Rambus Inc.’s change in strategy from intellectual property (IP) licensing house to chipmaker has been well received by its customers. However, given the company’s tumultuous past with other memory vendors, it is also the best path forward toward repairing relationships that have been damaged in the past, IHS says.
Rambus has announced recently that it would begin developing server memory chipsets for the enterprise and data center server markets in a planned series of devices that are DDR4 JEDEC-compliant. These chipsets will serve to accelerate data-intensive applications such as real-time analytics, virtualization and in-memory computing.
Rambus’ primary customers for its IP licensing has been DRAM companies. However, this has been problematic for the company because it has spent the better part of the last 15 years suing these same companies over various IP infringements. While it won some of these cases, it also lost some as well. However, maybe more importantly, this has created a long and complicated history where the company has been pitted against its very own customers.
“Clearly, this is a difficult position to find oneself,” says Mike Howard, director of memory and storage at IHS. According to Howard, Rambus began to reinvent itself a few years ago by first seeking to settle all outstanding litigation with DRAM companies.
“[Rambus] knew that however wonderful its technology might be, customers would be reluctant to incorporate it (and thereby license it) if there was ongoing litigation,” he says. “Rambus has been successful on this front.”
The second part of this reinvention has been to bring silicon products to market. DRAM companies have long criticized Rambus for just being “an IP company” and not doing the hard work of making things work in shippable silicon and bringing physical products to market. So not only will Rambus’ new DDR4 product change that perception, it will require it to work closely with engineers at big DRAM companies, naturally improving the relationships it has spent over a decade creating issues with, Howard says.
It also makes sense for Rambus to build its own chips given that due to the acrimonious relationship Rambus has had with these companies, the prospect of licensing new IP technologies to these companies may create issues for revenue generation.
“The company needed a change in direction,” Howard says. “It has taken several years to accomplish, but the hard work is starting to pay off. One outcome that I think wasn’t fully anticipated was the change in attitude/outlook within Rambus. Five years ago, I got the sense that all of the litigation was dragging everyone down. Fast forward to today and you get a real sense of optimism and pride at the company.”
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