avo Kanadjian and I'm vice president of
worldwide marketing at Rambus Inc.
FiringSquad: Can you give us a brief description of what Rambus technology actually does?
Rambus develops and licenses chip-to-chip interface technologies that enable semiconductor memory devices and ASICs to keep pace with faster generations of processors and controllers. Rambus technology is incorporated onto dynamic-random-access-memory (DRAM) chips and the logic devices that control them. Rambus technology is scalable as processor speeds increase, offering data transfer speeds up to 800MHz today and even higher rates in the near future.