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Intel Encounters Another Problem with RAMBUS 147

Palin Majere writes, " is reporting that Intel is once again having problems with its RAMBUS memory chipsets. This time, it's affecting the i820 and i840 chipsets, and is located in the chipsets (MRH and MTH) that allow customers to use regular SDRAM memory instead of RAMBUS memory. It causes memory corruption and has already caused Intel to cancel three motherboard designs as a result. " With the continuing shortage of high-end Pentium processors, and stuff like this, it's no wonder that AMD has been doing better and better.
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Intel Encounters Another Problem with RAMBUS

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  • ...don't let the door smack you in the ass on your way out.

    You linux-heads should hate rambus...half the reason a 128mb stick of rambust costs $700 is to make up the 'IP royalties' for rambust and its shitty R&D costs. Try, see how GODDAMN cheap sdram is now. Read on to find out why this matters.

    DDR is going to breath some hot fire up rambust's ass. After intial speculative price costs (aka hoarding and exploting shortages of a new tech, i.e. coppermines) ddr will be aroung 10% more than single rate. The actual costs to the mem makers will fall to 2-3% more per chip a year after the lines start running. (some already started lines, like micron)

    Why does rambust suck?

    Oh the REASONS, the REASONS!

    Its the first type of standard memory (uh, Cray computers cooled with special carcinogenic coolants don't count as standard ;) to need a heatsink/EMI shield in normal (FCC class A/B, near-room temp) environments.

    POWER drain, BIGTIME. Contrary to DDR, where it gets FASTER, then uses LESS power. One of the first markets expected to convert to nearly 100% penetration of DDR is the laptops.

    Because of the above, you are damn lucky if more than a thrid of any module is getting used at one type.

    LATENCY. As many cable users can tell you, ping is king, bandwidth is not. (DSL tends to have better pings, and most important to hardcore users, more stable over time...not 120 one minute and 40 the next, which screws up your instinctive responses, like leading your prey with the crosshair) Online gaming can do fine with 5-10k/sec, but you will be staring at your lifeless corpse more often than not if your latency is high. Bandwidth is important, but in the age of 8x and higher CPU mutlipliers, latency reduction can easily double or triple actual performance.

    COST COST COST. The equivalent for computers that LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION is for retail sales and real estate. Who gives a shit is rambust does 15% better in intel/rambust crafted benchmarks...I can outfit a server with a freaking gig+ of sdram for the cost of 128 rambust. Anyone wanna wager which one would get left in the dust under heavy use? "7:1 odds, come and get em!"


    If any linux user supports rambust, a word comes to mind - Hypocrite! IBM and others are GIVING away tech info on DDR. Want a free predone module design? Here ya go! Want test results on trace timings? Here ya go! And so on and on and on and on...
  • AMD has said since long before Athlons were released that it's chipset was only a prototype until third parties made some. Also that's why they haven't produced an SMP chipset. I've had mine for three or four months (550 Mhz) and haven't had a problem with it. I'm just not into all the 3D games, so I don't care about AGP 2x, 4x, etc. But as a real workhorse it's fantastic, keeping pace with a friend's BP6 dual Celeron/466.

    Hopefully soon VIA will take the chipset to the next level, SMP.
  • Though I too have no idea where you get the 30% schtick, these systems were using Linux 2.2.14. I compared compiling a kernel with the same config, as well as some kde2 cvs source (kdelibs I think it was). With the kernel, I could do it in 2-2.5 minutes on my Athlon/550. Using just one process on the BP6, it took about 4.5. Going with -j2 it cut it down to a tad over 2 minutes, well better than your 30% rule. With similar performance in the other things I've compiled since then, sometimes I win by a few seconds, sometimes the BP6 does, I've come to the conclusion that they are pretty much the same at compiling. To me, this says a lot about how well the Athlon runs. Once SMP Athlon boards come along, there will be no comparison to the BP6 anymore. ;) Maybe by then the PPGA P3/500 will be cheap enough to load in.
  • Thanks alot! Very informative!
  • ... and your source for these numbers is what?

    Who did the benchmarking?

  • FYI, AMD750 is history. VIA has finally produced their KX133 chipset, which among other things allows AGP4X.

    People have complained about the inferiour chipset for the Athlons. It's just that picking on the little guy is not what people like to do.
  • AMD's U.S. fabs have completely switched over to 0.18 micron aluminum interconnect for Athlons. Dresden is sampling copper interconnect chips (Thunderbird core, 256K on-die L2 cache running full CPU speed), with volume shipments in June and buyable in July. (They demoed a 1.1GHz Thunderbird a few days ago, no special cooling.)

    Yeah, I want a multiprocessor Athlon box too.
  • As I read over the specifications for the Intel CC820 Motherboard (the 820 chipset with the SDRAM converting MTH chip on board), it specifically states that the board does not support ECC SDRAM. This has been included in the docs since the first CC820 board we put in a PC. Sounds like it's a problem they've known about. *Shrug*
  • Maybe, but it's much more possible that your story suggestion "didn't make the cut" or someone else submitted it before you. It takes quite a while to go through as many submissions as slashdot does..
  • Well, things are changed very, very rapidly for past 2~3 years. Now you can't differentiate personal workstations from PCs, due to rapid speed-up with PC processors.

    PowerPC technology, and Pentium technology have had some problems in them. Although the RAMBUS technology is not specifict to the Pentium processors, it shows that things should be changed less rapidly.

    I personally think that PC industry makes lots of wastes. Unlike TVs we have, it's very hard to use PCs more than 10 years. ( Well, you can, but you will be tempted by new S/Ws, faster graphics, larger S/Ws.. ) Sometimes, people may need not-so-powerful machines, but people buy them. PC companies always makes faster machines, instead of lowering the prices of existing machines.
    For example, Pentium 133 Mhz machines are still usuable for many games, wordprocessing, etc.
    But you can't buy new Pentium 133Mhz machines with prices under $300.


    Am I too pessimistic?
  • I don't know about it... In general, I buy the best product I can with the money I have to spend... If AMD's chips are for some reason inferior to Intel's when your Caspian motherboard arrives, are you still going to buy the AMD chips anyways?
  • Are you nutty? Memory speed doesn't need to pick up to make SMP Athlons attractive purchases... So many apps times are spent rerunning the same chunks of code, and manipulating the same chunks of data for more than a few clock cycles at a time, that so long as a CPU's cache is efficient, they'll stand to benefit greatly from SMP, so long as the apps and OSes in question support the extra processors.
  • Ouch nasty!,
    Just because one particular chipset design has problems doesnt mean that Coppermine is going to lose out. At the computer shop I work at we are using good old pc133 RAM with the Advance 5 133 Chipset from VIA. So far we have had absolutely no problems with these boards. I would highly recommend them to someone looking for a coppermine solution.

    ps If your looking for fast reliable RAM you can pick up pc100 RAM that will run 100% at 133 (look for the 222 refresh rating) pretty cheaply.

  • <i>BTW, does anyone know if Athlons are being made with .18 micron processes (last I heard they were still at .25) and/or copper interconnects yet, and if not what the current planned dates are? </i>

    The answers are yes and probably. Probably, because I am not 100% sure. Try checking out
  • I can't tell where you pulled that 1.3x-figure (pulled from sleeve or asked wife I s'pose), but if you have good software, 2 or more different threads and ideal application (compiling stuff, rendering animations or encoding mp3 for example) it's more like 1.8-1.95x (depending on io-rate). My friend bought an Athlon 550 and I went for BP6+2x466 oc'd to 2x545. Neither of us have regretted. I can rip and encode 3 cd's to mp3 in about half an hour (using Grip, see Freshmeat) and compile a 2.2.14 kernel (lots of stuff enabled) under 2 minutes. With athlon and a bit less hefty configuration, 2.2.14 takes about 2.50. So, all in all, it depends what you plan to do with your box.
  • Can you say, 'loser'? No? Reread that first paragraph.

    Can't you see that you're bragging? If you want to provide stats, give a link to one of the many publicized reviews.
  • or how certain OEMs save a couple million here & there by removing true on/off switches from the front of their computers.
  • how in hell did that get moderated up?
  • NO, it will not. I don't know how good the article is, but the zdnet one i tried to have them post a day ago was rejected... it explained that concept. if you have RAMBUS ram, you're fine. if you have SDRAM, you're fine. if you have ECC SDRAM, you're fucked.
  • Come on people, why is this comment being moderated up? This person is announcing the imminent death of Intel merely because of reports of a few problems in their new chipsets. And open source/specs is not a magic potion that solves every problem, especially not from a large corporation's point of view!

    On the contrary, history has shown that opening specs can be a very _bad_ thing for revenue, all ethical concerns aside. IBM suffered greatly because they let others produce clones of their hardware. Microsoft and Sony, with very closed strategies, are thriving.

    Don't moderate up a comment just because you like, in principle, what it's saying. Moderate comments that really are insightful and well thought out, regardless of your personal point of view.

  • The new VIA chipset changes that
  • Your statement, "Intel has never had a processor of [sic] equal processor speed that outperformed Intel", is patently false. AMD's Athlon outperforms a Coppermine of equal clock speed by greater than 17%, in both integer and floating-point operations. Why do people still believe that Intel remains unchallenged?
  • *cough*microsoft*cough*
  • I honestly dont think AMD will do that well. See intel has a whole line of technology lined up and they have always done the best with their technology. Using the CISC way of doing things, amd has never had a processor, or equal clock speed, that outperformed intel. Also the sse componant in intel chips. However I also think that AMD's risk with their own motherboard was not a good dicision and that could also lead to less chips being bought, but, amd can turn themselves around a little.
  • I'm concerned. AMD's got a nice processor. I have no first hand knowlege of it, because I'm still a step or two behind (CELERY 300a! Hell yeah), anyway.

    Intel's major foibles seem to occur when it tries something new, like this RAMBUS thing. Has AMD tried anything new, besides the change to slot 1 and a new chipset. Intel seems to be trying to break new ground in a major way, not just steps.

    I'm a usual supporter of the underdog, but only if they are better for what I need.

    So, what do you guys think? Is AMD just sitting still, not really doing much besides evolving, where Intel is running into trouble because they're trying something new.

    Of course, I could be wrong and missed something that AMD has done.

  • aparantly you never heard about the airline company who saved several hundred thousand dollars every [x] months by removing 2 olives from every salad.
  • However, I also know they are wasting other people's money, that they made with their ultrahigh margins, the highest in this industry.

    Funny. Dell says "PIII is more stable..." what a nonsense :o)
  • I have a question: you say that your Athlon 550 MHz system is faster than a friends dual Celeron 466 MHz (guess he uses the Abit BP 6). What OS are you and your friend using? I am asking this because NT and Linux have mediocre SMP support. It's pretty hard to take advantage of SMP in these OS-es, so I guess the typical gain of adding a second CPU, in NT, is about 30% (if used as a typical workstation, not server), and Linux w/kernel 2.2 would do about the same (again, working typically as workstation).
    Now, if I do the math, 466*1.3=606. Taking into consideration Athlon's advanced risc-like core, it becomes clear why your system outperformed your friend's.
    However, if you were using something like BeOS, which has gains of 70 to 99% with the second CPU, the dual celery would smoke your system bigtime.

    So what kind of OS do you guys use? And how did you perform the performance measurements?

    Why I am asking: I am planning to buy an Abit BP-6 w/2 Celeron 466 MHz myself, but I need to know whether it makes sense, or should I rather buy an Athlon 550, with the AMD chipset (I don't give a shit about AGP 4X, and the mobo with the AMD chipset is 35 US$ cheaper here in Helsinki!), which is the system you have.

    I plan on using BeOS and Linux.

  • Yeah, but you can actually BUY an Athlon. Try finding high speed Intel chips anywhere.
  • by joe52 ( 74496 )
    I think things are great the way they are right now. AMD and Intel are pretty much tied. If it stays that way, then you know both companies will be on the ball.

    tied? AMD's market cap is about $6 billion. Intel's is over $350 billion. While their chips may be similar in performance, thse companies are not equal. Intel is quite profitable while AMD is usually losing money. AMD's profitability is slowly changing as a result of Athlon, but they are still not on equal footing with Intel.

    I think that the x86 cpu market would be served well by a somewhat larger AMD. I'm not saying I want them to dominate the market, but I think that if they were closer in size to Intel they could build more fabs and spend more on R & D (though they seem to be doing quite well on the R & D front these days). I would also like to see competition from other companies. Via and Transmeta are starting to provide that competition. It will be interesting to see where things go in the next couple of years.

  • To use the FireWire protocol doesn't require royalties, you need to pay Apple to use the FireWire brandname and logo. This doesn't count as part of the technology in my book.

    Where is my mind?
    mfspr r3, pc / lvxl v0, 0, r3 / li r0, 16 / stvxl v0, r3, r0
  • Nice try, but you're just confused on the whole subject. You see, Intel can't get RAMBUS to work and if they did it would be even more expensive than their overinflated underperforming chips.

    I think the whole thing is a scam by Intel to get people convinced that computers are SUPPOSED to be tremendously expensive (they were supposed to be 5 years ago, but not now) again so that people won't laugh so hard when they see that a P3 is $100 more than an Athlon at the same clock rating and the Athlon grinds its ass into the dust on performance.

  • I don't think that single intel processor since the old 486 has been cisc. Certainly not beginning from pentium pro.. Sure they have a cisc instruction set that then gets translated but so does amd.. And amd does have 3dnow that has been in use much longer than sse.

    Athlons do outperform pIII's at most of the clock speeds (when a decent cache multiplier can be used) are cheaper and are more readily available. I will be getting one next month..

  • LONG LIVE AMD! It's nice to see that justice is eventually meted out on those who engage in bad practices. Now if only it would happen soon to some other companies...... *cough* mpaa *cough
  • With Intel trying to play catch up with AMD and dropping RAMBUS in favor of traditional SDRAM after having committed to RAMBUS, it shouldn't surprise us that they are having a hell of a time. Frankly, I am surprised that they have not had more problems. True, they have been plagued with bugs, but they redesigned the whole board in a matter of weeks. Imagine if they didn't have a talented team...
  • Hmmmm I will say that AMD is truly in good shape when we can get MB's to make dual athlon systems. Without those AMD can't seriously challenge Intel in the x86 server/workstation markets. Sometime this fall or winter I will be looking to build a new system and it will probably be a SMP system. I hope AMD has SMP enabled chipsets read for that time so we can get SMP Athlon MB's cuz I really want a dual processor Athlon system with RAMBUS memory since it runs at 200mhz.
  • I haven't paid much attention to the RDRAM fiascos (as I already know what my next upgrade is- Dual Celery 466s), but:

    So the problem here is really with SDRAM compatibility.

    Doesn't anyone see this as BENEFICIAL to RDRAM support? I'll bet Intel takes these chipsets, pulls the SDRAM controller back out of them, and re-releases.

    Whammo. They then have an excuse to not support SDRAM. Plus, this makes SDRAM look unreliable (which it's not). Maybe this is part of a plot to push people to RDRAM. I, for one, wouldn't put something like that past the Big I. But then again, I'm notoriously paranoid...


  • I agree to some extent. If AMD were in a position of being the only game in town for chips, they could then put in any features they wanted that served to hurt the consumer (ID wired in, or a backdoor for the government to snoop with) with no recourse. In a market like chip manufacturing, there is very little hope to break in from the ground floor without significant startup capital, unlike software where anyone can write a program (linux, anyone?). I'd like to think that AMD would behave "differently from any other monopoly" if they were the exclusive manufacturer, but that is probably wishful thinking...

    Intel, on its part, seems to have brought problems on itself by pursuing questionable research (64-bit processors) and poor engineering (i820 bugs). This may not spell doom for them yet, but they are definitely going to have to catch up quickly. For now, I am going to enjoy the shots fired back and forth between the two companies and hold out on upgrading my ppro 233 for as long as possible! (At this rate, we should have 2 ghz Kryotech AMDs a year from now!)
  • I was thinken about getten the asus p3c-d motherboard (2 intel 800mhz cpus overclocked to 1ghz each can anyone say supercomputer)anyway if i was to use sdram with it insted of rdram (with the asus dr2 dimm riser)and not use the ecc would there be any problems? P.S. dont flame me for goin with intel you dont see any dual amd k7 motherboards out there do ya.
  • We have recently been in contact with a swedish company that sets up computing cluster to run a program called Fluent to do Chemical analysis I believe. According to them the Athlon systems that they have outperform equivalently clocked PIII's by 25-30%. Talk about blowing away...:o)
  • They just can't get it up with the 820, 840 chipsets and Rambus
  • Intel has been rushing their products, but AMD is still struggling to make industry connections. Macs are still running on 100 MHz busses. I don't know about the more exotic architectures, except that they cost an arm and a leg.
  • Just where are you getting your facts from? My athlon smokes [] my p3 of the same clock speed.. okay.. well maybe not SMOKES [] but it is noticeably faster..

  • first of all, this should be moderated as informative.

    I'd also like to add that RAMBUS isn't an open technology -- you're free to make all the RIMMs you want, as long as Rambus Inc. gets a royalty. I was under the impression that everyone had learned from the ongoing FireWire fiasco that royalty-based consumer technologies don't get adopted.

    I understand their motivation for earning some kind of money for all of their R&D, but RAMBUS has failed to provide either a compelling reason for most of the world to drop SDRAM and switch to RDRAM -- the price doesn't match the performance.

    There may be a place for RDRAM at the high end, but with the memory requirements for current machines, I'll be damned if I go back to paying more than US $1/MB for RAM, much less $8...


  • Just because one particular chipset design has problems...

    Actually, according to this article (which is almost identical to one I submitted from ZDnet three days ago and had rejected, and now this comment will probably get moderated down because I mentioned it, oh well) they wound up scrapping three motherboard designs, not just one. So IMHO this is a fairly expensive black eye they gave themselves.

    Et in Arcadia ego
  • I think it's good that the two companies are competing (it gives buyers lower prices and better selection), but it appears Intel tries to rush products out the door too fast... I for one am not clamoring for Rambus the same way I would clamor for the next beta of Action Half-Life... From the reviews I've read of currently-available i820 setups, you don't get much of a performance increase for all that extra money you pay... right now, I'll stick w/ AMD chips, or maybe the good ol' Intel Celeron... can't afford a Coppermine right now... but I'd rather have an Athlon anyway... I don't wish Intel would crumble... but I like 'em to feel the heat of close competition! This Rambus story brings to mind the Pentiums when they first came out... they had 'problems'. So I waited until the Pentium was nearly obsolete to buy one : ) just my 0.02
  • ...also, there is something vaguely uncool about the acronym RIMM... I like "DDRs" better... kind of like Deutsche Demokratische Republik... but much cooler...

  • 1) To Intel: "Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Nyah nyah!"

    2) Let's hear it for DDR-SDRAM!

    3) We don't have enough letters in front of "RAM" yet, no! I want SCFLEADDRAM!!!
    (that's Super-Cali-Fragi-Listic-Expi-Ali-Docious-Dynamic-R andom-Access-Memory, for those who aren't in the know.)

    4) AMD rulez! Oh man, I want a Crusoe. My K6/300 is just sucking lately.
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • This is just a minor nitpick, but the marginal cost will not move to zero, but to the per unit license fee that Rambus Inc. charges.

    What I really don't understand is why Intel hasn't cut its losses on this. From an uninformed observer's perspective, it seems that there is a strong incentive for _all_ players to move to DDR in the near term and offload Rambus tech towards "special projects" which need tomorrows bus speeds today (which is to say not servers, or PCs, but research devices).

    I'm guessing from an economic perspective that they are weighing the advantages of control (they do get sole distrobution rights from Rambus, right?) of the market greater than the traditional advantages of low fixed capital transition costs. This seems a bad strategy to me, since intel really isn't in the memory market, and that they're primary sales are in semiconductors.

    Ah well... I'm sure their decision makers have more info than I do. :)

  • Maybe you needed to hear the rest of the IBM story. They -didn't- open the specs, at first. That's why PC's were advertised as 70% or 80% IBM PC compatiable. They couldn't legally make a 100% compatiable clone.

    Then, people started cloning the technology anyway. IBM sued. IBM nearly went bankrupt. It was winning the cases, but the sheer volume of them, plus legal fees, was bleeding them dry. They had two choices - open the specs, or die.

    They chose not to die.

  • That's very true, but it's likely that when the trial resumes, on Tuesday, Microsoft will have one foot in the grave.

    For all their billions, I don't see how they can survive this one. A break-up, whether horizontal (the DOJ's preference) or vertical (which is what I'd like to see), could be fatal to Microsoft. It has no experience in dealing with a free market. And it has a large number of blood-thirsty competitors sharpening their knives, just around the corner.

    Even if they did escape, this time, what would that do? The tower is wobbling, and each new battle will shake it a little bit more. The longer it survives, the worse the final crash will be. Sooner or later, investors, supporters and backers will realise this and jump ship. Not because they're cowards, but because nobody hangs around under those conditions.

  • You know, sometimes people amaze me.

    Exactly where are you getting these figures from? It's not Intel's or AMD's websites...
    >To wit, SPECcpu95:
    >Coppermine 800 MHz: SPECint - 38.9, SPECfp - 32.4

    Taking a look at Intel's own posted benchmarks of the 800mhz Coppermine running on a 133mhz bus gives:

    SPECINT - 38.4 SPECfp - 28.9
    Intel's own website and benchmarks []

    Now, I'd compare these to AMD's benchmarks, but AMD hasn't published SPECINT results, and only publishes the base SPECfp results. (Which, by the way, show the Athlon soundly thrashing the Coppermine

    In any event, comparing SPEC scores is a rather _bad_ way to judge system performance. If you know enough to extrapolate new benchmark scores from current ones, you should also know that there are much better real world tests available.

    If you like, you can watch a 700mhz Athlon kick the snot out of a 733mhz PIII Coppermine running on a 133mhz bus over at Ace's Hardware []

    So next time, please take your results somwhere else or provide a real source for them.
  • Intel *had to* release these chipsets & boards to get people to use Coppermine. That's because the price of RDRAM is over 6 *times* the price of standard SDRAM. The RDRAM-to-SDRAM translation was added as an afterthought when intel finally pulled its head out of its ass and realized people are not gonna pay 6 times the price for a product that has no real advantages over the existing one.
  • I've read a quote from the CEO of Rambus that it would have succeeded if Intel hadn't gotten in a hurry and pushed it.

    Wouldda, Couldda, Shouldda...
  • Supporting the AMD Athlon is great, but alas, I haven't heard any news about any Athlon-compatible motherboard chipsets that will support the upcoming DDR SDRAM running at 266 MHz.

    Once that happens, THEN we might seriously consider the AMD Athlon as a serious alternative for high-end server and workstation applications.
  • Opening specs in a stupid way (like IBM lisencing an OS and chip without any control over them) might be stupid, but building entirely closed systems is even stupider. Look at Apple. In the late 80's it was pretty clear that the Mac OS was superior to anything on the PC side, and Macs were competitive with anything on the PC side. In large part what killed them is that they got fat and arrogant. They overcharged their customers, ignored their needs, and generally pissed away their lead. Now that's not strictly a result of having a closed system, but without the competition from Mac clones, they got fat and lazy. As a result, PC's ate their lunch with inferior products, simply on the basis of better prices, and the increased varieaty and responsiveness of a competitive marketplace.

    If IBM had successfully prevented cloning and Apple had pursued a substantial cloning program, we might very well all be using Macs right now. And in that case, IBM's PC revenues might very well be even less than it is now.
  • You're wrong on that count, I think... According to the benchmarks i'd seen in the past, the Athlon has mantained a sizable advantage over pre-coppermine Pentium III's... However, when the coppermine arrived with it's full speed cache, they're basically neck and neck in integer performance and AMD still has the edge in floating point performance...

    Unfortunately for AMD, they have no SMP chipsets on the market, so the high end of the markets are still all intels.
  • ...that everyone had learned from the ongoing FireWire fiasco that royalty-based consumer technologies don't get adopted.

    I believe what you meant to say was that royalty-based consumer technologies don't get adopted unless they're supported by Intel.


  • ... the harder they fall. It would be nice to see Intel taken down several notches, IMNSHO. While Intel's stuff generally works (unlike the computer industry's other monopoly []), it is over-priced, and Intel has a record of engaging in anti-competitive practices. I don't want to see them fail, but I think their grip on the PC industry needs to be loosened up a bit.

    Intel tried to design a system that would be expensive to clone, and would corner them the market. It's failed.

    Sure looks that way, although I would be warry of counting my chickens before they are hatched.

    Back in the late 1980s, IBM [] tried a similar tactic, with a closed, proprietary, and expensive system bus called MCA. It completely flopped. People never learn.

    Rule #1 of the Hardware Industry: Don't Try to Make Money Licensing Your Design. It is too easy for someone else to make their own design without paying you.

    Intel's best hope of survival, never mind market domination, is to open the RAMBUS specs completely.

    I wouldn't go that far. They haven't bet the farm on RAMBUS. Intel has other products outside of the world of memory. Perhaps you've heard of their Pentium line? :-) The failure of RAMBUS won't exactly feel good, but it won't kill Chipzilla [].

  • Funny how anonymous posters typically champion or defend the status quo, while registered users typically champion or defend the underdog.

    Just an observation.

  • The point is that the problem with Geforce cards isn't with the chipset, it's with the mobos makers that didn't put an extra capacitor on the motherboards (or on the graphic card manufacturers who didn't put an extra capacitor on their video card...I blame both for being cheap bastards personally -- I mean, come on...I've heard of being cheap, but still).
  • The problem with AGP 2x isn't with the chipset, it's with manufactures who decide to save .005 cents on a motherboard by not putting in an extra capacitor.
  • Good post!

    Moreover, Rambus costs $1,000 for 128MB. Check out: of the few online dealers where you can even find it. Intel it betting a LOT on RAMBUS, and pissing off everyone with their flaky i820 and i840 chipsets. Check out how many big OEMs now offer Athlon system. Intel has really left the door open for AMD. If AMD can get to market with a chipset that supports DDR-SDRAM, 4X-AGP, and SMP, they will put a serious hurt on Intel.

    The one thing that will keep Rambus Memory, Inc. afloat is the fact that Intel supports them, and it will be the memory in Play Station-2s. But if the price does not fall down to somewhere within the range of DDR-SDRAM (which already exists for video cards) it is going to fail in the desktop market and take Intel's i820, i840, Pentium-III, and Williamette with it.

    I'm really looking forward to buying an Athlon box as soon as SMP and DDR-SDRAM support are a reality. The VIA KX133 chipset is already a very nice stable platform for uniprocessor/SDRAM setups.
  • This is just a minor nitpick, but the marginal cost will not move to zero, but to the per unit license fee that Rambus Inc. charges.

    True - but as I understand it the issues have been more to do with volume up to this point

    What I really don't understand is why Intel hasn't cut its losses on this. From an uninformed observer's perspective

    I think that long-term Intel probably wants to move the memory controller onboard for all but high end MP systems - one advantage that RamBus drams have today is that they allow more concurrency in the dram system - in particular more 'open banks' (ie sense amps with cached data) and more concurrent RAS cycles in the array. Making use of this sort of stuff is very difficult for a memory controller which necessarily sees transactions serially over a (relatively slow [compared with rambus speeds or cpu clocks]) slot1 bus. With CPU clock speeds getting faster and memory not the CPU architects are in a bind - they are spending big on things to make up for the slow memory latency (not memory transfer rate - read latency is the first order effect here that's the killer) like big caches. But their wonderfull superscalar and/or VLIW CPUs are stuck talking to a potentially fast memory system through a slow serial pipe.

    The concurrency in the multi-bank architectures in the memory system can really only be used effectively directly from the CPU where the concurrency from the CPU architecture is directly expressed. My guess is that long term the Intel designers would like to pull the RamBus controller onto the CPU die so that they can attack their latency problems.

    For the record there's another way this can work too - RamBus is narrow - you can toss 2-4 of them onto a die (if you can afford the area and power costs) where you can only afford the pins for a 64 or 128-bit bus. You don't have to run the RamBuses in lock step - instead you interleave the shit out of them (4-way for 4 interfaces - every 4th cache line from a different bus) this aagain allows you to increase your concurrency - at the expense of the customer having to stuff all 2/44 buses identically (2/4 simms at a time).

    Having said all this I think that competing technologies are trying to push at the multi concurrently active bank thing too. I think that Rambus just started evangelizing that first.

  • MCA was a great idea. It worked like a charm on their 'larger' systems, and filled the need for a faster-than-ISA bus. VLB wasn't yet commercially produced, PCI was still a twinkle in someone's eye. IBM had peripherials available for MCA, it was better than ISA by an order of magnitude, and they could control it. What would you do?
  • I think the fact that there's just NOW coming to market a decent Chipset for the Athlon has hurt AMD quite a bit. I also think AMD should come out of the closet a bit and share what they know of why their Irontgate chipset isn't always compatible with AGP2x as it's spec'ed to be.

    OTOH, Intel is having a MUCH harder time with the new boards (i820 and i840) - the number and seriousness of the errors on these things in crazy.

    And combined with the disaster-in-the-making known as IA-64 (personally, I think it seems like a good idea on paper, but there are so many problems I don't think that anything good will come of it), and their production problems on high end Pentium III chips, Intel is not doing at all well.

    By comparison, AMD is doing good. The Athlon is doing great and it seems that the architecture will hold up for quite some time (unlike Pentium IIIs, which IMHO are pretty much on their last legs as a viable design for new chips - hence Willamette and IA-64, neither of which will be here for at least 6-9 months). The chipset problems are a disadvantage, as is the lack of availability of SMP Athlon boards.

    BTW, does anyone know if Athlons are being made with .18 micron processes (last I heard they were still at .25) and/or copper interconnects yet, and if not what the current planned dates are?
  • Taking a look at Intel's own posted benchmarks of the 800mhz Coppermine running on a 133mhz bus gives:

    SPECINT - 38.4 SPECfp - 28.9

    The fastest one is one in a Dell system, which has the numbers I originally quoted (SPECint: 38.9, SPECfp: 32.4). Proof is here for SPECint [] and here for SPECfp [] .

    Now, I'd compare these to AMD's benchmarks, but AMD hasn't published SPECINT results, and only publishes the base SPECfp results. (Which, by the way, show the Athlon soundly thrashing the Coppermine

    You are a liar. AMD Athlon 750 MHz, SPECint: 33.0, SPECfp: 26.5. (800 MHz Coppermine: 38.9 and 32.4). Proof: SPECint [] and SPECfp []. AMD hasn't published results for the 800 or the 850, because those processors have such poor performance.

    In any event, comparing SPEC scores is a rather _bad_ way to judge system performance. If you know enough to extrapolate new benchmark scores from current ones, you should also know that there are much better real world tests available.

    SPEC is not the be-all and end-all of benchmarks but it is *the* standard benchmark for scientific commputing, and by far the most respected CPU benchmark in the world. I would *really* love to see TPC-C results for Athlon, but they haven't been published yet (gee, I wonder why?)

    If you like, you can watch a 700mhz Athlon kick the snot out of a 733mhz PIII Coppermine running on a 133mhz bus over at Ace's Hardware

    And I should trust some ma and pa benchmarks over the most professional and industry standard benchmarks for what reason? For starters, spec is a dot-org and Ace's is a dot-com, so SPEC is inherently less biased. I don't trust benchmarks from dot-com sites.

    So next time, please take your results somwhere else or provide a real source for them.

    Well, it is next time, and the source is all above.

  • Your statement, "Intel has never had a processor of [sic] equal processor speed that outperformed Intel", is patently false. AMD's Athlon outperforms a Coppermine of equal clock speed by greater than 17%, in both integer and floating-point operations. Why do people still believe that Intel remains unchallenged?

    Coppermine is faster than Athlon on industry standard benchmarks. Athlon is only faster on old benchmarks comparing Athlon to Katmai. On recently taken benchmarks, Coppermine wins hands down.

    To wit, SPECcpu95:

    Coppermine 800 MHz: SPECint - 38.9, SPECfp - 32.4

    Athlon 750 MHz (the fastest for which SPEC is available): SPECint - 33.0, SPECfp - 26.5.

    Athlon 850 MHz (scaled from the above, which is generous because the 850 according to some reports is very slow due to cache speed): SPECint - 37.4, SPECfp - 30

    I would also LOVE to see the TPC-C benchmarks for Athlon, but they aren't even published yet. The Athlon's utterly pathetic L2 cache performance, as well as its lack of support of MP, makes Intel by leaps and bounds the winner in this area. If Athlon ever supports MP, Foster will already be out, which will seriously clean up in that area.

    The only benchmarks which Athlon actually does better than Pentium III, is back when comparing Katmai. Coppermine is much different than Katmai, and performs better than Athlon at almost every benchmark. AMD won't tell you this, of course, and is maintaing benchmarks of Athlon vs. Katmai, not Athlon vs. Coppermine.

    It is remarkable that Intel with its five year old architecture still beats the pants of AMD's massively hyped, brand new microarchitecture. And, Intel has a brand new microarchitecture (which has a 400 MHz FSB, a trace cache, a 3 GHz ALU, and a few other as-of-yet unannounced MAJOR features) coming out in about six months, which will most likely completely put AMD out of business (especially if Intel can catch up with its manufacturing problems, which is the real issue here).

  • Really??? I got an AMD 486 Dx-2 50 I'll let go really cheap.

  • AMD doing Better and Better??

    I think the fact that there's just NOW coming to market a decent Chipset for the Athlon has hurt AMD quite a bit. I also think AMD should come out of the closet a bit and share what they know of why their Irontgate chipset isn't always compatible with AGP2x as it's spec'ed to be.

    And while Intel may have they're bugs, they're very public these days, and therefore they're fixed very quickly, and you can typically get the fix without too much trouble or cash. Granted, that's not necessarily the case with the RAMBUS issue, but who has the money to buy the stuff at this point??? (:

    Yes, I may get flamed for saying that bit about the Irongate, (Some think it's the Athlon MB Manufacturers not meeting spec, and nVidia hasn't entirely sidestepped blame..) but it's AMD's Processor AND Chipset. If something's not meeting spec, they should do something about it, or at least make the consumer aware of a problem, and what to watch out for.

    So while AMD may truly look to be doing "Better and Better" both chip makers still have their own problems to deal with.
  • The benchmarks I've seen agree with what you are saying. Don't forget that AMD is integrating 256K of L2 cache similar to the coppermine. If all goes well then AMD should be able to recapture the speed crown until Williamette comes.

    It's really great to see AMD doing well, but people get a little carried away rooting for the underdog. I am an AMD fan, but what I really want to see is AMD and Intel both competing hard. Both with good size market shares. Each keeping the other honest and forcing technical innovation.
  • AMD is making doing better and better because their chips are getting better and better. I used a K6 back when no average user had ever heard of AMD. Now the athalon is all the rage. people are using these chips because they're DAMNED GOOD, not because intel's chips are crappy - that's just a perk :)


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  • Do a hardware variation of the GPL. If they don't, it's going to bleed them dry. If they do, sure, there'll be clones, but Intel will still exist.

    Historically, not a very good argument. Remember the original IBM PC? They published all the specs openly, and then were immediately surpassed in the market by a startup known as Compaq, who could build on (& tweak) the design without having to recoup the millions (or more?) that went into the original research. IBM all but died in the PC market, shortly after initiating it.

    Of course, then there's also the Apple story. Keep it all locked up & sue anybody whose product shows the slightest resemblance to yours. I remember reading a quote several years ago that went "You're nobody in the computer industry until you've been sued by Apple."

    This seems to indicate that neither strategy is a good way to go. The companies that end up the winners are the ones that wait for somebody else to make a breakthrough, then make a small improvement (be it speed, on-board cache, or whatever) and sell at discounted prices. The only expenses to be recouped are the costs of reverse engineering the original, not development from scratch.

    - - - -

  • by RelliK ( 4466 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @01:45PM (#1259465)
    And gives almost as good performance when set up correctly as a RAMBUS setup.

    Correction: DDR-DRAM is much faster then Rambus. 100MHz DDR-DRAM has bandwidth of 1.6GB/s, same as Rambus. 133MHz DDR-DRAM has a bandwidth of 2.1 GB/s (that's giga *bytes*, btw, not bits). DDR-DRAM, as well as regular SDRAM, also have a significantly lower latency.

    And as it happens now, memory bandwidth is not the bottleneck. Even 800MB/s of regular PC100 SDRAM is plenty for 99% of applications, including the latest 3d games. Just about the only thing that would make use of the higher bandwidth is large databases. Too bad you can't put more than 512MB of RDRAM in a machine... ;-)

    However, lower latency is guaranteed to boost performance a bit, no matter what kind of application you are running. This is where standard SDRAM and the upcoming DDR-DRAM have an advantage over Rambus. Not to mention the cost...

    So, the whole situation can be summed up in one sentence: Rambus is just an inferior product with a ridiculously high price.

  • by RayChuang ( 10181 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @07:43PM (#1259466)
    DDR-SDRAM is great, but while you can get them in quantity, FINDING a motherboard that supports it natively is quite something else. :-/

    I want to know when will the VIA Apollo KX133 chipset be upgraded so it will support DDR-SDRAM.
  • by bentonsmith ( 81425 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @11:53AM (#1259467)
    The article can be found here [] on Tom's Hardware

    While I don't think that this is the death of Intel, for they have too many fingers in too many lucrative pots, it suggests that they have misstepped badly with RAMBUS are are going to lose their market dominance in CPUs if AMD keeps it's act together... which other than Irongate and a scarcity of Athlon MBs, they have been doing fairly well.

    As far as Irongate's AGP issues, there isn't a whole lot of difference performance-wise at this point between AGP 1x and AGP 2x. Maybe in the next iteration of video cards we'll see a more significant difference, but I'd rather have a CPU that is 15%-20% faster than sweating about a 4% hit on the AGP bus. Some people feel that Athlon is not being entirely honest & ethical with the issue, which may taint their reputation in the long run.

    My next machine will be an Athlon based system. I've suffered extreme technolust since they were released, and they just get better and better.

    It will be quite some time before Intel has anything in market to compete with Athlon, and by that time it might be too little too late. Their most recent efforts have yielded uncertain results in comparison to the Athlon.

  • by D.A.Alderud ( 99349 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @11:54AM (#1259468)
    Rambus (Inc.) is a company!

    They(Rambus Inc.) have designed a memory type called DRDRAM that only uses a 16bit wide external databus, and 8*16bit wide bus internaly.
    As always when it comes to Intel it's only MHz that counts, not what they do with those. DRDRAM can handle 800MHz but as the bus is only 16bit wide it wont be very much faster than the 64bits(At most twise.).

    I'd put my money on SLDRAM, it will be atleast twise as fast as DRDRAM and is, unlike DRDRAM, an open standard. SLRAM shouldn't have a problem doing 3GB/s+, at much lower clock speeds.

  • by Ogre332 ( 145645 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @11:46AM (#1259469) Homepage
    Try stepping up to an Athlon. I have one, and many of my friends have one. They are easily ovverclocked and have none of the instability problems the K6 2's and 3's had.

    Here are some specs if anyone is interested (the athlon 700 is my 600 overclocked with a GFD (goldfinger device) and stock FSB):

    this is a buddies P3 coppermine 700 running with full speed L2 cache.

    Summary * (1) 700 MHz * 2024±4.2(0.21%) MIPS (Integer operations) * 799±0.031(0.0039%) MFLOPS (Floating point operations) * 174±0.046(0.026%) (Integer application simulation) * 172±0.14(0.079%) (Floating point application simulation) * 172±0.017(0.0099%) (MMX application simulation)

    CPU Details * CPU load: 25 * low MIPS: 1400 * CPUID: 0x0681 0x383F9FF * MMX Present: True * 3DNow Present: False * Streaming SIMD Extensions Present: True * Processor Serial Number Present & Enabled: False * dhrystone time (s): 0.99 * whetstone time (s): 0.013 * Integer time (s): 4.5 * Floating point time (s): 4.2 * MMX time (s): 5.4

    another buddies AMD Athlon 600 O/C'd to 700 with ½ speed cache

    Summary * (1) 700 MHz * 2114±3.4(0.16%) MIPS (Integer operations) * 846±22(2.7%) MFLOPS (Floating point operations) * 168±4(2.4%) (Integer application simulation) * 205±5.2(2.5%) (Floating point application simulation) * 164±3.4(2.1%) (MMX application simulation)

    CPU Details * CPU load: 0 * low MIPS: 1400 * CPUID: 0x0612 0x81F9FF * MMX Present: True * 3DNow Present: True * Streaming SIMD Extensions Present: False * Processor Serial Number Present & Enabled: False * dhrystone time (s): 0.95 * whetstone time (s): 0.012 * Integer time (s): 4.6 * Floating point time (s): 3.4 * MMX time (s): 5.6

    Now you can see that the athlon beat the coppermine in every category except Interger application simulation and MMX application simulation...not by much tho. The athlon destroys the coppermine in FPU and leaves it behind in Interger Operations. It should also be noted that the athlon is running ½ cache speed and still beats the coppermine. So just wait until the full speed cache athlon thunderbirds come out. And for those who want more, we did a benchmark on this Athlon 550 (650 core) O/C'd to 832 MHz. This is with a GFD, FSB adjustments and 2/5 speed cache.

    Summary * (1) 832 MHz * 2542±0.2(0.0078%) MIPS (Integer operations) * 1031±0.71(0.069%) MFLOPS (Floating point operations) * 197±0.08(0.041%) (Integer application simulation) * 253±0.06(0.024%) (Floating point application simulation) * 194±0.044(0.022%) (MMX application simulation)

    CPU Details * CPU load: 2 * low MIPS: -1 * CPUID: 0x0612 0x81F9FF * MMX Present: True * 3DNow Present: True * Streaming SIMD Extensions Present: False * Processor Serial Number Present & Enabled: False * dhrystone time (s): 0.79 * whetstone time (s): 0.0097 * Integer time (s): 4 * Floating point time (s): 2.8 * MMX time (s): 4.8

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Saturday February 19, 2000 @10:45AM (#1259470) Homepage Journal
    It's as simple as that. Intel tried to design a system that would be expensive to clone, and would corner them the market.

    It's failed.

    I hope Intel, and other chip manufacturers learn from this. Secrecy and control aren't cool. They can, and will, turn around and bite you.

    IMHO, Intel's best hope of survival, never mind market domination, is to open the RAMBUS specs completely. Do a hardware variation of the GPL. If they don't, it's going to bleed them dry. If they do, sure, there'll be clones, but Intel will still exist.

    Given the choice of pride or survival, Intel needs to think about that survival option a bit more.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @11:46AM (#1259471) Homepage
    The MRH's are Memory Repeater Hubs, and come in two flavors - MRH-S and MRH-R. The -S does translation from rambus to normal SDRAM. The -R is to let you get aronud the 2GB limit on rambus. A rambus channel can have up to 32 256Mb devices, or 1GB. An MRH-R has two channels dangling off it, doubling capacity. Put two MRH-R's on one channel from the chipset, and you can have 4GB.

    One interesting thing about this solution is that it takes time to go through the chips, increasing the already high latency of rambus.

    I wonder if Intel would alter their decision on Rambus, were they able to go back in time and do so. They might pull it off yet, but it won't be easy. If it does work, it will only be because they are Intel.
  • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @12:31PM (#1259472) Homepage Journal
    OK - first up disclosure - I'm a chip designer and I have done a number of RamBus based designs over the years .... but I've never worked for RamBus or Intel etc etc

    Reading the article my take on it is that the problem is in the device that does the SDRAM to RamBus conversion (ie it's a channel adaptor that lets them mix and match rams types) - and the problem only occurs when you use ECC.

    I can think of 2 reasons this might happen - either they got the ECC logic wrong (probably likely), or there's a noise problem on the sdram side when they drive 72 data pins [for ecc] rather than the usual 64 (less likely). Either way it isn't a RamBus problem.

    There's a lot of noise made about the various merits of memory types - my personal take on it is that it's mostly a wash, RamBus drams do have some advantages - but for main memory systems they are more in the future (and revolve around how many chips it takes to make a minimum memory sized system as memory continues to move down the memory density curve - M$ may of course make this moot). Their main disadvantage is cost - and it's rather a chicken and egg sort of thing - if people use them a lot the marginal cost of RDRAMS will probably go close to 0 - but if people don;t use them in volume because they cost more that won't happen. Remember in the core of a RDRAM is the same core that's in an SDRAM it's just the interface circuitry to the pads that's different.

  • by Jikes ( 123986 ) on Saturday February 19, 2000 @11:11AM (#1259473)
    Rambus is a design for a memory system from Rambus Inc. It is extraordinarily fast on paper. Intel chose their design and decided to support it on a lot of their new products.

    The implementation took a long time to get around to getting around. It is now here. Intel bet a LOT on Rambus, because it would give them significant control over a lot of markets. (IE: They own rambus designs)

    Rambus is significantly different from the DRAM used commonly today. It requires changes to how stuff is laid out on the motherboard. And it is manufactured differently, to very demanding tolerances.

    It is now in production and is competing with DDR-DRAM, which uses existing manufacturing processes, generally works with existing chipsets, and is easy to support. And it doesn't require a fan setup for the memory alone. And runs far cooler. And gives almost as good performance when set up correctly as a RAMBUS setup. And is also capable of being manufactured in quantity, whereas RDRAM is extremely difficult to manufacture. DDRDRAM is also about a fifth of the cost of a RDRAM setup.

    You do the math, and read up on it a bit.. I think you will agree that for all intents and purposes (read: mainstream pcs, servers, et al), Rambus is DOA.


Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson