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Date: 19-08-15

Why did the Rambus decide to sell its own IC chips?

Rambus owns thousands of IPs in the areas such as memory controllers and serial links, package layout, system design, and lighting and display technologies. Rambus is the exclusive licensee for the Dally family of patents which are owned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This license was assigned to Rambus as a part of its 2003 acquisition of technology and IP from Velio Communications, a company founded by Dr. William Dally.

In 2009 Rambus has purchased memory-device packaging patents from a company called Inapac Technology, Inc. In the same year of 2009, Rambus had also acquired the advanced lighting and optoelectronics patents from Global Lighting Technologies (GLT), which include MicroLens light distribution technology, and suitable for computing and consumer electronic applications.

Recently Rambus had also acquired Cryptography Research, a company which has developed security technologies such as differential power analysis (DPA) countermeasures. Cryptography Research also developed anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting solutions including CryptoFirewall technology. The CryptoFirewall core is a separate, on-silicon, hardware-based security block that protects cryptographic keys and computations from attack.

Added to all these above, Rambus joined Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan to develop interconnect and 3D semiconductor packaging technologies.

Rambus sued multiple number of leading semiconductor companies over patent impringement. Some of the outcomes did not favour Rambus.

Now finally its entering the semiconductor IC making turf to compete with leading semiconductor companies. Rambus has launched R+ DDR4 server memory chipset, RB26, for RDIMMs and LRDIMMs targeting server markets.

Can Rambus succeed in this market? Lot of consistently growing semiconductor companies in the world are dependent on their strength in silicon IP, which are continuously improved. Even in the semiconductor memory market, IP is driving significant growth to leading memory chipmakers. But then what stops semiconductor IP companies entering into semiconductor chip selling? It's basically resources and experience in that domain. If you have the investment backing, the success cannot be ruled out for IP companies venturing into semiconductor chip sales.

Then another question arises, why leading semiconductor IP companies such as ARM, CEVA not venturing into chip making? And to take this question further why not VLSI chip design companies such as Synopsys, Cadence, Mentor Graphics not offering VLSI design services and also even ready-made reference chip designs for SoCs? In fact many of the EDA companies also are leading VLSI IP suppliers. They don't want to compete with own customer. In the processor IP area, they carefully stay away from ARM's product range.

Does this means over the time is Rambus ready to lose its IP customers? Rambus must have prepared for that situation.

One business model never works continuously, we got to see what other business models evolve in the semiconductor industry.

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