DIMM chipset keeps expanding

Led by Renesas and Montage Technology and driven by DDR5, the DIMM chipset market pursues its growth.

For DRAM modules -i.e., dual in-line memory modules (DIMM)-, DDR5 deployment will allow the DIMM chipset (1) market to grow rapidly in the coming years with a CAGR22-28 of ~20%, enabling a significant expansion of the total addressable market (TAM) by more than $3 billion in five years.

Few weeks ago, Renesas, a leading supplier of DIMM chipsets, announced the introduction of its third-generation DDR5 registered clock driver (RCD) as well as the first-generation client clock driver (CKD), also for DDR5. The RCD and CKD, designed for enterprise and client DRAM modules, respectively, enable new speeds in terms of mega transfers per second (MT/s) on both market segments: 6400 MT/s in the case of the RCD and 7200 MT/s for the CKD.

Diego Alfaro Technology & Market Analyst, Memory
Each new DDR generation for memory modules has offered improvements in capacity, data rate, reliability, and power consumption. Simultaneously, new challenges have emerged in maintaining signal integrity, making it harder to reach higher module capacities at higher speeds.  To solve these issues, specific on-DIMM chips are necessary, bringing functions that were previously managed on the motherboard to the DRAM module.

The DIMM chipset can handle clocking functions, memory buffering, and power management. Trading off reliability, robustness, capacity, cost, and speed, enterprise modules usually include more on-module chips than the client ones. Among them, RCDs, acting as the bridge between the memory controller and the DRAM chips, provide Commands/Addresses (CA) and clocks to achieve synchronous data transfers from and to the DRAM chips mounted on the DIMM. RCDs were first introduced with the DDR3 standard and have been mounted exclusively on enterprise DIMMs. With increasing data transfer speeds required by client applications such as high-performance gaming, a high-speed clock driver able to buffer and re-drive clock signals and fulfilling analog functions to enterprise RCDs is needed for client applications. The CKD, already standardized by JEDEC, meets those needs. Renesas follows Montage (6400 MT/s) and One Semiconductor (8400 MT/s) in offering such chips. On the other hand, the third-generation RCD is a new step to meeting the bandwidth requirements to support memory-intensive use in the data center, such as machine learning, deep learning, and inference. In that field, Renesas follows Rambus as the second supplier offering a 6400 MT/s RCD.

The memory-logic performance gap in data rates and module capacities required by the processing units and those offered by DDR DIMMs keeps increasing. The gap is bigger for enterprise applications. To further increase the capacities per module and the data rates, the leading players in the industry are developing new modules, such as Multi-Ranked Buffered DIMM (MR DIMM) and Multiplexed Combined Ranks DIMM (MCR DIMM). Both concepts leverage an RCD that allows the memory controller to access both memory ranks on the DIMM simultaneously to increase the data transfer rate. Hence, speeds up to 17,600 MT/s are planned. In the DIMM chipset provider market, Renesas was the first supplier to offer an MRCD (at sampling) for MCR modules. Taking the leadership on next-generation RCDs, Renesas confirms its position as the DIMM chipset supplier offering the most complete catalog.

Regarding the DIMM chipset market revenue, in our latest report, DRAM Modules 2023, we concluded that there is a head-to-head competition between Montage and Renesas, followed by Rambus. The three suppliers are responsible for 97% of the total revenue. With the DDR5 ramp-up and the constant expansion of the chipset portfolio, the market is expected to reach ~$4 billion by 2028 from ~$1.1 billion in 2022 for a CAGR22-28 of 20%.

In summary, the data rate is essential to cope with processing unit needs, especially for data center architectures. The latest Renesas announcements regarding their latest RCD and CKD chips align with such needs and confirm the two growth vectors for the DIMM chipset market in the coming years: DDR5 and the DIMM chipset expansion with more complex ICs.

At Yole Group, we are closely monitoring this market, continuously gauging the associated stakes.

Check out our products for more information and stay tuned.

(1) The chipset includes: Registered Clock driver (RCD)- Data Buffer (DB)- Power Management IC (PMIC)- Serial Presence Detect Hub (SPD)- Temperature Sensor (TS).