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Intel touts eDRAM as forerunner to 3D ICs

Posted: 20 Jun 2013  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:eDRAM  GPU  notebooks 

Intel is confident that its latest embedded DRAM (eDRAM) technology will be able to go head to head with discrete graphics chips debuting in high-end notebooks this year and later on in servers.

Using its eDRAM technology, Intel built a discrete 128MB L4 cache chip with a 100µs retention time at a worst case 95 degrees C. It will fit in a Haswell package linking to the CPU die via a 100GB/second point-to-point link, adding about 3W to the component.

The technology reaches "part of the design space you can't hit with commodity DRAM," such as GDDR-5 chips that would offer half the bandwidth and consume more power, said David Kanter, microprocessor analyst for Real World Tech.

Intel fellow Kevin Zhang

Kevin Zhang. Intel fellow who lead the eDRAM design.

OEMs including Apple are expected to use in their top-end notebooks the Haswell eDRAM module at about 45W to save space and power while sacrificing little performance. It will replace a combo of discrete graphics chips dissipating about 40W and existing processors drawing 30W.

"This is pretty attractive for premium notebooks, and I think we will see it in servers next," said Kanter.

IBM pioneered the use of eDRAM in a logic process, packing up to 80MB cache on its Power chips for high-end servers. Intel and IBM may have a unique ability to field the technology which requires advances in both process and circuit design.

Inside Intel's eDRAM

The rest of the industry may need to wait until 2.5D and 3D chip stacks are ready for prime time before they can catch up with eDRAM. That won't happen anytime soon, according to Kevin Zhang, an Intel fellow who lead the eDRAM design and presented a talk on it at the VLSI Symposium.


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