Rambus Aims for Terabyte Bandwidth

Rambus Inc. laid out a long-term plan to increase the bandwidth in computer chips to 1 terabyte per second, which would significantly speed up data transfer rates inside game consoles, PCs and other products.

Computers use memory chips such as DRAM (dynamic RAM) and Rambus's own XDR DRAM to hold onto data that's currently being worked on by the computer, and it takes bandwidth to quickly transfer that data in and out of the memory chips.

New multicore microprocessors and graphics processors are pushing memory chips to work even harder. For example, Sony tapped Rambus's XDR DRAM for the PlayStation 3, which uses a multicore Cell processor and a high-end graphics processor created by Sony and Nvidia to give users more vivid and colorful games.

At its developer forum in Tokyo on Wednesday, Rambus said it thinks memory speeds will need to make a quantum leap in the next three to four years to keep up with game consoles and computers running newer, faster processesors.

The company's Terabyte Bandwidth Initiative aims to develop a single chip that will provide initial data speeds of 16Gbps (bits per second) and, eventually, chip bandwidth of 1 T-byte per second, or 1,024G-bytes per second.

The initiative will require innovation in three areas, the first of which will be to raise data transfer rates. Currently, DDR2 (double data rate, second generation) inputs data at two-bits per clock cycle, but Rambus is aiming for 32-bits per clock cycle. The second is to use differential signalling for both data and command/address (C/A), a first, which it calls Fully Differential Memory Architecture. A third technology called FlexLink C/A creates a full-speed, point-to-point command/address link.

The company gave no timeframe for the development of specific chip products, but said it expected the need for such speeds to be reached by around 2011. The company typically licenses its technologies for use by other chip manufacturers.