At CES last week Micron Technology introduced a new DRAM. The company’s second 1Znm production part, this 16Gb chip is an early supporter of the new DDR5 interface, opening the door to higher speeds and lower power consumption.
The company’s first 1Znm DRAM is the LPDDR4 part pictured on the left, which started its volume production ramp last August. The Memory Guy is intrigued by this chip for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important is how it reflects on Micron’s new focus on improving its competitive positioning as a DRAM supplier.
The past few years have seen big changes at Micron. Back in 2016 the company had fallen behind in process migration, and that can be lethal for a DRAM maker. This negatively impacted profitability (see chart below), and the company fell far behind competitors Samsung and SK hynix at that time. Today Micron has caught up and may even be in a leadership position in 1Znm production.
This week’s 1Z announcement may well bring Micron into the lead.
But, Micron’s corporate health aside, why would this chip be interesting to customers?
First of all, it’s a 16Gb DRAM, so it supports the same DIMM density with half as many chips as a DIMM based on 8Gb parts. This not only reduces power, but it halves the load on the processor’s memory channel, allowing the processor’s bus to run faster. Second, it’s a DDR5 part, which means that it supports higher memory bandwidths at lower power. Micron claims that this chip yields an 85% memory performance increase over its DDR4 counterpart.
DDR5 provides a fresh look at what a DRAM interface should include. Bursts are twice as long as those in DDR4. Refresh granularity is improved, and banking can be done in groups. So it’s not simply a speed upgrade and power reduction, but it includes architectural improvements to increase overall system speed.
Micron’s new DRAM should be a boon in the server and hyperscale markets that the company will initially target, but over time it should also bring considerable benefits to the PC market, even in mobile applications.
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