Micron Technology will release a chip set later this year that will allow entry-level servers based on Intel's Pentium III processor to work with an emerging, high-speed memory type called DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory), Micron announced this week.
Chip sets are key companion chips that allow a processor to communicate with other parts of a computer. Micron will show a prototype of its new product, called Copperhead, running in a server at the Intel Developer Forum in the US this week. The chip set is the result of a licensing agreement signed between Intel and Micron in late 2000, Micron officials said.
DDR SDRAM is faster than the standard SDRAM used in most Pentium III-based servers on the market today. It is being promoted by memory makers such as Micron, along with Advanced Micro Devices and Via Technologies, as a low-cost alternative to RDRAM (Rambus DRAM), which uses proprietary technology from US-based Rambus.
Micron's announcement means that end users shopping for a low-end server later this year should be able to benefit from the incremental performance gain offered by DDR SDRAM. That benefit may be apparent only in multiprocessor servers, however, since servers running on a single Pentium III processor might not be able to process data fast enough to take advantage of the additional memory bandwidth derived from DDR SDRAM, noted Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.
"DDR could be a little bit of an overkill for the Pentium III," he said.
With Intel planning to roll out the server version of its Pentium 4 processor later this year, Micron's chip set for the Pentium III comes "a little late in the game", said Kevin Krewell, senior analyst at Microdesign Resources. He acknowledged, however, that Pentium III processors are likely to be offered in low-end servers for some time yet.
"Obviously, they see some sort of a marketing opportunity there," he said.
Micron has developed DDR chip sets for demonstration purposes in the past, but Copperhead will be the first chip set from Micron that makes it all the way to commercial production, a company spokeswoman said. Releasing a chip set for the Pentium III may help Micron establish relationships with the engineers who design servers at PC manufacturers, which could help the company if it decides to offer a similar chipset for the Pentium 4 when the server version of that chip is released, analysts said.
Micron's Copperhead chipset supports up to 8GB of DDR 200 or 266 SDRAM memory and features a PCI-X bus as well as a 64-bit PCI 2.2 bus. The company expects to begin sampling the product to PC makers in the first half of the year with production to follow later in the year.