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Intel To Rambus: Long Walk, Short Pier 155

NightHwk writes: "A article here reports: "We made a big bet on Rambus and it did not work out," admitted Craig Barrett, Intel chief executive. "In retrospect, it was a mistake to be dependent on a third party for a technology that gates your performance." [...] "We hoped we were partners with a company that would concentrate on technology innovation rather than seeking to collect a toll from other companies," Barrett said. "
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Intel To Rambus: Long Walk, Short Pier

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  • If you look at Intel's use of Rambus in detail, you'll see that it's _BROKEN_ ! They do not directly connect the RDRAM to the processor, instead the processor is designed to communicate with non-RDRAM memory, then they need a separate chip (read the memory translation hub or MTH) to translate what the chip speaks to what RDRAM can understand and vice versa. This design just doesn't work. It eliminates all the reasons one would want to use rambus in the first place. Yes, Rambus ram has higher latency, but it more than makes up with it if you take into account the increased bandwith and the prefetching capabilities.

    The bottom line is that Rambus RAM isn't a bad design. The Intel Engineers just don't know how to use it correctly. If they really wanted performance, they would have integrated the Rambus memory controller directly onto the chip... but I guess their engineers / designers either didn't think of this, or couldn't handle it. Now, instead of admiting their incompetence, they blame it on Rambus.

    -Too Lazy to Register
  • Except that they already got royalty agreements with at least two major RAM manufacturers. They will continue to have an income until those contracts expire. If there were any justice, those contracts would be null and void.
    But you can bet that not a single company will license one of their products in the future or give in to their legal crap.
    But what about the PS2, which is based on Rambus? (isn't it?)
  • I just wonder if Intel, might be deeply, deeply fucked by their contracts with Rambus.

    I was reading this page.> []

    " I don't know what he's been smoking, but Intel is bound contractually not produce chipsets for memory that transfers data at over 1GB/second, like DDR. So, next year when everyone's after that hot new DDR, Intel will come out with a lame PC133 chipset for the Pentium 4, and we'll all be saddened by its performance.

    ---- End of Quote ----

    This sounds pretty grim to me. Is it possible Intel may never catch up with AMD -- ever? That is if they've got some contract with Rambus to limit which way they go memory-wise? Looks like their options now are either to just cheat and do what they gotta' do, and then fight it in the courts down the line, pay Rambus a pile of cash to get out of this, muddle along, and perhaps fall further behind AMD, or maybe buy Rambus out.
  • Never noticed their prices (I guess I never see them, only looking at the low end of the price scale for most things), but you're right about good products. Best Mac mouse I ever used was a Kensington.
  • From the article:
    Intel was then confronted by the problem of chips that would allow cheaper memories to be used with its Rambus-only microprocessors. This led to the recall of about 1m PC boards earlier this year, and a profits warning related to the costs involved.

    Hope Intel hurt good. They actually went out of their way to stop users from using less expensive chips? Assholes. Time to start looking hard at AMD.
  • by jafac ( 1449 )

    Very few people have been as vocal a critic of intel as I have. But after this statement, it shows an attitude of almost . . . human, humility.

    Have our harsh anti-intel sentiments published on line finally gotten through to someone who makes decisions at intel? Are there really decent human beings in positions of power in corporate America?

    I could only hope that Motorola can find enough grease for it's neck so they can pull their heads out of their asses as well. Otherwise, I might actually *sign* that petition. . .
  • I've read in a couple of places (Tom's perhaps? I don't recall) that there is *NO* difference between a P3 and a P3-xeon (unlike the very real difference in their P2 counterparts). If I understand correctly, the only purpose of a P3-xeon is the ability to upgrade computers with Slot-2 motherboards. But I can't confirm this.
  • &nbsp Seems to be a glitch in the Slashcode.

    Either that, or he figured out that his posting was going to be sid#25, and put in the link manually

    Bad slashbot. Bad. Sit! Giggle!

    Read the rest of this comment... []

  • Remember New Coke?
  • Well, you may be right in that Intel aren't suddenly turning to sweetness and light, but I see no reason they wouldn't disapprove of the tollkeeper model. Consider your point about market share and product pricing: Rambus is driving up the cost of products in the PC market generally, not just specifically of RDRAM-based stuff--buying ANY PC, including non-RDRAM-based Intel products, is getting more and more expensive, and then your worries about people turning to Apple crop up. In symbolic logic: Rambus' business practices = bad for Intel and other PC industry companies -> Intel et. al. shaft Rambus. Or so we can hope. :)

    Wraithmaster [] -- Chicken soup for the spleen.

  • I could have sworn what he really said was...

    "It was a mistake to rely on Gates for performance"

  • Mostly I hate them because I would guess that 80% of the people I have met who work for Intel are total assholes. I figure I have probably encountered about 100 Intel people - salespeople field apps types, marketing, designers, and management. Corporate arrogance seems to be the norm there.
  • Sheeesh. This is utter nonsense. The design is the opposite of what you say. The 820 chipset interfaces directly to RDRAM, but requires the intervention of the buggy MTH to interface to SDRAM.

    That's why the 820 worked fine with RDRAM (as long as you didn't have more than 2 RIMMs), but was garbage when trying to use SDRAM.
  • Weeeeell, I'd say you make some valid points--everyone likes parroting popular geek opinion in order to look smart, but does that make the original opinions invalid? In this specific case (Intel vs. AMD, etc.), I'd say Intel does indeed come out the loser. AMD's chips are technically superior (that is, they perform better, even at the same clock speeds), and are generally a bit cheaper for slightly better performance.

    Wraithmaster [] -- Chicken soup for the spleen.

  • . . . and I guess Apple will now license RAMBUS technology for Macintoshes.
  • by Anonymous Colin ( 69389 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @04:14AM (#693418)
    Rambus multiplexes the heck out of everything, to get lower pin counts. Address selection involves sending a string of values accross the bus. Data comes back in a burst of values. To get even similar performance, the Rambus architecture has to run their narrower bus several times faster and faster parallel busses have more problems - their harder to synchronize, have higher energy emissions and hence potentially more cross-talk and they are subject to resonant interference at shorter distances. This last was the problem that tubed the Intel three-slot controllers. Rambus thought they were clever enough to work around these problems, which aparantly they weren't.

    They also seem to have failed to find out the frequency of different memory access modes (burst sequntial vs. random, what lengths predominate etc.) in a typical system, so they produced a system tuned for long sequential data burst. This resulted in high latencies which kill Rambus performance in typical useage (though it should really fly in streaming applications).
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @04:19AM (#693419)
    Why the hell is it so hard to make non-buggy products with Rambus?

    Rambus has a long list of nasties. Any one of them might be annoying, but collectively they make the whole thing a house of cards. Issues:
    • Lots of analog content in a DRAM process kills yeild.
    • Nonstandard DRAM core adds lots of area, cost, and kills yeild
    • The DLL in the RAC is a nasty bit of work, and again not suited to DRAM processes
    • The signaling has no margin for SSO (simultaneously switching outputs)
    • The whole setup turns massive amounts of power into massive amounts of heat
    • The signaling scheme has no margin in for crosstalk.
    • The signaling analysis was based on excessively simple PC board models and doesn't include allowances for return-path nonidealities
    • The signaling analysis does't make real-world allowances for nonideal PC board properties.

    There are other problems, but that's a good starting point.
  • RAMBUS has gone for high frequencies: 800 MHz x 16bits = 1.6 GB/s peak. But 800 MHz isn't easy to design onto working PCBs. Tough enough on silicon dies, and mobo's had plenty of grief just getting to 100 MHz a few years ago. 800 is a big stepout.

    Every trace has to be fully simulated, none of the usual cut'n'try. Can you say data-dependant crosstalk? Sure you can! Getting close to where you need to use wave-guide techniques.

    The current slew rate (Amps/ns) to drive the traces is also proportionately higher, and it isn't easy to build such low ESR capacitance.

    Just because you can run 100 MHz over 100m of clothesline (oops, I mean quality Cat5 cable) doesn't mean you can run 800 MHz over 10cm of traces. Balanced lines might help, but then you double the pincount.

  • ...and pushed Intel off the pier to go "sleep with the proprietary hardware." IMHO, the entire Rambus-Intel deal turned into one of the largest incidents of extortion in the corporate world. Furthermore, due to Intel's contract with Rambus, they can't sue for damages; and we all know that Intel could've been doing much better things with the year that has passed since the Rambus deal. Instead of dicking around with the Rambus interface, they could've optimized the P3 and released the P4 in July. But it didn't happen this way, due to the gag orders and hush money shelled out by Rambus. The original 820 chipset was basically the Rambus chipset with a translator hub for SDRAM. Since the MTH wasn't perfect, the chipset bombed and Intel re-released the 820 only in Rambus form. Not since the 440BX has there been an Intel chipset that natively accepts SDRAM, and unless some action is taken against Rambus, things might stay that way for some time.
  • by NortonDC ( 211601 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @04:24AM (#693422) Homepage
    Intel's contract with Rambus forces them to ship motherboards supporting Rambus DRAM... but it doesn't say HOW it has to support them.

    Intel's chipset plans call for the inclusion of a separate memory bank that will make it possible to increase the performance of the chipset-embedded graphics core by adding graphics-only RAM to this special bank. The special bank will be Rambus, the main memory will be double data rate RAM.

    The kicker is that NO ONE will EVER use the special slot. The embedded graphics core is dog slow, and only marginally less so with the dedicated RAM added.

    Any one wanting more performance will mearly bypass the embedded core instead of actually using Rambus, but Intel will have shipped a motherboard with a Rambus interface, fulfilling their contractual obligation.
  • Only embedded applications (like a Nintendo 64) use a direct interface with the RAM. It is not a good idea to create the memory interface directly on the CPU if you want third parties to be able to make motherboards (and chipsets too). You would have to have a chip for RDRAM and a chip for SDRAM, and possibly a chip for DDR-SDRAM, and they would not be interchangeable. Intel used the right implementation, but for the wrong technology.
  • A few years ago, I started to loose grip on PC's hardware architecture. I'm not able to understand it anymore, it seems really complex to me, RAM in particular.

    My question is : is it because this particular hardware platform still has its roots in the original IBM PC and it has become unmanagable, or is it normal technological progress (i.e. it's more complex because it's more advanced)?

  • by log0n ( 18224 )
    so does this mean ram prices are going to skyrocket? or level off
  • ...Rambus, the company, doesn't want to improve memory technology anymore. That was their goal during the original design stages of Rambus; they have long since discarded that goal. Now, all that they want to do is sit back and watch their coffers get stuffed with accrued royalties and licensing fees.
  • When you are talking about servers the p3 can only do dual processing, while the xeon can go to 4 or 8 way processing with the right chips sets.

    no sig
  • As of now, RAM prices are dropping rapidly. In the future, Rambus will bancrupt, SDRAM will reighn in its DDR form, and prices will go down in general.
  • Imagine that. Intel being partnered with a company that is only interested in the bottom line. For shame. Hey, waitaminute...that sounds like...Intel. (Points finger and laughs) HAHA...
  • However, there is something of a silver lining for Intel. The company's investments in Micron and Samsung have produced a generous return as the shares have appreciated significantly in value.

    I suspect this investment gain [] is not as rosey as this author is claiming it is.
  • Rambus is able to run the bus much faster because they use a serial protocol, along with an interesting clocking scheme. They have lower pin counts than a parellel bus with equivalent bandwidth, but then you can have multiple rambus channels for an equivalent pin count and much higher bandwidth. Yes, there are signifigant pcb problems for such a tight bus, which is why the PC world isi probably not ready for rambus yet.
  • Does it actually make chips, or is it just an IP litigati... uh, design company?
  • by henley ( 29988 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:27AM (#693433) Homepage

    There's an analysis of this announcement on The Register, here []

    Short Summary: Intel might be regretting it now, but they're legally committed anyway...

  • scapegoat n: someone punished for the errors of others [syn: {whipping boy}].

    Bill - aka taniwha

  • In the immortal words of CaptKos, "You pay for the drive, or you pay for the media. This is always true.".

    He was referring to tape drives at the time; I was commenting that DAT drives were expensive, but the tapes were much cheaper than their Travan counterparts. However, this really seems to be a truism in computing.

    This is unlike cars, where high-end models typically require more expensive high octane fuel. Instead, think of laser printers that cost an arm and a leg but use dirt cheap toner, or the case of winmodems where you trade a cheap DSP for cycles from an expensive CPU.

    It seems to almost never work out were the cheap solution is less expensive in the long run, except for SCSI vs. IDE and Intel's overpriced CPUs vs. cheap Athlons.

  • by Evo ( 37507 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:28AM (#693436)
    Well - atleast the CEO seems to be able to own up and say 'Yes we screwed up and yes we realise this', rather than the obfuscated search for a scape goat that most other companies seem to participate in these days. Hopefully this will be a trend for the future. Would be nice to hear more people admit blame and move on trying to change it than do everything they can do cover over mistakes.
  • Can't Intel theoretically release a P4 chip, chipset, motherboard, etc, for RDRAM, and then an otherwise identical solution, but otherwise call it PV with DDR-SDRAM support and maybe a few other goodies, and just flush Rambus down the toilet?

    The nick is a joke! Really!
  • by Teancom ( 13486 ) <david.gnuconsulting@com> on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:28AM (#693438) Homepage
    When was the last time a *large* company came out and said "We made a bone-head manuever. We really wish our partner would pull it's head out of it's anal passageways and stop trying to screw everybody else."??? Maybe I'm having short-term memory problems, but I can't think of a single time that a company has been this fothright about something that *big*. I'm still going to be buying a Duron, mind you (hell, it's on the way), but my opinion of Intel has just risen a couple notches. Kudo's to you!

  • Here is another article [].

    Basically saying the same thing as the financial times article, but also saying that intel is moving towards DDR.

  • Well, looks like Rambus did serve as a positive force after all. Because of Rambus, Intel has lost *serious* ground on the low-end processor front. Canceling Timna was a major setback and how long do we expect the Celeron line to last under increased pressure from dirt-cheap Athlons? Because of Intel's dalliance with Rambus, now AMD has a major boost in the low-end of the processor market. Couple that with the fact it isnt easy to overclock newer Celerons anymore and soon every PC under $1000 is gonna be AMD Inside :) Sure, Intel still owns the top end of the server market but its the low end that really matters. Cheap PC's are heading towards telephone status in terms of ubiquity - we aren't there yet by a longshot, but I think we are on that path.

  • ah well, all of these sites need a garbage-filter on them... esp /.

    what can I tell you? El Reg gives me a chuckle on the 10% of stories worth reading. And of course it's written in the One True English.....

    Sod Karma.

  • The article failed to mention that Rambus is significantly inferior to DDR SDRAM. The industry isn't rejecting Rambus just because of price, its a price per performance ratio. Why pay more for Rambus its 5-15% slower than even pc133. Intel made a serious wrong turn. DDR SDRAM on an Athlon running linux will be the END of "Wintel" =^)
  • However, they DID have a fairly serious financial deal that enabled them to purchase lots of Rambus stock at knock down prices once they had met certain requirements - this indicates more than a passing interest in the wellbeing of the Rambus company.
    Couldn't they just buy up the whole company and shut it down? That's got to be better than releasing a new flagship product that only works with POS memory.
  • Kensington just makes those expensive computer accessories which should be cheap.
  • ...but not NVidia. They could be secretly issued the P4 architecture by Intel so they could start work on a native-DDR chipset for the P4. Intel would still make its DDR-MTH chipset, but NVidia would stave off the demand. Rambus as we know it would shrivel up (but it won't die off; Sony's PS2 uses RDRAM [damnit!])

    Personally, I'm looking forward to NVidia's chipset if they do actually make it. It would be the first non-VIA, natively-SDRAM chipset for an Intel processor since the 440BX.

  • What, Intel can't release P4 with Rambus support, and then a quarter later, release the P5 with DDR-SDRAM support? Or the P4a?

    The nick is a joke! Really!
  • ...then use your SDRAM and be happy. If you want real performance, then you have to acknowledge the possibility that there are other computers besides Intel or AMD boxes. If you would put down Quake for long enough to learn how Rambus works and why it is superior for high-end machines, then you would know why it was chosen by companies like Alpha for their high-performance processors. Your little toy benchmarks don't matter to the part of the world that is buying Rambus right now.

    I'm not saying that PC'ers should buy RDRAM (yet), but don't trash a technology that you don't understand.
  • Usually when you have numbered bullet points it implies more than one item in the list.

    Maybe a /. bug or something? I see a "Read the rest of this comment..." link that just pulls up the comment with the same link!

    So, I'm guessing there were more bullet points there, but /. just doesn't want to show them to me! Maybe if I reconfigured my user preferences or something...but ISTR I've seen much longer comments on /. before a link like that in the past?

    Oh well.

  • Could you possibly have a word with the RIAA?... and the MPAA? and all the other assholes who think technology is a great way to fuck with us?
    Fsck DeCSS! Lock 'n' Load!!

  • October 18th, 1999 - $31.25
    October 19th, 2000 - $33.25 current price as of 1:30pm

    So first off as you can see by the numbers... you're wrong(Microns stock is actually worth more than it was a year ago)... second if you adjust for the split on the Second of May (2:1) you can see that the stock has in fact more than doubled. And that is a pretty rosy return on investment.

  • If EV7 does direct to RAM, then how does it write to the framebuffer or read from the ROM?
  • 2. Usually when you have numbered bullet points it implies more than one item in the list.
    You can't see the rest of it because the "see the rest of this response" link is broken. Seems to be a glitch in the Slashcode. It shouldn't be doing that to me at all (I have my comment size limit set to 100,000 bytes!), but it's happening anyway.

    Bad Slashcode. Bad, BAD Slashcode! Sit! Stay.
    Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.

  • The only thing I wonder now is for the Pentium 4. The article states that they have an agreement to include "support" for Rambus with the processor...but does that mean that they cannot include support for other, better forms of ram, such as DDR

    Intel nailed their own butt to the wall with this one, the P4, so long as there is a Rambus, is exclusively (in so far as Intel brand motherboards and chipsets) RDRAM.

    Probably the motive behind Barret's public pissing on Rambus is to discourage Rambus from pursuing these revenue sources which only hurt Intel (as Intel would rather not be doing the RDRAM dance.) Rambus hurts their patron at their own expense, as Intel should be moving millions of memory hungry boxes. Rambus wants to have their cake and eat it, too.

    It could be interesting if Intel were to launch a legal salvo at Rambus. Something to the effect of working against Intel, bad faith, that sort of thing. Rambus may be able to withstand the assault from Micron and Infineon, but Intel would probably inflict a mortal wound. Perhaps the grumbling is meant as the warning growl of a bear, procede toward her cubs at your own peril.

    Chief Frog Inspector

  • The fact that AMD got a boost and we have a more competitive CPU market is good.

    Remember, however, it's competition that's good -- not AMD. Both AMD and INTL are publicly traded companies with responsibilities to nobody but their shareholders. The only reason they don't break the law is because the reprecussions would be bad for their shareholders. Intel has done some bullyish things, but who's to say AMD wouldn't in their place?

    That being said, I'd still go with AMD right now since the price/performance is much better. I do look forward to Intel recovering from being RAMBUS's bitch and focusing on making good technology.
  • ...considering their tactics lately, they're that stray mutt covered in mud that walks on and rolls around all over your Oriental rug. Definetly a mutt.
  • That's how every company operates. Unfortunately, under the "safe harbor" clause "Under The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995", they're protected from litigation based on the statements. You can barely even say "N'yah, n'yah! I told you so!" without having their lawyers/liars knocking on your door.
  • They have to support RAMBUS in the P4, but do they have to only support RAMBUS? I assume they can still support other memory technologies as well. Anyone know?
  • Oh yup - you're right there - with the name bit - wouldn't know about their peripherals bing overpriced though.
  • Retail stores like CompUSA and BestBuy make most of their profit off of the little things. The profit margin is huge on items like CD-R[W] media, cabling, disk cases/holders, cleaning materials, and the like. The three biggest "profit whores" are Kensington, Belkin, and Targus (good products, but very overpriced). I'd recommend getting this stuff online, since they make more money off of return procedures and shipping large items.

    I work at CompUSA, so I really should know about this. However, I'm looking for another job (non-retail, preferably systems administration) before I end up going insane due to the retail mindset.

  • QDR SRAM is not meant as a replacement for main memory. Like most SRAM, it's meant for high speed buffers, such as on a network router, hard drive, or (maybe) processor L2 cache (though it only runs at 200 MHz). SRAM is much more expensive and consumes much more power than DRAM, including DDR SDRAM and RDRAM.

    DDD SRAM != DDR SDRAM. Read Ars Technica's RAM guide for a good description of the underlying differences in design between SRAM and SDRAM.

    Also, you'll note that QDR SRAM does not violate the most contentious of Rambus Inc.'s patents because it's older SRAM technology, not SDRAM. They aren't really doing anything that new. All QDR SRAM is is double-ported DDR SRAM. All the information is there on the website you linked to.
  • ``We made a big bet on Rambus and it did not work out,'' Craig Barrett, Intel chief executive admitted. ``In retrospect, it was a mistake to be dependent on a third party for a technology that gates your performance.''

    This is obviously some usage of the phrase ``In retrospect'' I was previously unaware of... Where I come from, ``In retrospect'' implies that it wasn't intuitively obvious in the first place.

    Now, how long do you think it'll take Mr. Barrett to completely forget this fact?

  • The busness world has been long notable for their CYA practices. Why buy Dell when you can fabricate your own machines for less than 1/2 the price of the Dell machine? Well, if it screws up, then everybody else does the same thing... Same with Windoze, and Intel. Most folks would rather be in the crowd rather than in the right. Unfortunately for Intel, they are losing market share in Europe (especially Germany) to AMD. You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people most of the time, but sooner or later the truth will out.
  • "Windows is fairly widely used but we all know that it's not necessarily better..."

    I'm going to nit-pick.

    This statement depends on your definition of "better".

    Like you said, it is quite possible that Rambus memory is better in the context of a Playstation 2, but that doesn't mean it is better in the context of a PC.

    Similar concept goes along with Windows being better. To the majority of consumers who have bought it, it is better. Otherwise they would be buying competing products and Apple wouldn't be reporting slow sales.
  • So we agree Rambus has no place on a Intel PC. A year ago when I saw the specs on rambus I was drool'n but now Im just looking around and wondering what happened. every time I get in a 1G-ram Intel Rambus workstation chills go up my spine thinking of all the wasted $$$$$$ . because we both know a 1GHz AMD DDR SDRAM machine will spank it like a two dollar whore. If Alpha can make it work then I will happily post it on my wall'o'benchmarks at work. If the price isn't insane then who knows ,... our servers need an upgrade don't they ??
  • ...the pointy-haired boss puts on a press announcement:

    "We apologize for making keyboards without the letter 'Q'. We're sorry. We're morons. We hear strange voices in our heads. I have broccoli in my socks."

    Dilbert (to Dogbert): "Good writing."
    Dogbert: "Thanks."

  • A corporation putting money ahead of producing a good product? Can this be true? I am shocked, shocked to hear of such a thing! Certainly such craven behavior is unprecedented in the long and noble history of corporations, which as any fool knows, are given exceptional powers in the expectations that they will act in the public interest.

    BTW, what ever happened to "Only the paranoid survive"? Andy Grove must be waking up his bunkermates with his barely strangled screams.
  • Alpha 21364 (EV7) uses a RDRAM controller on-chip. Of course, it is a ccNUMA machine, and therefore has a slightly different memory structure--which, you could argue, makes it easier to use a 'non-standard' interface to local memory.
  • Maybe it's the beginning of them getting their head out of their arse.
    "Currently, we can see the ears. Unfortunately, the forehead is still locked behind the pelvis. If we can remove that Rambus contract, we just might be able to extract the head fully."
  • The parent site for this article is one of the most obnoxious I've seen in a long, long time. It keeps re-loading a file from "" every couple of seconds, and demands to set a cookie every time it loads. I had to shut cookies off to read the article.

    Note to Taco, Hemos et al: Please don't link articles from any more.
    Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.

  • You can't HAVE a direct to RAM interface on a computer system, since the address space is shared between RAM and peripherals. Try again.
  • If someone could answer this question, I'd be really obliged. The "toll-keeper" problems were obvious from day 1 with Rambus... the techical problems were not.

    In case anyone thinks that Intel backing away from Rambus is a sign they're becoming nice guys, read the above comment and the other responses to it closely: Intel is most likely backing away from Rambus for technical reasons, not because of the tollkeeper business model. Intel has realized that RDRAM will drive up design and manufacturing costs and thus make it much harder to price products competitively. What would happen to Apple's market share if X86-based PCs suddenly got significantly more expensive?

    My guess is that Intel knew about the technical problems with RDRAM early on, but believed that as the technology matured, those problems could be eliminated - manufacturing costs would drop, and hardware designers would learn how to use the technology effectively. This belief turned out to be a mistake.

    Barrett's rhetoric about Intel's disgruntlement with Rambus's IP strategy is just a cover story: By focusing on that issue, he hopes to draw attention away from the fact that Intel apparently made a faulty technical analysis when deciding to push RDRAM. A perception that Intel had made a technical mistake would be far more damaging to them than a perception that they had partnered with what turned out to be a pack of jerks.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    None of you guys knows how Rambus performs because none of you have seen a decent implementation of it yet. Statements like "DDR SRAM is 5-15% faster than RDRAM' are patently false. The fact of the matter is that Rambus alleviates memory bandwidth bottlenecks which (although not yet a problem in your little PC) are already choking workstations and servers. Additionally, the myth is that the latency to RDRAM is exorbitant, and it isn't. There is some trade-off of latency for bandwidth, but with an on-chip controller, the latency to memory is pretty competitive; and, of-course, the bandwidth per-pin is much, much better than with DDR SDRAM. If you think that the performance of RDRAM is worse than SDRAM, then ask yourself why Alpha is using RDRAM in their flagship processor (EV7).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Intel sees AMD/Via/DDR overtaking them and they fear losing credibility in the market. Now suddenly they portray Rambus as the backstabbing partner and make them the fall guy for their own failed attempt to again bully the industry into a new Intel "standard". If RDRAM had taken off you would still see Intel hailing Rambus while turning the legal screws on their competitors.
  • Speaking as someone who actually has a an 815e (gigabyte) mobo, there's nought really wrong with them. you can just ignore the silly CNR thing, the on board video disappears as soon as you shove something better in, and the onboard sound is not too awful, and is easy to kill off. OK, so a BX board is theoretically faster, but it has to pop out of spec to run anything with a 133MHz bus, and it lacks the async memory clock of the 815. It may not be better than the BX, but the 815 does seem to be intel back to their old stanards for chipsets.
  • The trendy digerati world exemplified by Slashdot is anti-Intel/pro-AMD for the same reason they are anti-Microsoft/pro-Linux. They want to differentiate themselves from the "normal" consumer. Very few people outside of the digerati are anti-Intel, and are in fact quite pro-Intel (for example, compare INTC's market cap and P/E to AMD's).

  • Complements of a lead from "JC's", here [] is an interesting article about Intel and DDR. Rambus always impressed me as an idea looking for a problem. Given Intel's switcheroo, it may be a problem looking for a wastebasket.
  • by HiyaPower ( 131263 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @11:41AM (#693483)
    Dow Jones has reported today that Hyunadai has accused Rambust of anti-competative practices by manipulating the JDECC standards in their suit against Rambust. Hyundai also accuses them of violation of JDECC rules in failure to disclose any patents that may have been involved any standards that they may have been involved in setting. Now, if they prevail on either or both of these points, is there recourse to class-action civil suits against Rambust for this anti-competative activity by the folks that bought Rambust memory.

    Rambust reported a 9 cent quarter yesterday. With a street estimate of 47 cents for the year going forward, they are at a price/earnings of 150. With Intel going more and more to DDR, etc. and suits like Hyundai's, I wonder if that 47 cents isn't a bit on the optimistic side...

    While I don't root for Intel, its good to see that they finally realized that they are riding a lame horse with this one...

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @05:32AM (#693486) Homepage Journal
    that no additional licenses for SDRAM-compatible ICs will be signed, that prices of RDRAMs will remain high compared to SDRAMs and that litigation and building costs will exceed the Company's plans."

    Rambus not signing any more SDRAM licences, combined with estimated legal costs, suggests a couple things

    They intend to shut off the license-revene spigot on certain technologies to push others(e.g. RDRAM

    They are determined to self destruct through litigation the way Ashton-Tate did.

    As much ire is directed at Rambus, I can't see the logic behind this. Ashton-Tate is relevant because they channeled resources into legal wrangling, rather than R&D and customer service. They failed, by putting all their eggs into one basket, a very wrong basket.

    Rambus seems to be betting the farm on sales of RDRAM and winning suits against DDRAM manufacturers (Micron, Infineon, et al) By the time appeals have run their course Rambus will probably have borrowed deeply to continue litigation and have spent little on R&D or IP acquisitions. (I wouldn't sell my Patent;&sup1 to a company which looks lik they may never be able to pay royalties.)

    That is, assuming I was some evil scum with a patent ;)

    Chief Frog Inspector

  • I guess this means that Intel will now use DDR SRAM for upcomming chipsets. And then possibly QDR SRAM []

  • by Julius X ( 14690 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @06:29AM (#693491) Homepage
    Its nice to see that Intel is realizing its mistakes. Perhaps they aren't quite the bumbling behemoth that we've seen them as for the last year or so. Realizing their mistakes is the first step, now they just have to remedy them.

    The article makes a very proper assumption that Intel's partnership with Rambus has been a good part of its downfall. Its not enough that their processors are more expensive than their competitors', but if you pair that up with a system that is required to use Rambus RAM, the price of that system comes up quite a bit higher than its nearest AMD-equipped neighbor. No doubt if they had endorsed a more Open RAM standard such as DDR they would be in much better shape.

    But its not only that, Rambus' lawsuit frenzy has shown badly on Intel as well, since they seemed to be the only one supporting the company in the entire industry. This is most likely why those other RAM companys signed up with Rambus to pay them royaltys--because they believed the Behemoth, Intel, wanted Rambus to be on top--and they didn't want to get on Intels bad side.

    But the fact that Intels CEO has "badmouthed" Rambus shows that he may be more on top of the situation than we thought...and their may be hope for the future yet. Sure, its nice to see AMD catching up and giving Intel some definite competition, but I don't think any of us want to see them fall completely out of the race.

    The only thing I wonder now is for the Pentium 4. The article states that they have an agreement to include "support" for Rambus with the processor...but does that mean that they cannot include support for other, better forms of ram, such as DDR? I suppose that will show how all of this will turn out.

    In any case...this is a start.

    -Julius X
  • As much ire is directed at Rambus, I can't see the logic behind this. Ashton-Tate is relevant because they channeled resources into legal wrangling, rather than R&D and customer service. They failed, by putting all their eggs into one basket, a very wrong basket.

    Check this out []: in the last quarter, Rambus made $10 mil. on total revenues of $27 mil. Ok, so far so good (for a hideously overvalued speculative stock). The kicker is this (unfortunately, they took this little tidbit out of a previous version of this article on during the quarter, Rambus spent $1 million *per month* on legal fees. That's right--their legal fees were about a third of their profits and over 11% of their entire revenues!

    Guess that's why they dropped their suit against Hitachi the day it was actually given a go-ahead by the courts. Of course, now that they're being countersued by not one but two industry giants (Micron and Infineon), with very deep pockets and very annoyed looks on their faces, those legal fees are just going to keep going higher and higher. And every single company in the industry--Intel included (if not Intel most of all!)--is going to enjoy watching them slowly bleed to death on legal fees.
  • PC prices are dropping. More importantly is that for your dollar you get much more than you got last year, or the year before, etc. Memory is only one component, which Rambus seems intent on keeping the price high on, by demanding an IP license cut. The drops in CPU prices in the last month easily offset whatever Rambus is squeezing out of you for passed-on-to-the-consumer costs.

    Don't, however, assume this will play the same for the P4 when it rolls out (assuming it can stay on track this once) Nov. 20th. Even with Intel cutting the initial prices for P4's and subsidizing PC makers (basically giving them the premium for using RDRAM, makes Intel look all the more foolish, eh?) they'll still be for the deep of pockets.

    Chief Frog Inspector
  • Microsoft strategy: Oh, sure, you can keep using Word 95, but then your documents saved in Word 95 won't look right in Word 97.

    Intel/Rambus strategy: Oh, sure, you can keep using your SDRAM, but then you take a major performance hit.

    They both bribe you to give them more money.

  • Intel HAS to support rambus in the P4. But they're unhappy about it.

    Not quite a long walk off a short pier, but probably after the P4 intel will learn to do a little more research before making big decisions.
  • Rambus is two things - it's the name of the company and that name of the technology they designed to, allegedly, speed up PCs.

    They do design work but not actual manufacture of chips - this is left to partners such as Kensington and Viking etc.

    Recently Rambus have claimed that they hold patents that affect other RAM technologies such as SDRAM which has angered other RAM makers.
  • by pallex ( 126468 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:33AM (#693504)
    Hoped! Classic! Biggest chip manufacturer in the world basing its future on dreams...

    With planning like that, i bet AMD are pissing themselves!
  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:34AM (#693506) Homepage
    This is good news! Intel must have finally gotten around to reading Tom's Hardware.

    Maybe it's the beginning of them getting their head out of their arse. I wonder how much behind-the-scenes wrangling there has been between Intel ("make your damn memory work") and Rambus ("give us money") has gone one leading to this moment. Maybe Intel Management woke up during one of the meetings and said, "Hey! These guys are a law firm disguised as a hardware company! Argh!"

    Anyway, I'm happy about this. Now, if Intel can just help shut down the Rambus crusade against all other memory makers, it'll be perfect. Find the rock that Rambus came out from under, lift it up, and chuck them back.

  • by Veteran ( 203989 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:42AM (#693512)
    Because Rambus is a vaporware company which has very low costs (an office is their main expense) it is very difficult to get rid of these people. The main business model of Rambus is depositing checks. Remember that several large companies have signed extortio^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H 'agreements' with Rambus - they have a large enough income to hang around essentially forever. Plaintiff's attorneys work on speculation so Rambus legal fees are small.

    Don't count on these birds of woe disappearing anytime soon. Even if all of their patents are held invalid they are still going to collect a lot of money from people. Remember - they don't even have to advertise - which is a major expense for most companies. The advertising and promoting bills go to their 'clients'. What a scam these guys have going.

  • You never say "Johnny are going to the store", do you?

    Okay, I'll bite...

    Johnny is a person. Intel is a company. In some dialects of English, companies are referred to in the plural. It's no worse than the trend to use "they" as a generic third-person singular: "If someone steals my s33kr1t DivX movie collection I'll send my flying aardvarks after them!"

  • I just canceled my order for a Dell 620 which uses PIII Xeon and RDRAM (fortunately still sitting on the secretaries desk). I'm curious though. I've been searching and cannot find any benchmark numbers comparing a PIII Xeon to a regular PIII (e.g., otherwise identical Dell 620 v. 420). I find it rather amazing. Tom's hardware et al. seem only interested in 3D game performance. Where's the data? Has no one run SPEC CPU2000 on a Xeon? (Perhaps that says enough!)
  • The _idea_ behind rambus memory is a good one--
    there are some very impressive bits of technology
    that could (and should) be developed.

    HOWEVER; Rambus the _company_ has dropped the
    ball. Rather than develop the technology, they
    have behaved in the finest tradition for the year
    2000, and tried to make money by whinging,
    whining, and ultimately suing everyone doing
    better than them. They behave like children, and
    I've been gleefully watching them get spanked.

    Maybe I'll form a company to create electronic
    dictionaries. Rather than collecting any words
    though, I'll just sue Oxford (and Webster, but
    definitely not the American Heritage group :-) for
    copyright/patent infringement. MUCH easier than
    real work.

  • As for Slashdot hating them, I don't know. I think it's because most of the Slashdot community has little clue about technology,

    Case in point, some have little awareness of technology or the workers who produce it. Good reading can be found here. []

    Perhaps more to why many hold a dim view of Intel would be that not every slashdotter believes Intel makes the best technology. Many, myself included, have worked on other platforms (many of which are vastly superior designs) which have been marginalized by the dumping of cheep WinTel boxes.

    Chief Frog Inspector

  • Uh, Rambus really is sucky. I won't argue that Intel *isn't* kinda sucky, but Rambus is worse. I totally agree with Intel's statements regarding Rambus' focus on "collecting tolls." By carrying on with all this bullshit licensing business, Rambus is simply unethically lining their pockets at the expense of progress throughout the industry. It's a shortsighted, greedy, stupid move, and Intel is right in criticising them. To sum up: Intel is kind of sucky in a "big business" sort of way, but at least innovates and produces stuff, while Rambus just has unethical business practices and a really mediocre product going for them.

    Wraithmaster [] -- Chicken soup for the spleen.

  • by LinuxParanoid ( 64467 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:44AM (#693531) Homepage Journal
    Why the hell is it so hard to make non-buggy products with Rambus? I first heard about Rambus when evaluating some new SGI graphics adapters (High Impact and Maximum Impact) that were among the first devices to use Rambus DRAM. Guess what? The products were announced in mid-1995 but ran into various bugs and supply problems which led them not to really ship till beginning-1996. When those supply problems became apparent, their stock hit an all-time high (~45) never to return and it has since dropped to around ~4.

    I talked to a competitor (DEC)'s engineers around that time and they said that while they'd looked at Rambus, it was not a very stable memory technology; the complexities it introduced into their engineering were not worth the performance gain and cost hit.

    The fact that Intel has had the same problems as SGI, albeit on a much, much larger scale, really leads me to wonder... what is it that makes Rambus memory controllers or interfacing chipsets so damn difficult to get working properly?

    If someone could answer this question, I'd be really obliged. The "toll-keeper" problems were obvious from day 1 with Rambus... the techical problems were not.

  • by arnald ( 201434 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:51AM (#693534)

    First off, Intel have never OWNED Rambus - they merely license their technology for use in their various products. Anyone saying otherwise is simply talking rubbish.

    However, they DID have a fairly serious financial deal that enabled them to purchase lots of Rambus stock at knock down prices once they had met certain requirements - this indicates more than a passing interest in the wellbeing of the Rambus company.

    Personally I'm still not convinced that Rambus ever had that much to offer on the technology front, so Intel's claim that they were solely in it for the technology strikes me as doubtful. RDRAM has lots of extra bandwidth for sure, but when Intel forced the system on to the industry there was really no need for vast bandwidths such as these.

    Moreover, RDRAM has really no electrical characterstics that are superior to those of SDRAM, and the gap in cost is considerable even today. Furthermore RDRAM isn't really any more 'future-proof' than SDRAM, especially when you consider the future potential of DDR.

    So maybe Intel have finally just woken up and 'smelt the coffee', so to speak, realising that Rambus doesn't hold the answer to all the technical problems faced by the memory industry.

    Quite apart from the technical problems CAUSED by Rambus - who remembers the i820 fiasco?

    Lots of pro-Rambus zealots like to point at the success of the Playstation 2 (which employs RDRAM technology in favour of more traditional SDRAM or even SDRAM DDR technology) and intimate that this somehow relates to PCs and that Rambus is therefore "better". Saying that Rambus is "better" just because it is used in a certain product is ridiculous. Windows is fairly widely used but we all know that it's not necessarily better...

    So to sum up:

    1. Intel are wise to get out while they still can.

  • Companies being treated as collective plurals is the proper idiom in British English. They have a right to it; it is their lanugage, after all.
  • by skoda ( 211470 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @07:24AM (#693542) Homepage
    I found this section amusing, "Then, more recently, Intel scrapped its delayed low-end Timna microprocessor after customers showed little interest in a low-cost PC microprocessor that required expensive Rambus memory chips."

    PHB : Ok boys, we want to sell to the skinflint consumers who only buy cheap Acers at CompUSA. I think the best option is to go with a cheap CPU and really expensive memory! How's that sound?

    Lackies 1-N : That's a good idea! Let's do that!!

    PHB : Good answer. Now let's have a power lunch.
    D. Fischer
  • Everything I have read about Rambus indicates that they use a sixteen bit interface, which is is definitely 15 bits too wide to be serial.

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @07:26AM (#693547) Homepage
    "In retrospect, it was a mistake to be dependent on a third party for a technology that
    gates your performance"

    I suppose this doesn't apply at all to the Apple-Motorola situation, does it?
  • They imply that they won't be sued by Rambus because the three companies involved hold the patents for QDR DRAM. I kind of wish they had a contact link so I could ask about this.

    It'd be entirely amusing if all the memory manufacturers collectively dropped rambus and sdram. Does Rambus own their own fabrication plants? If Rambus became impossible to find, that'd kind of leave Intel between a rock and a hard place.

  • by superdoo ( 13097 ) on Thursday October 19, 2000 @03:57AM (#693553) Homepage
    This article [] from The Register [] has the following quote from one of Rambus' [] financial releases:

    "This release contains forward-looking statements regarding financial results for future periods. Actual results could differ materially. Among the factors which could cause results to differ materially is the possibility that the Pentium 4 and PlayStation2 ramps will be slower than expected, that shipment of Rambus ICs and other licensed products by Rambus licensees will be below forecast, that no additional licenses for SDRAM-compatible ICs will be signed, that prices of RDRAMs will remain high compared to SDRAMs and that litigation and building costs will exceed the Company's plans."

    Sounds like Rambus might just take care of itself!

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde