RAM Modern Day Market

Introduction

In a world where technology is continuously rewriting the past random access memory has stayed for good reason. Having first surfaced in the 1940’s somehow to this day there are few technological advances that have proven to be as scalable as RAM. Perhaps this is due to the ever-expanding variations of RAM including: SRAM, DRAM, and VRAM. Although RAM is steadily progressing, serving both volatile and non-volatile data storage, other data storages are quickly emerging. The question is will RAM continue to adapt or become obsolete like so many other technological advances?

Brief History Of RAM

The journey of RAM began quite a bit before it was patented in 1968 by Robert Dennard. In fact the first form surfaced in 1947 by the name of the Williams tube. During this time memory was stored via inefficient and unpowerful vacuum tube latches, replacing this method the Williams tube stored data as electrically charged spots on the face of the CRT. Even though the tube only stored a few hundred bits it was the first practical form of random access memory. The next phase in this journey occurred in 1951 when Jay Forrester applied for a patent for magnetic-core memory, the predominant form of RAM that lasted about 20 years. By the time RAM was patented there were several different types of RAM and the memory storage world was booming.

Types of RAM

Since random access memory has withstood the trials of time the variations of the system are almost endless. Some examples include: VRAM used specifically for video adapter, FBM RAM used for Pentium based systems, and DDR RAM standard in the graphics card market. To expand the scope of this informative piece we will focus solely on the broadest types of RAM: SRAM and DRAM.

  • SRAM stands for static RAM which is a type of semiconductor memory (means its implemented on a semiconductor-based integrated circuit) that uses a bi-stable latching circuitry to store each bit. The average access time of SRAM is about 10 nanoseconds, it uses several transistors and is volatile.
  • DRAM stands for dynamic RAM and stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor within an IC (integrated circuit). DRAM is also volatile however it is much slower than SRAM and has an access time of about 60 nanoseconds. DRAM consumes more power than SRAM but is much more affordable.
    • Each of these types of RAM come with several sub-types.

      Manufacturers, Markets, and Prices

      Who makes RAM? The business of making RAM can be tough it relies on heavily skilled engineers and most manufacturers must operate in just a few areas that provide an educated workforce and steady economics. For this reason, there is no such thing as a “ma and pa” RAM production shop, RAM manufacturers are almost always billion-dollar corporations. Currently the two most successful and relevant RAM manufacturers are Corsair and Micron. Corsair operates in Asia Europe and the USA it manufactures various computer products including SSDs, PSUs, UFDs and extremely high speed (and expensive) DRAMS. They sell their products to other successful enterprises and try hard to stay on top of their game. One quote from their website said

      “If you’re looking for the fastest, sexiest RAM on the planet… [Dominator Platinum Orange Edition] is the RAM for you.” Techteamgb.com
      Operating right out of VA Micron was named the second biggest RAM manufacturer in 2010 after they purchased a fellow RAM manufacturer Elpida for a whopping $2.5 billion. I would describe Micron as a simpler manufacturer compared to Corsair that has a narrower product line. This is evident by how they advertise SRAM on their website telling the consumer
      ”Why complicate your design? If a simple, cost-effective SDRAM solution will do, plug it in and go. You already know it’s a reliable part. You know its got all the features you’re looking for. Plus it’s a solid long-term solution. We have plans to support it for years to come so it’s still a good fit for products with long life cycles.” micron.com

      How much is it? Considering the sheer amount of technology out in the market right now one would assume commodities like RAM (which every PC needs) would have stable prices. However, RAM prices have nearly doubled since last year. First off, RAM is very expensive to make it requires extremely complex equipment and significant engineering expertise, that it a recipe for high start-up costs. Since RAM is so difficult to manufacture it comes from only a few providers in a limited geographic area. This means any disruption(like natural disaster), even if it affects just a single company, can cause prices to spike. Currently the price for your average 4GB of RAM is a bit over $30, for 8GB $40 and above, and for 16 GB $130 and over. Despite the necessity of RAM the price will continue to be subject to specific changes that can occur at any time.

      Emerging Memory Technologies

      The first new category of memory in the past 25 years is 3D XPoint memory and is currently being used as non-volatile storage. It is created by Micron technology and has currently not been released for consumer purchase. The main attraction of the product is its architecture which is a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word and bit lines. This allows the cells to be addressed individually which causes to data being written and read in smaller sizes leading to faster and more efficient read/write protocol. Prices are expected to me less than typical DRAM but more expensive than flash memory.

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