Market Watch

SDR Memory to Continue Doing Well in Future, Defying Status as Legacy Product


Shipments in 2011 to reach 1.04 billion units, or 5.5 percent of total DRAM market
In a world of instantaneous Facebook updates and split-second data downloads, is there any room left for a slower legacy-type memory product for today’s devices and applications?

The answer is yes, if that product happens to be Single Data Rate Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDR DRAM), which will continue to do well as unit shipments of the product make up approximately 5 percent of the total DRAM market in the years to come, according to new IHS iSuppli research.

Shipments of SDR memory in 2011 are projected to reach 1.0 billion 128-megabit-equivalent units, comprising about 5.5 percent of the DRAM space for the year—a remarkable number when considering that SDR was first released in 1993, nearly 20 years ago. Even more notable is that SDR will continue to hold onto a larger piece of the DRAM market than the much-faster memory product known as Double Data Rate (DDR). Released three years after SDR, DDR will see its market share diminish further in the future, already superseded by later iterations such as DDR2 and DDR3, with an even newer DDR4 product waiting in the wings.

A comparison of SDR and DDR reveals the projected path for each DRAM product. From 2012 to 2015, shipments of SDR memory will range between 1.3 billion and 1.9 billion megabit-equivalent units, for a share of the DRAM market from 5.2 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent in 2015. On the other hand, shipments of DDR memory will dwindle from 1.2 billion units in 2012 to 574.6 million in 2015, with market share down from 4.8 percent to just 1.5 percent during the period under consideration.

 DDR Memory Market

A slight dip in DDR is anticipated this year as some devices migrate from SDR to DDR, but SDR will continue to ship more units each year in the foreseeable future, IHS iSuppli research shows. DDR 3 will continue to have the largest share of the DRAM market in 2011, at 70 percent of bits.

Why SDR Continues to Have a Market
As DDR moves into the legacy category from being the high-volume commodity memory of 2010, a number of reasons show why SDR will be sticking around.

For one, SDR is a familiar product, present since the launch of Microsoft Windows 95. Hugely popular when Windows 98 was launched, SDR still could be found in many PCs when those machines upgraded to Windows XP in 2001. Not only do engineers remain extremely comfortable with SDR, a long history with the product also is shared by numerous other players, including the DRAM procurement department of companies, memory makers and third-party suppliers of printed board circuits. Such familiarity and comfort with SDR will help ensure the long-term attractiveness of the product, IHS believes.  

A second reason for the longevity of SDR is its use in applications where only low-density memory is needed. While devices like smart phones have ravenous appetites for memory and need more every year, other electronic items like optical disk drives and entry-level DVD players need only low-density memory, and their memory needs do not grow with the passing of time. For such devices, low-density SDR is the perfect memory choice.

SDR is also a good pick for applications that need to follow established designs when new memory technology is neither feasible nor necessary, especially for applications yielding razor-thin margins.

Legacy DRAM like SDR likewise is ideal for products with very long life cycles, including automotive applications, networking gear, and medical and industrial equipment, in which the use of certain components within the applications does not change. Furthermore, SDR remains the most affordable memory solution on a dollar-per-unit basis for extremely cost-sensitive applications.

What this means is that a significant customer base will continue to be dependent on SDR memory, IHS predicts. While new products like mobile DRAM and DDR3 may get all of the attention in the DRAM industry, SDR will find a consistent level of use, remaining unperturbed in its space for many years to come, IHS predicts.

Read More > Top Five Reasons SDR is Sticking Around