By Van Smith
Date: December 3, 2001
The computer memory platform designer, Kentron Technologies, has been in the news lately as rumors maintaining that their QBM memory design would be supported in future products from chipset giant VIA Technologies. QBM, or "Quad Band Memory," is exciting since it promises to yet again double memory bandwidth over current DDR SDRAM (Double Data Rate SDRAM).
Along with the recent flood of QBM scuttlebutt came a few jabs about the stability of not only QBM, but DDR SDRAM as well.
Considering the heightened interest in QBM and the potential importance of this new technology, we presented a list of questions to Andrea Echavarria-Pruna of Kentron to find out more about Quad Band Memory and its applications particularly in the desktop space.
1. Please briefly describe QBM. What are your products strengths and weaknesses?
QBM is a technology that uses standard DDR memory devices along with Kentron's patented use of FET switches on a module to double the bandwidth of DDR. The QBM technology is a module or board based technology that meets the bandwidth needs of the market place and extends the performance of existing DDR1 devices. QBM technology uses existing DDR devices and today delivers the bandwidth expected from future memory devices such as DDR2 and ADT. The QBM technology provides cost savings and a dramatic performance improvement over future DDR333 and DDR2 modules and other non-DDR compatible, more expensive memory technologies.
2. How difficult is the technology to implement? What are the added costs?
The memory controller must be enabled for QBM modules to work. From our joint work with the chipset players, this has proven to be relatively simple and not costly. At the module level, it will be no more difficult than the implementation of a DDR266 system. From a module perspective there will only be a $10 cost adder (switches and PLL) per memory module for QBM which will provide a 100% improvement in bandwidth.
3. Is QBM a product suited for the desktop market? Is QBM a technology that we can hope to see in mainstream systems?
QBM is a product well suited for the PC, workstation, server, router, graphics and gaming market. We believe that there is a price/performance advantage to using QBM which will allow it to become a mainstream product.
4. QBM has been talked about for years. Why have we not seen deployment yet?
QBM was first introduced to JEDEC as DBR (doubling SDRAM) in December of 1999. At the time, DDR was being discussed as a standard way to double SDRAM at the device level and the necessary components needed to implement QBM were not available. Kentron decided to concentrate on QBM (doubling DDR) and working with the industry to develop the new QBM10 switch from STMicroelectronics and the new PLL from Integrated Circuit Systems. This is now coming to fruition.
5. What is Kentron’s reply to the recent inquirer article that stated QBM is “doomed to fail?”
See the follow on article from the Inquirer (“Kentron Explains QBM Plans” dated 11/28... http://www.theinquirer.net/28110114.htm)
6. In that same article, DDR SDRAM was also called unstable. How does Kentron view this memory design?
We feel that DDR is an evolutionary technology to SDR DRAM, it has been developed by JEDEC members who are industries experts -- experts in the memory field -- that understand all sorts of systems constraints and memory achievements. DDR is a very stable technology; it has been selling in graphic cards for 2 years and systems for 1 year. DDR is being supported by all DRAM manufacturers and there are multiple sources of compatible chipsets. DDR is a technology that is developed by the Industry for the industry; it is "Just in Time" technology that is evolutionary not revolutionary. Since QBM is nothing but DDR operating in a smart fashion, it utilizes the existing DDR chips without adding stress to the chip. QBM will enable current DDR to provide double the current bandwidth with no changes necessary for the DRAM chip. This will extend the life of DDR and position it well to compete in the low cost, high performance, high density market.
7. Are there working QBM systems?
Kentron partnered with Actel Protocol Design Services Group to create the first memory subsystem that interfaces with Kentron’s Quad Band Memory. Please contact the memory controller companies for their QBM implementation plans.
8. Does Kentron foresee a high profile QBM win soon?
Yes, we are in advanced talks with the main chipset players and Tier-one OEMs. We are looking into having QBM working systems by mid-2002.
9. Is it true that VIA will be providing QBM support in future chipsets?
Currently Via Technologies is part of Kentron’s QBM Alliance http://www.quadbandmemory.com/Alliance_members.htm. For more information on their chipset roadmap please contact them directly.
10. Feel free to add any closing comments.
For more information on QBM and the QBM Alliance please go to the QBM website www.quadbandmemory.com
Kentron let us know that they will also be adding this list of questions and answers to their FAQ section at www.quadbandmemory.com.
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