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The Crucial Interview
Author: Jason Kohrs
Manufacturer: Crucial
Source: Crucial
Purchase: Crucial.com
Comment or Question: Post Here
Page: 1 of 1 [ 1 ]
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July 11, 2003

Crucial, a division of Micron Technology, is well known as the leader in computer memory upgrades, offering a large selection of high quality items at reasonable prices. Anyone that has dealt with Crucial knows that they have earned their reputation with trustworthy products backed by a 30-day money back guarantee, lifetime limited warranty, and excellent customer service.

As I said, those are the things we already knew about Crucial. I had a few other questions that Crucial was kind enough to answer for me, covering topics such as: their products, their views on overclocking, performance ddr, and the future of system memory. The blurred line between Crucial and Micron is also clarified, as my own misunderstandings are addressed, and information available on the Crucial website is explained in greater detail...

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Please provide a little background information (name, location, position with Crucial, time at this position, previous experience that may be of interest, etc).

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: My name is Andy Heidelberg and I'm one of the engineers at Crucial. I've been with Micron for a little over eight years and with Crucial for the last four years. I'm involved in applications support and helping customers that need non-standard memory solutions for their products.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: DDR memory is definitely the big thing in system memory at this time; does Crucial envision this changing any time soon?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: DDR memory will be the mainstream memory through this year, for sure. Beyond that, who knows? It's important to keep in mind, though, that just because we have some pretty advanced technology on the market now, Crucial still has a good deal of customers buying SIMMs. There's a large group of people out there still running older systems that don't yet utilize DDR memory. The bottom line for Crucial is that we're trying to help people get more out of their existing system so more memory is probably the easiest way to do that, regardless if it's SDR, DDR, or whatever.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: How far can DDR go? What speed ratings might we see (not necessarily from Crucial)?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: PC3200 will be the fastest DDR-I speed supported by JEDEC. The architecture really isn't designed to run any faster than that. Faster speed memory (533MHz, 800MHz) will come about as DDR-II becomes the next mainstream memory architecture.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Other memory manufacturers / memory assemblers offer DDR in speeds far exceeding the JEDEC standards (such as PC3700, DDR 466), with more aggressive timings and lower latencies. How does Crucial view this "performance" DDR market?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Crucial memory is designed to JEDEC standards to meet the needs of the majority of the market--the mainstream computer user. Though our high-quality memory is certainly used by the "performance" market, we do not support overclocking. Running Crucial memory outside of the specification will void the Crucial warranty.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Does Crucial consider this "performance" DDR market to be competition, or more like serving a special niche in the industry?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: See above.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Crucial's fastest DDR modules at this time are PC3200 (DDR 400). Are there any plans for Crucial to enter the performance DDR market and offer something faster than the standard speeds?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: No. Crucial will not be offering memory outside of JEDEC specifications.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Many other DDR brands ship their modules with copper or aluminum heat spreaders pre-installed, while Crucial does not. Many people in the tech sector are not convinced of the necessity of the heat spreader. What is Crucial's position?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Crucial does not support overclocking. Our memory is guaranteed to run at the speeds it's designated for, so we don't have to be concerned with heat spreaders or the like.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: What will be the next big thing in system memory?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: I wish I had a crystal ball--then I could tell you. The truth is, nobody knows for sure. I can remember when we thought 64MB was all you'd ever need. Now the idea of having 1GB of memory in a home PC is becoming more and more commonplace. No matter what's on the horizon, Crucial will continue supporting the memory solutions that our customers need.

DDR-II will likely be the next generation of mainstream (desktop, laptop, and so on) memory solutions. DDR-II will offer several improvements to DDR-I, especially in how the DRAM works "behind the scenes." There are two noticeable improvements the average end user will see as we adopt this new technology.

1. Different form factors (DDR-I and DDR-II modules will not be interchangeable.)

2. DDR-II will be faster (higher bandwidth). DDR-II modules will most likely initially have speeds of 533MHz (PC4200) when they debut.

Chipset and memory design and validation are currently underway with all major system, chipset, and memory manufacturers. Most likely these products won't be commercially available for the average user for another year or so.

Another change that's coming is something called G-DDR3. This is a memory architecture designed specifically for point-to-point applications (like a video card), so you won't see it on modules. This is the fastest memory available in the world today and Micron was the first to provide working parts to customers. Can you say 6.4GB/s bandwidth? G-DDR3 can! Think your video card is fast now? Just wait!

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: What is the next big thing that we can expect to see from Crucial?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: We're constantly evaluating new products and not just RAM. We also offer a Crucial® Radeon™ video card line, flash memory cards and readers, and just recently we began offering the Crucial® Gizmo!™ USB flash drive.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: What types of things is Crucial spending its research and development money on today?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: This is a question that pertains to Micron. You can check out Micron's latest corporate profile at:

http://www.micron.com/content.jsp?path=/About+Micron/Corporate+Organization

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: According to the Crucial website, there are 19,000 people, including 2,000 engineers, employed by Crucial worldwide. Can you give a rough breakdown of how the resources are allocated… sales, engineering, r&d, customer service, etc?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Those statistics refer to our parent company, Micron. The corporate profile link above has the current figures.

As for Crucial Technology, we're headquartered in Meridian, Idaho. We have offices in both Scotland and Singapore. Crucial employs about 380 people worldwide. Crucial has sales divisions specifically for consumer, business, the government and education sector, and resellers.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Of the many United States locations Crucial has, are any of them manufacturing facilities? If so, which components are US made (and where specifically are they made)?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Again, you're actually asking about our parent company, Micron. The following is taken from the same corporate profile on Micron's Web site at:

http://www.micron.com/content.jsp?path=/About+Micron/Corporate+Organization

Micron and its manufacturing and sales subsidiaries are located around the world to provide manufacturing capacity and support to international customers. The close coordination of research, manufacturing, and support functions enables Micron to deliver high-quality products and to achieve decreased production times and increased yields. The Company has wholly owned fabs in Boise, Idaho; Manassas, Virginia; Avezzano, Italy; Nishiwaki City, Japan; joint venture interest in fab operations at TECH Semiconductor in Singapore; a wholly owned assembly and test operation in Singapore; and a memory module assembly facility in East Kilbride, Scotland. Micron also leases and operates a memory module assembly facility in Puerto Rico. Micron's manufacturing facility in Lehi, Utah, is designed for wafer fabrication as well as assembly and test operations. Currently, the Lehi facility is operational only for product test. Completion of the Lehi complex is dependent on market conditions.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: In general Crucial uses their own chips in their memory, but occasionally relies on third party chips (such as when the Crucial PC3200 was first released, in order to meet demand). Other than physical marking, are there any differences in performance or quality that would distinguish identical sticks of Crucial memory manufactured with different chips?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Although Crucial Technology is a fully owned and operated division of Micron, to serve our valued customers we will periodically supplement the products that Micron directly designs and manufactures with products from other vendors.

All of the non-Micron memory we sell is fully tested and qualified before we make the product available to our customers.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Using your own chips must afford Crucial greater control of the quality. Does Crucial feel they have an edge over other memory manufacturers / memory assemblers that rely on third party chips whose manufacture is out of their direct control?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: There are tremendous advantages to being a part of the largest DRAM manufacturer in America and one of the top three in the world. Each DRAM manufacturer's parts will have slight differences in some critical parameters. The most quality-conscious chip manufacturers, like Micron, will put every single chip through an extensive series of tests, rather than just checking a sample of parts. We test our chips under normal operating conditions as well as under varying voltages, temperatures, and other "stressful" conditions.

When you buy Crucial RAM, you're buying from a company with more than 20 years of industry experience and the only consumer memory upgrade supplier that is part of a major DRAM manufacturer. Micron provides memory to the world's leading computer manufacturers, and chances are good that if you purchased a brand name system, you're using Micron memory in it right now. Crucial brings that same high-quality memory directly to the end consumer, giving us a unique edge over other providers.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Which of the following (if any), is impeding the development of pc technology at this time? Motherboard architecture, cpu architecture, or memory architecture? Please explain.

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: They're all tied directly to each other. Working together on leading edge and new architectures is the best way to ensure every one succeeds. The goal is to try and use every bit of headroom or bandwidth. If only part of the system goes faster, the rest of the system is going to be somewhat limited.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: People still laugh when reminded of how Bill Gates once said people will never fully utilize 1MB of RAM… and Crucial is now selling 1GB and 2GB modules of DDR. Does Crucial have plans to produce larger modules? If so, how large?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Micron was the first to demonstrate a 4GB DDR registered DIMM earlier this year, and was also the first memory maker with a 1GB unbuffered DDR DIMM using 1Gb components. However, these are leading-edge products that really aren't targeted at the average Crucial customer, so we don't plan to offer them at Crucial soon.

The memory industry is one of constant change and development because the demand for higher density and faster memory will always be there.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Crucial seems to have a very large OEM business, with customers such as Hewlett Packard, Apple, Gateway, Compaq, and IBM. Is the business of Crucial more focused on these OEM accounts, or the sales directly to end user?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Micron sells to the world's largest OEMs; Crucial Technology is the division of Micron that sells directly to the end user.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Many systems are still running SDRAM. How does Crucial view the market for older memory technologies? Is there a timetable for how long formats such as PC100 and PC133 will be supported by Crucial?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: Crucial recognizes that there are many people out there who have older systems. As long as we are able to get components and there is sufficient demand, we will support these people.

However as SDR is less and less of the overall total DRAM output, it will become tougher and tougher to get these products. If you have a PC that is using SDR SDRAM you really should consider upgrading your PC. A memory upgrade will improve the performance of your system, but to take advantage of a lot of the cool things you can do today, (MP3's, home video or digital photography editing and so on) a new PC (with lots of RAM!) will give you a better computing experience.

Jason Kohrs, BigBruin: Speaking of memory formats past their prime… Whatever happened to RDRAM? I do not see it on Crucial's site at this time, did you ever support this format?

Andy Heidelberg, Crucial: At Crucial Technology we work hard to provide high-quality, low-cost memory solutions. Crucial makes every effort to stay at the forefront of the memory industry, while providing our customers with what they want and need. We do not currently offer Rambus upgrades because a relatively small number of our customers have expressed interest in it, and long-term demand for Rambus product is not enough for us to maintain the low-cost pricing our customers expect.

Special thanks to Andy Heidelberg of Crucial for agreeing to participate in this interview. For more information on Crucial and their product line, please visit the Crucial website.

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