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Tech Firm Rambus To Sell Chips Under Own Brand

Chip company Rambus, known mostly for its memory technology and propensity to sue competitors, said it is taking a greater role in the manufacture of its chips. To mark the occasion, the company introduced its R+ DDR4 server memory chipset, RB26. The company said the chipset, for RDIMMs and LRDIMMs, is aimed at the enterprise and data center server markets.

Rambus, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., develops DRAM memory technologies and licenses them to other companies who then put them into computers, laptops and handheld devices. In its new venture, Rambus will build add-on memory buffer chips that it said will smooth the flow between a computation chip and its memory. However, the 25-year-old company isn’t giving up its licensing model, presumably as a hedge against struggles getting the new chip to catch on.

“The introduction of this chipset is a natural progression,” said Ron Black, president and chief executive officer at Rambus. “Expanding our offer beyond IP into chips with standards-based offerings that feature leading-edge performance and advanced functionality amplifies our growth strategy.”

Smart Move

We reached out to Loyd Case, a senior analyst with The Linley Group, who told us it was interesting that Rambus was now choosing to take the lead in selling chipsets.

“It’s big that Rambus is moving toward selling products rather than just licensing [intellectual property],” said Case. “They already have a good IP portfolio, so this could mean they want to convert that into products.”

The first in a family of R+ chips, the RB26 is an enhanced memory module chipset designed to accelerate data-intensive applications, the company said. The company is aiming to find a market for the chips among major Web-scale clients and companies that run applications with significant memory needs, such as real-time analytics, virtualization and in-memory computing. Rambus’ plan is to sell the chips to existing memory companies such as Hynix, Micron and Samsung.

“This product could be a good fit for companies that make and sell memory modules for servers,” said Case.

Coming in Late ’15

The Rambus RB26 uses the most recent Joint Electron Device Engineering Council standards for its product category, and includes support for 1.2V DDR4-2666.

Like other chip companies, Rambus will hire outside companies to put together its semiconductors. Rambus’ foray into becoming a fabless chip company could represent a break from its past. It has been said that Black, who took over when then-CEO Harold Hughes retired three years ago, wants to change the company’s business model. Rambus has become notorious for its patent lawsuits, and has found itself repeatedly in anti-trust disputes with government agencies.

The new Rambus chips are being sampled by partners and prospective customers, with commercial production set to begin late this year. The company will demonstrate its server DIMM chipset at the Intel Developer Forum, being held this week in San Francisco.

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