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DDR memory standard is new favourite

RAM makers back double-data-rate memory

Representatives from throughout the IT industry are considering the future of their new favorite memory standard, double-data-rate SDRAM.

The memory technology speeds performance by executing two actions per clock cycle (unlike Single Data Rate memory, which can complete only one).

So far, DDR memory is used primarily in graphics boards - but that should change soon.

The summit drew speakers from firms that produce processors, chip sets, graphics boards, and memory. Notably absent was chip giant Intel, which has thrown its weight behind the Rambus memory standard (RDRAM), with which DDR will compete.

Intel's troubled 820 chip set supports RDRAM, and the company designed its upcoming "Willamette" processor to use it.

Also absent was any real mention of RDRAM. While eager to trumpet benefits of the DDR standard, most attendees seemed unwilling to take shots at the competition.

RDRAM continues to suffer supply shortages and dramatically high prices. But some in attendance, memory manufacturers in particular, will also offer RDRAM-based products.

Advanced Micro Devices, however, plans to stick with DDR because it offers a solution that spans the PC market from top to bottom, according to a company spokesman.

AMD plans to update its popular Athlon processor later this year and launch a new chip set called the 760 that uses DDR memory.

According to memory manufacturer Micron it will be relatively easy to shift RAM plants from SDRAM to DDR, though there may be a small cost premium over SDRAM at first. Micron expects to begin shipping DDR in the third quarter.

The confidence of DDR backers is not misplaced, says Sherry Garber, vice president of Semico Research.

Semico expects DDR to make significant strides in the next year, moving from about 3.9 percent of the market in 2000 to about 17 percent in 2001. That far outpaces Rambus, estimated at 2.8 percent in 2000 and 2.5 percent in 2001.

DDR appeals to memory makers because it's not nearly as difficult or as expensive to make as Rambus. Manufacturers count on cranking out high volumes efficiently, and RDRAM has proved too difficult and too costly to make. RDRAM survives primarily because of Intel's endorsement, according to Garber.

However even if DDR makes its forecasted jump next year, SDRAM will remain the king of the memory market for some time, Garber emphasises. Semico expects standard SDRAM to maintain about 82.7 percent of the market this year; in 2002, it could shrink to 74.6 percent.

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