Rambus set to unveil Yellowstone, roadmaps

On the tail of Intel Corp.'s release of its first chip set allowing the Pentium 4 to use memory designed by companies other than Rambus Inc., Rambus this week will unveil a range of new technologies, from I/O technology to its future plans with RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic RAM), that it hopes will prove its products are superior to competing memory formats.

At the Rambus Developer Forum in Santa Clara, California, Rambus on Thursday morning will unveil its next-generation signaling technology, code-named "Yellowstone." Faster signaling technology means an increase in the speed of information traveling between any two chips on a board. Rambus currently has two signaling technologies, RSL (Rambus Signaling Level), and the higher performance QRSL (Quad Rambus Signaling Level), which is roughly twice as fast as RSL. Yellowstone will be another step up for signaling technology, but all three will coexist, serving different market segments, Rambus said.

Rambus will also give an update on the future of its high-bandwidth I/O communications technology, called the RaSer (Rambus Serializer/Deserializer) cell. A cell is any design element of a chip set. RaSer technology can be used to connect chips to chips or boards to boards, and can increase the speed of data traveling over WAN (wide-area network) routers, Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand network interfaces, according to Rambus. RaSer cells are available in single, dual and quad-channel configurations, with a quad cell capable of driving up to 12.5G bps (bits per second) in each direction, Rambus said.

Rambus also will give details on its roadmap for both RDRAM and RIMM (Rambus inline memory module), the company said. RIMMs are small boards of Rambus memory designed to take up less space in a world of ever increasing PC components. In June, the company said it expected to have 64-bit RIMM modules, capable of transmitting 9.6G bps by 2005. One analyst said the company may also announce a new chip set that connects a processor to the RAM -- but not one from Intel Corp., as might be expected. "There's been a rumor going around of there being a new Rambus chip set from a company other than Intel," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research Inc. McCarron declined to speculate on which company might manufacture the chip set.

McCarron also said the company may choose to focus on using RDRAM for devices other than PCs.

"They've had design wins in game consoles and some communications equipment," he said. "I don't think you'll see a big announcement of that, more of a discussion that RDRAM works in a lot of places." Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation 2 is perhaps the best-known game console to use RDRAM.

"Beyond that, I expect them to continue focusing on a performance message," McCarron said. "In spite of Intel, they're still going to try and lay claim to performance strengths." On Monday, Intel launched the 845 chip set, which allows memory other than RDRAM to be used with its Pentium 4 processor.

The Rambus Developer Forum, in Santa Clara, California, takes place on Thursday and Friday. More information can be found on the Web at http://www.rambus.com/rdf/rdf.html.

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Douglas F. Gray

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